By Fred Kaweesi
2014 FIFA World Cup Qualifier
Senegal v Uganda
WHEN the stakes are at their peak —as is with the case for Cranes marching into Saturday’s crunch qualifier against Senegal —you need to assemble your best possible artillery for the assignment.
Surprisingly, for the first time in seven years, that artillery excludes Geoffrey Massa.
Instead, Frank Kalanda has been brought in as a direct replacement for the make-or-break fixture in Marrakech.
Although the URA FC striker’s inclusion in the team is undisputed, it’s the circumstances surrounding Massa’s omission from the team currently camping in the Turkish capital Istanbul that are disturbing.
“I left Massa out because he played badly against Angola. He also played badly against Egypt and besides he has not been communicating,” Cranes head coach Micho Sredojevich said yesterday.
The Serbian tactician’s reasons contradict those he presented to the media last Tuesday. Back then, Micho revealed to the local media that he decided to ignore Massa on disciplinary grounds because he had been ‘reportedly’ told that the 27-year-old had returned to the country a week earlier and was enjoying a holiday in Jinja.
The reasons given by Micho angered Massa, who said on Sunday that: “If that is the reason Micho presented then I feel let-down and disappointed in him. I do not mind being left out of the team, but I prefer that the reasons sent out are done with honesty.”
“Micho phoned my coach (Steve Baker) and he told him I was still in the process of clearing my transfer to the club (University of Pretoria) and will not be ready for the Botswana game, but will be available for Senegal.
“I personally also talked to the manager (Chris Muyinda), so it hurts to see a different message sent out for my absence,” he stated.
“I returned to Uganda on August 27 for my birth certificate and police documents to allow me secure a work permit and flew out the next day (August 28). What was I supposed to do? Why would I refuse to play Botswana, who are next door (South Africa) and yet manage to travel to El Gouna to play against Egypt?”, Massa wondered.
Micho then stated later on Sunday evening that: “Let him explain why he did not communicate to anyone. I tried to call him, but couldn’t get in touch. He should not say that I am dishonest. I have a lot of logistical issues to do to begin running after players,” the Serb added.
So, is Massa’s exclusion dependent on the simple factors of form and fitness or ego? Micho will have to explain himself better as he faces a possible backlash from the fans in case this gamble backfires in a game with so much at stake.
Against Senegal last June, the Cranes struggled under the physical might of the West Africans until Massa came off the bench, troubled the visitors’ back-four with pace and power before earning Cranes a penalty that Godfrey Walusimbi struck to inspire Uganda to a 1-1 draw.
In Massa’s absence, Emmanuel Okwi will lead Cranes attack alongside either Hamis Kiiza or Kalanda.
Massa’s unceremonious exit evokes the memories of October 11, 2011, when Cranes — under dubious circumstances —lost first team player David Obua ahead of a crucial qualifier against Kenya.