Uganda’s football custodians FUFA under the pressure of demanding fans always try to achieve excellent performances yet in real sense; they have invested in eggs that can easily break without serving the nation for long.
The biggest problem for Uganda’s soccer has been quick fix. Truth be told, you can’t build a strong house on a weak foundation. Let’s not be fooled into thinking we can achieve
success without a strong base upon which this success must be founded. Even if we hire a genius like Sir Alex Ferguson to handle our beloved Uganda Cranes under similar situations, nothing will be achieved.
On many occasions in the previous AFCON qualifiers, we have missed by a whisker but not by accident. Adam Ssemugabi penalty miss that denied us qualification for the 1994 edition, then losing to Rwanda and drawing with Ghana in 2003 and most recently, failure to beat Kenya at Namboole. We have always missed by inches but not without a reason. Many will see it as being unlucky, others will point to poor preparations, others will say Juju but I strongly disagree. Our problem has always been quick fix.
High expectations for every campaign
At the beginning of every campaign, Ugandans are full of expectations with many composing songs like “This our time” an indication that the jinx is going to be broken this time. After thumping Congo Brazzaville 4-0 at Namboole a week ago, everybody is looking forward at who we draw in the next and final round but every one’s prayer is that hope we don’t get the continent’s big boys (Which is most likely by the way). We have always come close but let the truth be told – our national team is not yet ready to battle with Africa’s best forever.
It has been said over and over again that invest in youth structures and the end product will be there for all to see and fully appreciate. Its fact that Uganda is a den for great talents and the likes of Ibrahim Ssekagya, David Obua, and Nestroy Kizito, are just but a sample. However, their success and achievements are as a result of self determination and individual efforts.
David and Ibra have had to endure harsh and testing times in their careers to reach where they are now. The Red bull Salzburg skipper had to spend a couple of years in Argentina while Obua had stints in Mauritius and South Africa before moving to Europe.
Abel Dhaira, Henry Kalungi and Tony Mawejje are also still n lower leagues in Europe and America something that is laying concrete foundations for their careers in future. Millions of such talents remain in Uganda where there are no youth structures.
The biggest question we should ask is; what are we doing locally to grow the technical skills of our players? What are we doing to improve the technical standards of our coaches in the league, youth structures (academies) who spend most of their time with these players before they are set for national teams?
We have players on the national team who can’t string meaningful passes together in a match. We have players who can’t cross well and more worryingly, others even lack ball control skills. Like it or not, these are our best and they have to be on the team. Who takes the blame? Here is the reason. Concentrating on quick fixes and ignoring to accept the fact that we have to fix our technical part of the game.
Who takes the blame for this?
This should be blamed on the Federation and club administrators who have consistently failed to set up the right youth structures. It’s amazing that in Uganda, you find super league coaches concentrating on teaching players how to throw, control and pass the ball instead of dealing on role play, tactical growth and systems of play. It’s one other reason why most of our players can’t play well in any other system apart from the traditional 4-4-2. Remember what happened at Villa Park at the beginning of the previous season. Serbian Coach Zivo had to lose his job since boys complained about his use for a 4-3-3.
These clubs must forced to incorporate youth ranks in their programmes like SC Villa did a few years with Jogoo Young, Express FC had Wembley and KCC FC had City Lads. It’s no surprise that most of the technically skilled players in the super league currently have their roots in Jogoo Young. Yasin Mugabi, Robert Lopidia (Proline FC), Erisha Ssekisambu (Express FC), Oscar Agaba, Nsumba Augustine, Brian Bwete (URA FC), Jjuuko Yusuf (KCC FC), Isaac Kirabira, Steven Bengo, Ronald Muganga, Isaac Muleme (SC Villa) and many more.
Coach Mike Mutebi once said that Uganda is full of naturally talented players but deprived of skill and technique. Take this example, South America has great natural talent and enjoy excellent technical development and growth. Europe has less natural talent but rely on classroom lectures for the less talent they have. Just imagine if Uganda had the technique and skill of those guys, our own Ibrahim Ssekagya would be mentioned in the same sentences as the Rio Ferdinands, Allesandro Nestas and Thiago Motta of this world.
Qualifications of our super and big league coaches
How many Coaches in those leagues have the right qualifications? How many youth coaches do we have in our primary and secondary schools plus the so called academies? This is the root cause of our qualification heart breaks and until it’s sorted, Ugandans will never heal or get their soccer to where it must belong. We can’t qualify by accident at the expense of our competitors who have invested in youth structures and reaping what they sowed. Take an example of Zambia, Ghana, Egypt, Cameroun and Nigeria. Can you believe that most of the players in the successful eras of early 2000s played at 1999 All Africa Games in South Africa in which Uganda made it to the semis? What happened next? Musician Dr. Jose Chameleon sang that “Tebasiga Nsiigo, Balinze Makungula”. Why expect to reap where we didn’t sow?
Like it or not, majority of our players are not good enough technically like those elite countries in Africa. There is no denying the fact that we have lots of talent but are immature in tactic and technique regardless of how much time they have spent playing the beautiful game. This is the best explanation why most of our players can’t make it Europe. How many have been dropped back home in the recent past? I won’t disclose them but the list is endless.
We must take lessons from football developed nations where a child at the age of 10 is taught basics of the game like passing, throws, set pieces and rules of the game among others. As they grow older, they are then taught systems of play, tactics and overall game play. Most of those players are not as talented as our boys here but the foundation makes the difference.
Respected soccer pundit Ruben Luyombo who has gotten a chance to visit some of those English teams youth academies recently told me that those young boys in those academies are not as talented as our boys and you can even see it on Television. He went on to joke that some of our players are unlucky to be born here.
Countries like Spain and Germany (the best in Europe at the moment) have over 45,000 fully licensed federation accredited youth coaches doing the job all over the country. How many do we have here?
Sometimes you sit and wonder whether our administrators are really into football. We are accustomed to playing and doing well in invitational tournaments especially those that bring some cash to the federation (Nile Basin and LG Cup) and teams are disbanded after the tournaments are done. Are we into business? We want to win at all costs. In the end, we have fielded over age players in under age national teams denying the right people chance. You began to question the importance of competitions like Copa Coca Cola and KKL that have always been the main source of talent.
Recently, we had a Germany director football Guenter Zintel l and it was then that Uganda produced lots of technically gifted players like Jamil Kyambadde, Hassan Mubiru and Hakim Magumba among others. You wonder what the current director of football is doing to lift the standards of the game.
The problem with Ugandan football is taking criticism with heavy hearts. Criticism is meant to correct the wrongs and make weak links stronger. Unfortunately, our leaders take these critiques as saboteurs. Our leaders must accept that we are wrong and listen to those we think don’t matter in society.