Today marks exactly four years since Uganda Cranes failed to beat Kenya at Mandela Stadium, Namboole and qualify for the finals of Africa Nations Cup 2012.
The Cranes went into the game top of group J with 10 points from five games and a draw would have been enough to seal top spot but only if Angola were not winning away to Guinea Bissau.
The Angolans who had beaten Uganda 2-0 in the previous game sat second in the group with 9 points and to them, only a win away from home against Guinea Bissau would send them to the finals but not that alone, they needed Kenya to frustrate Uganda and indeed it happened.
Obua expulsion on the eve
On the eve of arguably the biggest game in Ugandan history in 34 years, FUFA president then Lawrence Mulindwa expelled star player David Obua from camp over what he described as ‘Indiscipline’.
The King, as famously known was the Cranes go to man in the campaign and boosted of two goals including the away winner against Guinea Bissau which earned The Cranes their first away victory in eleven years.
His expulsion is believed to have taken something from the squad but that mattered less, after all, we were at home and against Kenya.
Come D-day, Namboole was filled to capacity as fans didn’t want to miss out on history. To many, the long wait for the first finals since 1978 was finally coming to an end.
However, it wasn’t to be as The Harambee Stars whose only chance of making it to Gabon lay in beating Uganda at least four goals to nil and wishing Guinea Bissau beat Angola frustrated The Cranes with a goalless draw.
What transpired on the pitch?
It wasn’t for lack of trying as the Cranes threw everything at Stars but in Arnold Origi they came up against an inspired goalkeeper who repelled everything they tried and when he was beaten his defenders bailed him with two goal line clearances.
Vincent Kayizzi forced Origi to his first save on seven minutes and on 19 minutes; Mike Sserumaga beat Origi to a cross only for Pascal Ochieng to make clear the ball of the line.
A careless piece of play by McDonald Mariga on 33 minutes gifted Uganda another chance but again Origi pulled off a fine save.
Sserumaga had a gilt edged chance to make it 1-0 four minutes after the restart only to hit the side netting from close range. A minute later Origi had to be at his best to keep out an Andrew Mwesigwa attempt as Uganda piled the pressure.
Kenya’s best chance of the match fell to its captain on 53 minutes but despite being through on goal and with acres of spaces, Dennis Oliech blazed his shot over the bar.
With Uganda throwing everything to attack, gaps were appearing in their backline but Kenya’s was unable to exploit with Mariga blazing over a Mike Barasa cutback on 63 minutes.
Another goalline clearance, this time by Situma on 68 minutes summed up Uganda’s day as a day that had started with so much promise ended in disappointment.
Not even the introduction of Mike Mutyaba, Moses Oloya and Geofrey Sserunkuma saved the day for The Cranes.
Angola thus qualified to Equatorial Guinea and Gabon from Group J after they swept aside Guinea Bissau 2-0.
Uganda Cranes XI: 1-Denis Onyango (GK), 17-Simeon Masaba, 3-Nestroy Kizito, 5-Ibrahim Sekagya (C), 14-Andrew Mwesigwa, 2-Musa Mudde, 6-Tonny Mawejje, 7-Vincent Kayizzi 10-Mike Sserumaga, 4-Brian Umony and 11-Geofrey Massa.
Substitutes: 18-Abel Dhaira, 16-Hassan Wasswa, 15-Godfrey Walusimbi, 8- Mike Mutyaba, 9-Geoffrey Sserunkuma, 13-Moses Oloya, 12- Robert Ssentongo
Kenya Harambee Stars XI: 1-Arnold Origi, 8-Osborne Monday, 4-James Situma, 5-Pascal Ochieng, 3-Dennis Odhiambo, 13-Collins Okoth, 17-MacDonald Mariga, 12-Victor Wanyama, 6-Kevin Ochieng, 11-Mike Barasa, 10-Dennis Oliech (C).
Substitutes: 18-Jacktone Odhiambo, 4-Brian Mandela, 9-Bob Mugalia, 7-Stephen Waruru, 2- Jamal Mohammed, 16-Chridspine Olando, 15- Eric Masika