Johnathan McKinstry

Unlike other sports federations, the Federation of Uganda Football Associations (FUFA) has done an amazing job in branding the national team.

Over time people started getting interested in the national team. A matchday for Uganda Cranes would seem like a public holiday that even the night games were properly attended as fans followed their superstars. This hype helped grow local football, with local clubs being the major beneficiaries.

In this period, Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojević delivered an appearance at the Africa Cup of Nations after 39 years of waiting. Even if the Cranes were average at the tournament, that Farouk Miya goal against Mali was worth the wait.

Micho is Ugandan through and through. He worked the media well, knew local football, and understood it given his early days with SC Villa. He knew the means were not the point but the end was the most important thing. We, after all, are a country where quantity is more important than quality, so a full stomach is better a tasteful mouth.

His football wasn’t pretty but efficient. Uganda got an away win in Ghana courtesy of a Tony Mawejje hit something that had not happened in a while – picking an away win in WestAfrica. Once Micho had hit this pinnacle, I am sure he lost his motivation and when Orlando Pirates came calling, he pressed the exit button.

Exit Micho enter Sébastien Desabre. The Frenchman was a heartthrob for female fans but the impression he left on football diehards was the style. The Cranes started playing with some style, with AFCON qualification secured by Micho his only test was CHAN that didn’t go so well but wasn’t terrible with another sweet strike from Derrick Nsibambi. Our AFCON journey was memorable with some great goals save for the bonus drama and some think we would have played Algeria in the final and not Senegal. Desabre left the job while we were still on the lovemaking part so nothing tangible was left behind.

With Abdallah Mubiru handling the team on an interim basis especially during the first legs of the CHAN qualification, John Mckinstry was offered the head coach position. Mckinstry looked the part, given his youth and where the team needed to go. Under his leadership, the Cranes dominated the CECAFA tournament in Kampala and everyone was excited.

However, the last couple of engagements have left a bad taste in the mouth for many football lovers. The Cranes don’t seem to be a team-building onto something. It’s difficult to know where to place blame but most times, the buck stops with the coach.

I have played sport and I never mind losing but the manner of the loss is the key thing. The Cranes seemed a bit lost in Cameroon, creativity was lacking and in defense, an area we always seem so sure, we were also short.

Without being too critical of McKinstry in hindsight, maybe our players are not as good as we think they are against opposition from outside. The countries that have made the quarterfinals have all qualified their clubs for the CAF Champions League and Confederations Cup.

This was our 5th appearance at CHAN but our progress has been stunted and therein lies the gist of the matter. Since the first edition in Rwanda, FUFA should have done some soul searching to understand the gap in performance. It cant be all on McKinstry. In cricket, the role of the coach stops in practice the rest is up to individuals.

I never believe in letting go of people not just in sports but even in life. CHAN should be a big lesson for McKinstry and his technical team to find a way of unlocking the potential of our players.

Qualification for AFCON hangs in the balance due to the loss to South Sudan so there is no time to mourn but rather it’s time to pick up the pieces and get that team playing well.

I would strongly advise McKinstry to copy the notes Micho used while here. We are more interested in the end rather than the process.

Denis has represented Uganda in international cricket events including the World Cup. He is currently the captain of Wanderers Cricket Club.

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  1. If you say the quality of players is to blame, aren’t the same players that beat DR Congo in AFCON those that lost to South Sudan in Nairobi? The same players that took the CECAFA trophy are those that played lackluster against Rwanda. So the argument of player quality does not come in here. Do you want to tell me that Rwandan players are miles ahead in quality over Ugandan players? I don’t think so.
    But back to my point. whereas Desabre’s soccer was around inter-passing, McKinstry’s is about throwing that long ball. I don’t know how and who allowed this sudden change in philosophy. The majority of Ugandan players are of average height. They therefore can’t work with the long ball. Either McKinstry changes to Desabre’s philosophy or he leaves the Cranes job altogether.

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