27 December 2012

Uganda: Agony and Ecstasy

In a year that has been dominated by off-the-field stories, John Vianney Nsimbe wraps up the highlights of 2012.

The most covered football story of 2012 has been the power struggle between local football body Fufa and the Uganda Super League (USL). Because of their endless fights, the game has suffered.

The country now has two uncompetitive topflight leagues [Fufa Super League (FSL) and USL], something that has confused fans, clubs and players alike. This situation bred indifference in clubs, some of which were torn apart. For example, there are two SC Villa and Express teams with exclusive administrations.

In addition, USL vice chairman Fred Muwema heads a rival Fufa faction.

Bell and SuperSport

Under such confusion, major sponsors like SuperSport and Uganda Breweries were left in a precarious position and are considering pulling out their resources if normalcy doesn't return soon. Recently, the minister of Education and Sports, Jessica Alupo, set an ultimatum of January 31, 2013 to have one league running in the country and all the football differences resolved. Hopefully it won't come to pass.

Cranes curse

On the pitch, 2012 can best be described as a mixed bag. With each passing year since 2008, Uganda edges closer to Nations Cup qualification but somehow always comes up short. Last year, many thought The Cranes had blown their greatest chance of qualification when they were held by Kenya. Yet few could have predicted Uganda's narrowest of failures when Zambia eliminated The Cranes on spot-kicks.

So near, yet so far has been Cranes story. However, The Cranes got some reprieve by winning the Cecafa Cup on home soil. In a team dominated by youngsters, it was a sweet revenge on Kenya in the final. Nonetheless, the tournament has long lost its once mighty stature.

Enter UCI

Following the disappointment of Uganda's Nations Cup qualification campaign, football fans started a project dubbed the Uganda Cranes Initiative (UCI) through which they mobilised support to the national team. This programme has been widely received because it preaches fundraising for the team in order to guard against financial shortfalls that more often than not have befallen The Cranes due to the little government funding.

Express fly again

Against all odds, Express won the league title for the first time in 16 years. Using a bunch of untested players, many of whom were playing in the Super League for the first time, their league success was a fairytale.

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