10 March 2019

Egypt: Road to Egypt 2019 Starts to Take Shape

This past week, Cranes coach Sébastien Desabre named a richly detailed and hauntingly beautiful provisional squad for the 24 March Afcon qualifier away to Tanzania. With Africa's showpiece football tournament just months away, and Uganda having long made the grade, the provisional squad could not take on more significance.

The breadth of the training camp to be held in Egypt days before the trip to Tanzania is much greater than the immediate task at hand, which is to beat the Taifa Stars with a record-equalling shutout for Denis Onyango. With the 2019 Afcon finals set to be held in Egypt, don't expect Desabre to keep people guessing as to his intentions. The composition of the squad that pitches camp in Egypt this month will hint at things to come.

This pretty much explains why those deemed surplus to requirements were in a plaintive crouch during the week that's just run its course. They know that unless some residual guilt from Desabre surfaces, a ticket to Egypt 2019 is well out of their reach. The dice has been cast, making the possibility of reclamation vanishingly small.

Desabre has showed a refreshing enthusiasm of going to extraordinary lengths to bring so-called local-based into his tent. There was a palpable feeling of gratitude layered on top of delight and astonishment when the Frenchman generously used the likes of Moses Waiswa, Patrick Kaddu and Sadam Juma during the qualifiers. This provided assurance to Uganda Premier League players who pride themselves in the rigour of their approach that their tireless efforts would not go unnoticed.

With this in mind, you have to spare a thought for Paul Mucureezi. The expression of barely concealed surprise greeted his exclusion from the provisional Cranes squad. Many people couldn't fathom why Desabre paid Mucureezi not the slightest attention despite perennially scoring and creating goals for Mbarara City. While Mucureezi's exclusion remains a disappointing mystery to some, to others more it is excruciatingly obvious. A one dimensional streak in the attacking midfielder's play -- be it out wide or centrally -- has been widely cited by those who have no qualms about blurting out uncomfortable truths. But don't expect this to quieten his legions of supporters.

Mucureezi's exclusion was far from being the only talking point following the naming of the provisional squad. There were a number of pleasant surprises -- take the inclusion of Brian Majwega who will push for the left back role with the unattached Godfrey Walusimbi, Isaac Muleme and Joseph Ochaya.

Elsewhere, a shocking dip in form has not cost Waiswa dear. In fact the Vipers schemer looks primed to continue featuring in a regista role despite hardly lighting up the Uganda Premier League this season. One player that has emerged from this season's topflight league smelling of roses is Juma Balinya.

The Police FC attacker seems to be destined for greater things with many unimpeachable voices of Ugandan football tipping him to beat Allan Okello to a place on the 2019 Afcon finals squad.

Now that would be some story. And one that on current form wouldn't be vexing.

At last, local club football finds itself in a good place

The Uganda Premier League has been routinely derided as the second cousin of its English variant.

And with good reason. Uganda's topflight football league doesn't have the same box office appeal as the English Premier League.

What with the few spectators it has fed darkly off since the turn of the second millennium!

It is no coincidence that Uganda's topflight football league came in for a drubbing at round about the time the English Premier League was gaining traction amongst Ugandan audiences.

Set against that backdrop, one would have expected last Saturday's match between KCCA and SC Villa to play second fiddle to the North London derby. It didn't.

Both matches took place at just about the same time, with the Wembley encounter getting a thirty-minute head start.

Yet a sizeable number of fans still opted to squeeze into the StarTimes Stadium in Lugogo and rally behind their respective local clubs.

No mean feat

This was no mean feat if anything because Arsenal is known to having tremendous pulling power in this part of the globe. So has Ugandan club football turned the corner? Not quite.

There is work to be done. Green shoots, however, abound.

A few of them were visible at the Mandela National Stadium when Villa and Kirinya Jinja SSS locked horns in a league match played under the lights. The crowd that flocked Namboole was a few notches beyond decent.

It showed that working class fans whose 9-5 jobs bar them from watching 4 and 4:30pm midweek kickoffs can be brought on board.

What we now know....

We know that the name Herbert Bockhorn was widely keyed into a Google search box after a 31-strong Cranes provisional squad was revealed this past week.

Born in Nsambya Hospital to a German father and mother of Ugandan descent, Bockhorn is 24-year-old defender who has been on Borussia Dortmund's books since 2016.

We know that he primarily plays as a right back, and has tucked 68 appearances for Dortmund's B side under his belt.

We also know that players of his ilk have been buffeted by the rough and tumble of sporting the national jersey.

Think Joel Kitamirike, Martin Mutumba and Ronnie Mukiibi to mention but three.

Will lightning strike twice?

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