Uganda: Delayed Afcon Ticket Keeps Cranes Central

22 November 2020

Monday was disappointing. A day that started in wild optimism ended in undesirable fashion as South Sudan beat Uganda Cranes 1-0.

Coach Johnny McKinstry's team started the matchday with a chance of becoming only second team to qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon.

What an honour that would have been to be listed alongside Senegal and the hosts as the first three nations to makes the continent's biggest showpiece.

After a 39-year wait to qualify ended in 2017, it has become a divine right and some fans, largely irrational, are angry at the loss to South Sudan, and the delayed qualification.

In 2017, Cranes qualified on the final day and then left a match to spare to 2019. Here was a chance to do it with two matches to spare. Burkina Faso lead the group B table with 8 points, one clear of Uganda with Malawi on four and South Sudan three.

With the tournament postponed till January 2022 due to the Coronavirus pandemic, qualification in Nairobi would have delivered a never-seen lull.

Yes, Cranes would still have had to host Burkina Faso and travelled to Blantyre to face Malawi next year.

However, these would both be dead rubbers. That would be imply hardly any excitement for the federation and Cranes. Now, the national team stays central.

Fufa do run several national teams for both men and women plus multiple age groups but Cranes, at Afcon level, is the biggest selling point.

The dates for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar qualification campaign have since been altered because of the pandemic. These may not start till next June.

General feeling

You get the feeling that not many here genuinely think or feel that Uganda have a genuine chance of being of Africa's five representatives in just two years.

In fact, Fufa and coach McKinstry are talking 2026 for the nation's first World Cup appearance. Then, Africa will have nine countries at the global showpiece.

However, when Fufa president Moses Magogo launched Project2019, geared towards qualifying for the 2019 Afcon, it bore fruits two years early.

Can this take the same pattern in regard to Qatar2022? If not, next March's game against Burkina Faso stays a principal points of focus because of Monday.

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