New Vision (Kampala)

22 December 2012

Uganda: Ibrahim Sekagya Stood Out in 2012

What would you make of Ugandan football in 2012? Have the last 12 months registered anything positive or a hint of hope? Or has 2012 been yet another funeral for Ugandan football?

The truth is Ugandan football needs an urgent dose of realism, not fantasies based on how well the Uganda Cranes have fared this calendar year.

Any successful football establishment thrives on the success of a competitive league and as far as 2012 is concerned, there has been nothing beyond Express FC's Bell Uganda Super League title achievement on June 10.

Then, Yayo Lutimba conjured a brace in a 2-1 win over Jinja-based Bidco FC to inspire the Red Eagles to their first championship since 1996.

Express, who marching into the last match were level with table leaders URA at 51 points, but trailing on goal difference, eventually triumphed with one point more than 2010 champions Bunamwaya.

It was a remarkable triumph for coach Sam Ssimbwa as the last tactician to accomplish this had been Serbian Dragan Popadic 16 years ago.

How could we forget the contributions of youngster Bonny Baigana to the club's success? Throughout the season, Baigana got several bums off their seats. He was admired by Express faithful for his great bust of speed and impact on games.

Unfortunately, all league football thereafter into the current season has been a theatre of comedy, which immediately brings Cranes into the equation.

Same story for Cranes

It has become increasingly heartbreaking following our national football team, considering the hype and the hyperbole, the bold statements and misguided arrogance around it.

Cranes fans have become impatient, and rightly so, as the year 1978 is far way back. Just like 2011, Cranes attempt of ending that dismal run ended in similar style -heartbreak!

Against Kenya during the 2012 Nations Cup edition, Cranes needed just a goal to guarantee qualification but fell short after a goalless draw at Namboole Stadium.

Against African champions Zambia, the challenge seemed more formidable but when Geoffrey Massa struck on 27 minutes, the odds seemed to have tilted in Cranes favour against a poor Chipolopolo side.

But yet again, Cranes failed to find that valuable second goal that could have sealed qualification. With the tie evenly locked to a 1-1 aggregate, Uganda still couldn't win the resultant penalty shoot-out, losing 9-8 to the Chipolopolo.

Of course it would be unfair to castigate a bunch of players that had worked their way into that privileged position of qualifying inspired by that famous 4-0 drubbing of Congo Brazzaville in earlier rounds but fell short largely because of a goal or penalty miss.

The same group battled and frustrated Angola in a 1-1 draw in Luanda and replicated the same against African giants Senegal with a similar result a week later.

Let's not forget Cranes' remarkable 1-0 win over Morocco in an international friendly in Casablanca.

All that Cranes' CECAFA Tusker Challenge Cup triumph over Kenya did was to relieve its ardent faithful of pain and offer some glimmer of hope ahead of the forthcoming 2014 World Cup qualifiers.

Sekagya made us proud

So what would the ordinary soccer fan look back to with pride this year? In my opinion, Ibrahim Sekagya's historic achievements at Austrian club Red Bull Salzburg.

Sekagya did not only become the second African to lead a European club to league glory after guiding Salzburg to the Bundesliga title but became the first African to captain a European club to a cup double this same year.

Senegal striker Mamadou Niang is the other player who led Marseille to the French Ligue 1 title. Sekagya retired from Cranes duty in February following increasing pressures to overhaul the team that failed to qualify for the 2012 Nations Cup tournament.

However, Salzburg seemed to be the immediate beneficiaries from this as he was offered the team's captaincy in the final stretch of the season.

Salzburg had made four Austrian cup finals but had lost on each occasion. But that was before the former Cranes defender joined the club in 2007.

This season, the Austrian giants have looked indomitable, particularly under the captainship of Sekagya. He was inspirational, true leader and a true Ugandan ambassador.

But all said, there were individuals that either stood out or disappointed in the last 12 months of 2012.

Best player: Robert Ssentongo. He inspired URA FC to league glory, walking away with the top scorers boot before replicating the same form with the Cranes during the CECAFA Tusker Challenge Cup, where he managed four goals (including the first against Kenya in the final) and claimed the top scorers' boot.

Match of the year: Uganda 1 (9) Zambia 0 (10). There are two contenders here. Although Cranes' 2-1 CECAFA Tusker Challenge Cup final victory over Kenya's Harambee Stars was remarkable and as sweet as it came, match of the year has to be that historic fixture against Zambia at Namboole Stadium.

Discovery of the year: Godfrey Kizito. He defied the logic that youngsters need time to gel in a senior team. He was tremendous for the Cranes against Zambia and throughout the CECAFA tournament.

Goal of the year: It has to be Hamis Kiiza's superb back heel during Yanga's 7-1 drubbing of Sudanese side El Salaam Wau in the CECAFA Kagame Cup. Facing goal outside the box, Kiiza lobbed the Wau custodian with the heel of his right boot for goal of the tournament.

Special fans: The fans that travelled to Ndola by bus.

Worst game: Cranes' 3-1 defeat in Brazzavile.

Disappointment of the year: Cranes' 2013 Nations Cup failed campaign and Martin Mutumba's home debut against Senegal.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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