26 December 2013

Uganda: 2013 Review - the Cranes So Near Yet So Far

From failure to qualify for the World Cup to two top-flight leagues, there has been little to celebrate in the past 12 months but Uganda's qualification to the 2014 African Nations Championship was a welcome boost, write John Vianney Nsimbe and Elly Kyeyune.

Two top-flight leagues:

It all started on a sour note when the simmering wrangle between Fufa and Uganda Super League (USL), which started at the tail end of 2012, spilled over into 2013 and had a destabilising effect all year round. The situation literally rocked the football boat and for the first time in the history of Ugandan football, there were two top-flight league champions.

Jessica Alupo, the Minister of Education and Sports, has set a deadline of January 31, 2013 to unify both leagues but it turned out to be hot air. In the end, KCC FC emerged winner of the Fufa Super League as Maroons FC won the USL version. Due to the infighting, SuperSport and Bell withheld their sponsorship.

When Alupo declared that both leagues were null in September, the USL stopped although it also had a lot to do with having no finances from its sponsors. Meanwhile, the Fufa Super League (FSL) is still on-going uninterrupted.

Micho succeeds Bobby:

With the 2014 World Cup qualification hopes up in smoke following Uganda's 0-2 loss in Liberia on March 25, Bobby Williamson as Cranes coach a few days later.

At the time, The Cranes lay bottom of the four-nation log with just two points. On May 21, Fufa appointed Serbian Milutin 'Micho' Sredojevich as the new Cranes coach and it breathed some new spirit in football. Micho's new-look Cranes defeated Liberia and Angola to catapult Uganda to the brink of making the play-offs but a nail-biting 0-1 loss to Senegal put paid to Uganda's chances.

Mulindwa opts out of third term:

After eight years at the helm of Ugandan football, Lawrence Mulindwa stepped aside to pave way for his protégé Moses Magogo to take over. However, the transition was far from smooth as several electoral anomalies and a USL injunction on Fufa activities threatened to block his ascension.

In the end, Magogo settled in well although it was clear that the new administration was struggling since the rich Mulindwa was out of Fufa.

Unwelcome return:

Just when the country hoped that players' exposure at foreign-based clubs would boost Uganda's chances in future, many key players returned home after failing to cut the grade.

Emmanuel Okwi and Godfrey Walusimbi left Etoile du Sahel (Tunisia) and CD Don Bosco (DR Congo) respectively to play in the FSL. They were followed by the likes of Patrick Ochan and Mike Mutyaba, both at TP Mazembe (DR Congo) and Vietnam-based Geoffrey Kizito and Moses Oloya.

Airtel replace MTN:

Airtel replaced MTN as The Cranes main sponsor after signing a four-year deal with Fufa, reportedly worth Shs 4 billion. Airtel's arrival came with a few conditions, including the clause that The Cranes official home kit would shift from yellow to red - Airtel's colour.

Cecafa woes:

It had become a given for Uganda to reach at least the semifinal stage of the Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup. However, for the first time in seven years, they were stopped at the quarterfinal stage after losing to Tanzania on spot-kicks.

CHAN joy:

The disappointment of failing to qualify for the World Cup was eased after a Cranes team of locally-based players outwitted Tanzania 3-1 on aggregate to qualify for the 2014 African Nations Championship (Chan) in South Africa.

It is the second straight time for Uganda to make the Chan finals after qualifying in 2011.

UFL fills gap:

With top-flight football in disorder, the second edition of the University Football League (UFL) seized the opportunity to entertain fans. A competition for universities, the tournament unearthed several youngsters such as top-scorer Siraje Musindo. In the end, Kampala University emerged winners on a dramatic final day of matches.

Kitende retain school's supremacy:

St Mary's SS Kitende continued their dominant streak in schools football when they defeated Standard High Zana to retain the Copa Coca-Cola schools tournament. It was Kitende's seventh title in 10 years.

SCVU win Uganda Cup:

Sports Club Victoria University (SCVU) defied pedigree and form to win the Uganda Cup when they defeated Vipers FC. For a club that was formed less than two years ago, it was a rewarding feat, having spent a great deal of money in buying the crème de la crème of local football.

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