How teamwork can bring glory to a nation
Pass. Pass. Pass. Farouk Miya, the 19-year old who scored Uganda’s history making goal in Mandela National Stadium on Sept.04, should have passed the ball to teammate Oloya who looked better positioned to score. That is the game he had been taught in the Kitende Secondary School team where failure to pass the ball was punishable and later at the Super League side Vipers Sports Club.
But Miya did not pass the ball. Instead he went for goal – and failed to beat Comoros keeper Ali Ahamada, who sent the ball back into fumbled play. In the ensuing frenzy of feet, the ball ended up on Oloya’s foot; he attempted a shot at goal and the ball hit feet instead and bounced back to him. That’s when he saw Miya – and passed the ball. Without a stop, Miya again shot for goal and hit more feet. But when the ball, bounced back to him, Miya got a better idea. He lifted it a little above the furious fray of feet and into the right side of Ahamada’s goal. It was in.
Uganda was finally into the finals of the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) – for the first time since 1978.
The crowd in the 40,000-seater stadium went wild. Outside, the nation that had been dampened by an early afternoon downpour gave one thunderous roar.
Uganda’s 1-0 victory over Comoros saw Uganda through to AFCON 2017 which will be hosted in Gabon. Finishing level on 13 points with Burkina Faso in Group D, Uganda Cranes opens a new chapter with a generation of players with an average age of 25, who could have only witnessed Uganda’s last appearance at the tournament in 1978 through their parents.
But in bars, sport betting shops, and living rooms across the country, veteran watchers of Ugandan football – many of them 40 years old and over- were in total disbelief. How could this team bring what – in their opinion- `greater teams’ had failed to do?
Many recalled the qualification campaign of AFCON 2012, which arguably had one of the more talented teams, a relatively good coach in Bobby Williamson, and ambitious FUFA boss, Lawrence Mulindwa, but still failed at the last attempt. Ibrahim Sekagya, David Obua, and Simeon Masaba were part of the team in that campaign which ended in a goalless draw in Cranes’s final game against Kenya in October 2011, once again ending in defeat and lost hope.
In the AFCON 2013 qualification campaign, when a new timing of the tournament was put in place, Uganda again crashed out losing to Zambia in the penalties in the last group game in October 2012.
Such near misses by the Cranes in previous years have created a cloud of skepticism whenever the team is at the most critical moment. Some are unforgettable like the dumbfounding penalty miss byAdam Semugabi in 1993 at Nakivubo stadium with Uganda needing a win against Nigeria to virtually make it to the 1994 finals.
Older observers and those who are more informed go back to the 1978 team when Uganda last qualified for AFCON. Compared to Miya’s team, there is no question the 1978 team was truly great.