That Uganda vs Kenya match was a moment that defined another Ugandan disappointment in a bid to break the AFCON qualification jinx and one that ended at least three Cranes stars’ careers.
David Obua, Ibrahim Sekagya and Nestroy Kizito announced their retirements in the aftermath and the match could have impacted the international careers of Brian Umony and Mike Mutyaba.
That’s none other than the goalless draw at Namboole against rivals Kenya in the 2012 Africa Cup of qualifiers.
Coming into the game, Cranes needed to win or match Angola’s result against Guinea Bissau to reach the Promised Land.
At the final whistle, they had achieved neither of the two to the disappointment of the entire country.
“Uganda are out. Angola are through to the 2012 Nations Cup in Equatorial Guinea. Uganda 0-0 Kenya, Guinea Bissau 0-2 Angola,” wrote Daily Monitor’s Andrew Mwanguhya.
“Williamson (Bobby) turns, looks to the fans, his hands on the waist. About six Ugandan players lay on the ground, others run to the dressing room crying,” Mwanguhya summarized the events at Namboole at the final whistle.
It was a game many remember for the expulsion of Obua from the camp on the eve of the match something his teammates believe had a detrimental effect on the team.
Tonny Mawejje started in the midfield on the day and reminisces the events.
“The level of confidence we had in the camp as team, individuals and officials was high,” says Mawejje. “Maybe that’s why the FUFA President then Mr. Mulindwa expelled Obua from camp thinking that even in his absence, we could qualify,” he adds.
“At the final whistle, we had failed and it was disappointing. In the dressing room, we sat in disbelief. Most players were crying and then also scared of the fans’ reaction because many surrounded the dressing room, angry and waiting for us to get out. That day, we left Namboole around midnight.
Vincent Kayizzi only got to know of Obua’s expulsion on match day and says losing such a key player for such an important game hit them hard.
“As a person, I only learnt of Obua’s absence on match day,” recalls Kayizzi. “I couldn’t believe it because he was part of the last training. Of course we can’t use his absence as an excuse but truth be told, he was the main man on the team and with him on the team, we were always confident and we badly missed him,” adds Kayizzi.
“The coaches encouraged us to take responsibility and that increased the tension on some of us yet Obua was always the man who carried that responsibility.
The former Motor Lublin winger likened the mood in the dressing room after the final whistle to the current country-wide lockdown and quarantine due to the corona virus.
“I was playing in Serbia then and even failed to go back in time. I couldn’t believe that a dream we chased for two years had collapsed just like that. I even thought of retiring from the game but later recollected myself and moved on.
Like Kayizzi, Mawejje also believes the expulsion of Obua denied the team a player of individual brilliance.
“David [Obua] had previously proved to make wonders in matches that needed extra individual brilliance so it reached time we needed such a type on the pitch but he was nowhere.”
There were reports that Obua’s troubles started after learning that he had been dropped from the starting eleven due to fitness worries and that a young Brian Umony was to start ahead of him.
Umony led the line alongside Geoffrey Massa on the day and evokes the memories.
“I learnt of Obua’s dropping on the way to the Hotel from last training,” says Umony. “It was after Andy [Mwesigwa] came to me and told to prepare myself well and that I was starting since Obua has been dropped,” he recalls.
“But he didn’t tell me that he was also expelled from camp as they tried to keep it away from us – especially the junior players then. So he came to the hotel and we saw him leave with belongings.”
The Proline forward admits Obua was a big miss and that despite being prepared as a player for the game, he doesn’t fully believe he was, mentally.
“Obua was the talisman of the team and had scored crucial goals for the team in the campaign. Football wise, I was ready but psychologically you wouldn’t be ready that way. It’s your first senior game, a big game of high importance and intimidating but it was something that spurs you on.
The disappointment in the dressing room is something Umony has never erased from his memory.
“Everybody sat there. Every player was quiet and very disappointed. No talking but in between moments, coaches Bobby and Jackson Mayanja could tell us to take it easy, it wasn’t our day but the room was silent. Others like Mike Mutyaba were crying hysterically and you could see tears in everyone’s eyes.”
Nestroy Kizito announced his retirement from international football a few days after the match and describes the day as his worst career moment.
“The worst day of my entire footballing career,” answers Kizito when asked about the match. “We were inconsolable after the game but the coaches tried to make us feel normal again,” he added.
“I recall while on the bus from the stadium, one visibly old woman with her family, tears rolling from her eyes called out my name and said – Naye Nestroy kiki kyemutokoze [literally translated as ‘Nestroy, what have you done to us?]. It’s something that hit me so hard and even up to now, memories come to me.
“The result from that game went on to even affect me at my club and the coach had to counsel me.”
Although the Uganda Cranes were overwhelming favourites going into the match, Kizito believes the training camp was disorganised on the last training session.
“The last training wasn’t effective as on more than once; it was interrupted for official visits which I think weren’t good. At one time, the FUFA president had to talk to us, then the minister and later the President of the country.”
Support Kawowo Sports
if you believe in the work we do, please contribute to help us continue producing great content. You can donate as low as $1.
With contradicting reports on why Obua was expelled, Kizito gives the account of happened.
“They told us the president was coming but warned us to be cautious with questions. We had to wait longer before he came and after some time, he came. Then, I discovered that Obua was missing and I asked Ibra [Sekagya] where he was and he told me he had gone to the Hotel.
“On reaching the camp, Obua told me he had been expelled. I told him to stop the jokes since we have a big game the following day but it came out to be true.
“I and Ibra slept beyond midnight trying to negotiate his return but the FA officials were not ready to allow that happen. That alone means we never rested well. Football has a lot of punishments and they could have punished him in any other way but not expelling him on the eve of such a big game.”
Meanwhile, Jackson Mayanja reveals a secret many players and fans alike didn’t know.
“Obua wasn’t going to play,” he says. “He had a muscle problem and failed a late fitness test and so he was in the know of everything,” he explains.
“Bobby told me to take him through his paces to see if he could play but after a few sprints, he told me he was feeling a lot of pain and can’t play and maybe that’s why he left Namboole as we were waiting for the president in order to rest.
However, he admits that FUFA should have handled the Obua case better than they did.
“I don’t think it was right for the FA to expel him from camp. Although he wasn’t going to play, his presence could have played a big role especially in lifting the boys since most were not only his teammates but also friends.”
Many who watched the game will never forget Kenyan goalkeeper Arnold Origi whose match day performance ensured the Uganda Cranes failed to pick the desired result on the evening.
In an interview with Goal.com, he says he was inspired by a woman at Entebbe International Airport who downplayed the Harambee Stars’ abilities on arrival.
“It was that woman at the airport,” revealed Origi to Goal.com, adding, “She looked at me, I was at the front of the queue and said, ‘oh! You Kenyans have come here to lose as usual?”
“I was so upset I thereafter, decided to show her Kenya is a much better sporting nation than Uganda.”
How the Teams Lined up
Uganda XI: Denis Onyango (GK), Simeon Masaba, Nestroy Kizito, Andy Mwesigwa, Ibrahim Sekagya, Musa Mudde, Tony Mawejje, Vincent Kayizzi (Moses Oloya), Mike Sserumaga (Mike Mutyaba), Brian Umony and Geoffrey Massa (Geoffrey Sserunkuma)
Unused Substitutes: Abel Dhaira (GK), Hassan Wasswa, Godfrey Walusimbi and Robert Ssentongo
Coach: Bobby Williamson
Kenya XI: Arnold Otieno Origi (GK), Pascal Ochieng, James Situma, Dennis Odhiambo Omino, Osborne Monday, McDonald Mariga, Kevin Ochieng, Dennis Oliech, Victor Wanyama, Collins ‘Gattuso’ Okoth and Michael Baraza.
Unused Subs: Jacktone Odhiambo (GK), Brian Onyango, Stephen Waruru, Bob Mugalia, Crispin Olando, Eric Andayi and Jamal Muhammad
Coach: Zedekiah ‘Zico’ Otieno