New Vision (Kampala)

Uganda/Zambia: Initiative to Boost Cranes Launched

Sunday Vision — Cranes can now afford to dream about scaling new heights after an initiative by some of their fans to help raise the support the team gets ahead of international games was launched Sunday morning.

Calling themselves the Uganda Cranes Initiative (UCI), the group of fans announced at a Press Conference that they will head a media drive to seek tangible support for the national football team ahead of upcoming fixtures.

Speaking on behalf of the UCI at the Golf Course Hotel, Vision Group's Chief Executive Officer Robert Kabushenga stated the initiative would focus only on the welfare and facilitation of the Cranes as a team. It would aim to make the Cranes competitive and make the players proud to don the national team.

UCI would ensure Cranes are better prepared for the CECAFA Cup title, and their preparation levels increased in the next one year as they go into the World Cup 2014 and AFCON 2015 qualifiers. The group also have a Ugandan bid for AFCON 2017 on their radar.

"This is about the Uganda Cranes as a team - our team as Ugandans. It is not about Ugandan football in general, nor is it about football administration in Uganda. It is about what Ugandans can do for the Cranes so they can achieve our dreams," Kabushenga said.

"What can you do to take the Uganda Cranes to the World Cup? Technically, our team is one of the best in Africa. The issues that frustrate the Cranes are very simple and what we are saying is that as Ugandans we can manage them. We have the willpower and the resources."

"If we succeed with this initiative then we will see more support from the other parties such as the government. Let us change our chant from "We go, We go" to "We pay, we pay"," he added.

At the Press Conference, FUFA Technical Director Mujib Kasule and Cranes Coach Bobby Williamson both welcomed the initiative.

"Technically we have done what we need to do with the boys in terms of growing and grooming them. Ugandans are united every time the Cranes is playing. The team matches the very best Africa has to offer in terms of soccer, but the questions remain - how come we haven't gone to another level," Kasule said.

"The Cranes can no longer be a FUFA-only item. It has grown so big that we cannot shoulder it on our own."

" We are opening up for Ugandans to help where we cannot reach. There are things we need but we are limited in many ways, so as a federation we are fully 100% behind the Uganda Cranes Initiative. It is going to change the game of football and the benefits will spill over to other levels as well.".

Coach Bobby was also visibly excited.

"I am happy to see this passion and enthusiasm and I welcome the Uganda Cranes Initiative. There is an issue with the pressures on our players. We've almost lost players because of these pressures," he revealed.

" We also have challenges with our equipment. For example, I insist on players wearing shin guards during training because they are more likely to get injured during training than during a game. But we can't get shin guards. So they use folded pieces of cardboard - and that's the national team we are talking about!" Williamson said.

"With the team so well prepared, and now the UCI coming on board, I believe the future of soccer in this country is very, very bright," he added.

Other founder members of the Initiative include Patrick Mugumya, Primus Agaba, Mark Namanya, Louis Jadwong, and Simon Kaheru. The initiative started from a discussion on social media on the fortunes of the Cranes after they beat Zambia 1-0 but still failed to qualify for AFCON 2013.

The group of soccer enthusiasts is confident that if the Cranes are given the level of support given to other giants like Senegal and Ivory Coast, Uganda can make it to the World Cup finals in Brazil in 2014. UCI will have another meeting this week to coopt new members and confirm a budget that they will present to the public.

Among the immediate objectives of the Uganda Cranes Initiative is to help Bobby retain the CECAFA Cup title, to be hosted in Kampala on November 24 this year; to raise funds for basic facilitation required by the Cranes team, and to provide opportunities for fans to engage with the Uganda Cranes players.

"Going to the World Cup is possible provided the Cranes win all the remaining qualifying games. If we could beat Zambia, we can certainly beat all those other teams," Kabushenga said.

He said the UCI would also support FUFA to raise a bid to host Africa Cup of Nations in 2017.

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