TODAY: Uganda vs Ghana 7pm
You know a nation is excited when the CEO of one of the country’s leading companies tweets this: “I have ordered all @newvisionwire staff to wear the @UgandaCranes jersey to work tomorrow when our team plays #AFCON2017. U do the same.”
The tweet by Vision Group Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Robert Kabushenga Monday morning set social media alight, with the reactions “for” and “against” simply confirming the underlying excitement as the national football team Cranes returns to Africa’s top competition for the first time since 1978.
— Enywaru Pius (@penywaru) January 16, 2017
“The order is in good faith. I hope no one will complain,” tweeted Richard Tumusiime @tumusiimeri soon after.
“Just about what every Ugandan Employer should do tomorrow!” added Edward Echwalu @echwalu before many others took the opportunity to hit at national broadcaster UBC for failing to telecast the ongoing Nations Cup finals.
“Why didn’t u order them to broadcast the match..#thnx Fr fa support,” said Moses Mukisa @MukisaWalker.
The show of support for the boys in Gabon was nationwide, with a tweet from Mbarara indicating they already had their jerseys on a day in advance.
— Rogers Kajabwangu (@kajabwanguR) January 16, 2017
Ugandans are enterprising, so there was even a business proposal thrown in. “I can as well add some touch on it by labeling it with your name using the latest technology! Your staff as well,” said @aagaba1.
Historic return for Cranes
Nearly four decades on from their last appearance at the Africa Cup of Nations, Uganda return to the tournament Tuesday with coach Milutin Sredojevic describing a date with 2015 runners-up Ghana as their destiny.
The only side from eastern Africa at the tournament in Gabon, the Uganda Cranes are tasting the Cup of Nations for the first time since 1978, before any of their current squad were born.
Back then, they lost 2-0 to hosts Ghana in the final, and 39 years later the same opponents await them in their Group D opener in Port-Gentil at 7pm.
“I feel honoured, pleased and privileged to be here. We have worked very hard in Uganda to make this happen. Thirty-plus million people have dreamt to have us here,” said the Serbian Sredojevic, better known by his nickname “Micho” and who first began coaching in Uganda in 2001.
“So many things you can escape but destiny you cannot — the last game of Uganda was in the final of the 1978 Africa Cup of Nations in Ghana. Our first match back after 39 years is against Ghana so there is that symbolic aspect.”
Uganda cannot compete with Ghana’s record at the Cup of Nations but they took four points off the Black Stars in their ultimately unsuccessful bid to qualify for the 2015 Cup of Nations and also held them to a 0-0 draw in Tamale in World Cup qualifying last October.
“We will fight for first goal, first point, first win and possible qualification to the next round. The fact that we are the only country from the CECAFA region makes us proud. If we do well, then we have achieved a feat,” Micho said, adding ” If not, it’s an experience and a step towards the future. We are building a team and we have a project for Cameroon 2019.”
“I am proud to coach Uganda. Since I took over, we have won 27 games, drew nine and nine losses. We have established a team identity and we will keep this starting from tomorrow’s game.”
Ghana coach Avram Grant has admitted the pressure is on his team as they look to win a fifth Cup of Nations title, and a first since 1982.
The Israeli almost led them to glory two years ago, but they lost on penalties to the Ivory Coast in the final in Equatorial Guinea.
The majority of the 2015 side remains, including skipper Asamoah Gyan, who is preparing for his sixth Cup of Nations.
“No disrespect to the Uganda team, but everybody knows statistically we are ahead of them,” said Gyan on Monday.
“If they beat Ghana it’s big news for them. If we beat them, people might say it’s a normal thing.”
— Robert Kabushenga (@rkabushenga) January 16, 2017