Uganda: Going Into the Afcon Under 20 Quarter-Final With Blind Faith

27 February 2021

By the time you read this, 'The Hippos' our U-20 national football team could be preparing for a semi-final versus either Morocco or Tunisia, or on their way home from Mauritania.

Either way it is ground-breaking stuff from the Hippos because you must go back four decades to find the last time a Ugandan national football outfit went beyond the preliminary rounds of a major tournament.

And yet here we are talking about success at Afcon U-20 and as one of those fans who majorly shows up to cheer the national team, I am totally unapologetic. It isn't my intention to make any excuses for my behaviour, but local football and its politics can be a turn-off. And the lure of the alternative that is European football hasn't helped much.

Still, I return. Don't I? I am like that man who, having developed a taste for single-malt whiskey occasionally shows up at the dinghy 'local' for a dose of un-distilled gin and the good old times. Crazy yes, but that would be to underestimate the deep-rooted power of nostalgia.

So yes, even if the Uganda Premier League is only nine games deep, the typical challenges of poor officiating and worse playing standards already apparent are what make the exploits of the Hippos a much welcome diversion. And this is not because I believe we will beat Burkina Faso (our opponents last Thursday) to qualify for Monday's semi-finals.

It is just that as a fan, I thoroughly enjoy any good run put together by our national teams.

The truth is that we do have wind beneath our sails as generated by the morale-boosting twin victories in the preliminaries against Mozambique and host Mauritania. It is also not common for our teams to play with the kind of assuredness and freedom we saw versus Mauritania, who we overcame after going a goal down.

So much good is bubbling beneath the surface right now.

And these things can positively alter the psyche of a nation and embolden teams. So, excuse my enthusiasm but do understand that every fan loves it when their team is on a roll. Besides and ultimately you must give yourself a chance to dream.

And our uncharacteristically fine form now has us dreaming of overcoming that hurdle that always trips us at the business-end of tournaments such as this one.

Nonetheless, on many occasions I have witnessed how quickly a decent run can turn around and seen variously how our pettiness has broken down such momentum. But I will not worry about what might go wrong when I could instead bask in all that is going well. I am ready for whatever outcome. I accept it all.

As a matter of fact, I am not even as apprehensive as I would normally be before a make-or-break game. You see we have been here before and for many of you, the see-saw emotions of our Chan campaign will still be raw.

We excelled in that mini tournament, raised every one's expectations, and proceeded to bomb so badly in the proper tournament that I am now convinced all our national football teams need the services of a full-time psychologist!

But meanwhile, we go into this one as underdogs. That should give us an edge. We have nothing to lose. Win and I will celebrate like any fan. Lose and I will implore all of us to continue to support and encourage the boys and their seniors as we build on to greater targets like Afcon 2022 and the World Cup 2022. Sometimes that is what being a fan asks for - blind faith.

Email: banturakim@gmail.com

Twitter: @MBanturaki

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