Nicolas Wakiro Wadada in action at AFCON 2019

With the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) done and dusted with ultimate success, Algeria was crowned deserved champions over Senegal 1-0 in the finale played at the Cairo International Stadium in Egypt.

It was a tournament of many firsts. A total of 24 countries competed for the very first time at the biennial championship where the Video Assistant Refereeing was also applied (from quarterfinals) for the first time.

Uganda Cranes was pooled in group A alongside the hosts Egypt, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Zimbabwe.

Uganda managed a victory (2-0 over DRC), drew (1 all with Zimbabwe) and suffered two losses; 2-0 and 1-0 over Egypt and Senegal respectively.

Unlike the previous tournament hosted by Gabon in 2017, Uganda Cranes this time round managed to score three goals, conceded four but progressed from the group stage to make the knock out grade where they are bound to be rewarded $ 700,000 from Confederation of Africa Football Association (CAF).

There are a couple of important lessons learnt from this very championship in Egypt by Uganda Cranes players, technical staff and the administrative wing for the Federation of Uganda Football Associations (FUFA).

Uganda Cranes players in training during the Abu Dhabi camp

Timely preparations:

Tournaments call for preparations of all nature. From the logistical boost to fine-tuning the bodies of the players, it takes all efforts to make sure that you are really ready to compete at all costs.

Federation of Uganda Football Associations (FUFA) takes the due credit for the timely preparations for the Uganda Cranes prior to the kick-off of the 2019 AFCON tournament.

The team training sessions right from Kampala, through to a special training camp in Dubai communicated a point or two to the world.

For the Dubai training camp, the players further bonded together for that crucial chemistry since the majority had not played together before.

A case in point were players as Abdu Lumala, Alexis Bbakka, Ronald Brian Mukiibi Ddungu and Bevis Mugabi, all who play in Europe.

Unfortunately, Bbakka suffered an injury and was not considered by the technical team.

The two international friendly matches against Turkmenistan and Cote D’Ivoire provided the technical team with the true gist of the team composition and competitiveness anticipated.

Better still, the team was subjected to the hot Arabic weather conditions that would usher in the team while in Egypt.

A fortnight in Abu Dhabi was a positive step undertaken by FUFA.

Uganda Cranes players celebrate goal at AFCON 2019.

Collective Display:

Football, like most sports disciplines, is a game that necessitates teamwork to succeed.

The players are one block, technical wing another unit, medical, administrators, media and fan the others.

All those components remain a key element to success.

Unlike individualistic disciplines as boxing or athletics, footballers need that natural gelling process, without which, it will be doom.

At some point during the AFCON 2019 tourney, the chain of the teamwork element was broken and it cost the team focus and direction.

Eye for gold:

For every project undertaken, there is a vision and mission set. Uganda Cranes set their prime target as qualifying beyond the group stages.

A win and draw in the first two matches seemed to have solved the puzzle on paper.

Indeed, it was because even with the loss against Egypt in the last game, the Uganda Cranes had already smiled to the next level.

In future, the team ought to set its targets a little higher. Basically, after surpassing the bare minimum, it is natural that the players’ bodies and the mind language was satisfied in away.

Mitigation of distractions:

A championship as the Africa Cup of Nations whose winner pockets $4.5M requires doubled efforts to win.

It goes with a saying therefore that one will definitely need focus and the obvious need to avoid all sorts of distractions.

A row for allowances and bonuses put off the players.

Modern football is more scientific and physiological than before. Even though the row was amicably solved, the players had missed important hours from the training regime and were mentally put off.

Going forward, FUFA needs to ensure that such distractions are mitigated.

Uganda Cranes’ captain Denis Onyango and Abdu Lumala. The foreign based legion were well monitored

Scouting policy of foreign-based players:

It is thumbs up for the Uganda Cranes technical team led by the then head coach Sebastien Desabre for the incredible scouting and monitoring policy of all players, especially those outside the spheres of Uganda.

Fine, for most players who ply their trade in the domestic Uganda Premier League, it is always easy to keep track of them week in, week out.

However, the challenge comes when it comes to players in the diaspora leagues.

Monitoring the performance of such players remains a key aspect to ascertain their fitness levels and current form.

The great scouting and monitoring system put in place paid off handsomely as players like Lumala, Bbakka, Mukiibi, Faruku Miya, Bevis Mugabi, and even Mike Azira were summoned to the team.

Spying on the opposition:

Like scouting and monitoring your own players, the technical team also has to keep track on the performances of the rival camps.

The spying policy has always helped teams prepare for the better by identifying key strong points and how to go about with them.

In the same vein, the spying helps to point out the grey areas (weak lines) for the teams in question.

By and large, on a scale of 10, this time round FUFA executed 5 of the prior preparations.

This definitely replicated to the one win and draw registered as well as the three goals scored at the championship, an improvement from the one scored in the 2017 event hosted by Gabon.

David Isabirye is a senior staff writer for Kawowo Sports where he covers most of the major events.

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