The Observer (Kampala)

Uganda/Zambia: How UCI Plans to Improve Fortunes of Uganda Cranes

A hearty discussion with Coach Bobby Williamson in the aftermath of the Cranes' defeat to Zambia last month could turn fortunes for national team players ahead of future international engagements, writes Moses Mugalu.

When African champions Zambia eliminated Uganda (9-8 on penalties in the Afcon qualifiers), a group of fans decided to plan for the future other than lamenting Cranes' near miss.

Comprising of media personalities Robert Kabushenga, Louis Jadwong, Mark Namanya, Simon Kaheru and other employees from major private companies, they engaged Williamson in an informal talk to find out difficulties the Cranes face while preparing for major games.

They learnt from the Scot that basics like drinking water, movable goal posts, standard hotels and training grounds among others make the list. After informing FUFA, they formed the Uganda Cranes Initiative (UCI), through which they can contribute more to preparing the national team. UCI was officially launched last week.

"Our aim is to ensure that basic things to motivate players and raise their self confidence are available," explains Primus Agaba, one of UCI members.

Agaba notes that some of the aforesaid necessities pass for luxury to FUFA but 'they are very important in preparing player mindsets.' UCI have come up with short and long term goals. For short term, they want to help the Cranes realize the 2014 World Cup dream.

Their immediate task is to help Williamson's largely young side succeed in the CECAFA due November 24 in Kampala. Williamson wants to use CECAFA to prepare the youngsters for upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Liberia, Angola and Senegal.

UCI's first activity is due November 17. On that day, Cranes players will interact with fans. It will be a free public event where players meet the fans after training. Agaba says this could prompt fans to contribute more to the team in future.

Already, UCI have plans to charter plane or book camp near Liberia for the Cranes ahead of the crucial matches in West Africa. In the long term, they plan to help FUFA/Uganda's ambitions to bid host for the 2017 Nations Cup.

Pessimists fear UCI would fail like others in the past. But Agaba argues the character and ambitions of the people in UCI are 'purely for football not politics and business. He adds having media personalities 'gives us as much self check.'

African champions Zambia have a similar fans initiative that pays their coach. UCI is on a twitter;@ugcranes to mobilize the Diaspora as well.

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