At 7pm tonight, football fans will be watching, waiting and hoping that Uganda Cranes puts up a decent show against Ghana's Black Stars. There is reason to fear and worry. http://www.africanews.com/ provides interesting comparisons.
Since the continental competition started in 1962, Ghana's Black Stars have appeared 20 times while the Cranes have appeared only five times.
The Cranes have never won the competition; our best performance has only been as runners-up on March 16, 1978, when we lost to today's opponents. It was the last time we appeared. The Black Stars on the other hand have won the tournament four times, the last being in 1982. Our national team is ranked 72 in the world by FIFA while Ghana is ranked 54. However, Cranes have not lost to Ghana in the past four outings, recently holding the Black Stars to a scoreless draw in Ghana. Other teams in Group D are perennial campaigners Mali as well as seven time-champions Egypt.
But today should not be the day to pile negativity on our team. Today, and for the rest of the tournament, Ugandans should be proud of how far we have come, even though it has taken us so long. We must have hope in our team that they will do their best. Coach Milutin 'Micho' Sredojevic and Fufa, the local football governing body have been able to help the team come this far, despite numerous obstacles.
We also hope that star players such as goalkeeper Denis Onyango - who has had quite an illustrious career including winning the 2016 GLO-Caf African Player of the Year award recently - as well as Captain Geoffrey Massa, striker Farouk Miya, defender Joseph Ochaya and the entire team will give their all to progress to the finals.
There is a lot of support from various corners. Many media houses have reported positively about the team. We have sent a strong troupe of reporters to cover each aspect of the tournament so as to keep our readers updated. Many fans, even with the knowledge that our team is in the "group of death", have made the expensive trip to Gabon to support the team.
Members of Parliament also contributed Shs215m to the Cranes and the Speaker should have arrived in Gabon along with other MPs yesterday.
There is definitely goodwill from so many places. If there is ever a time for us to be proud of our team, to show solidarity, to be happy about who we are regardless of the problems we face, this is it.