By Fred Kaweesi
CRANES finally set foot in South Africa on Thursday determined to significantly improve on their previous outing in the Africa Nations Championship (CHAN).
Uganda’s outing in 2011 was so poor that the Cranes did not only lose all three of their group matches, they also failed to score a single goal in the entire championship hosted in Sudan.
But last year, a double from Frank Kalanda and a Brian Majwega penalty did not only guarantee the team a place at the finals due in South Africa this month.
Their 3-1 win and 4-1 aggregate result also earned the team yet another golden opportunity of redeeming their pride, one that according to Coach Micho Sredojevic, will script an entirely different story.
“We really want to go and put up a good show in South Africa. We want to compete and not just become tourists there,” Micho told New Vision last year.
“We will take the tournament step by step, try to make it out of the group and then approach the knockout games in the best possible way,” he added.
Of course, seasoned campaigners in such high-profile tournaments will tell you that accomplishing success demands more than just the obvious basics such as routine training.
There is also a restricted extent to which talent can play a part. That a well-laid strategy normally contributes significantly.
So have the Cranes prepared better this time?
And Micho indeed sounded aware when he stated then that; “I know what I have to do. We will meet and plan for the championship.”
But Cranes preparations seemed to take the wrong turn at the wrong time this week when team coach Micho Sredojevic revealed his displeasure that the team had flown to South Africa days late.
The team’s belated travel plans did not only deny them a golden opportunity of playing a friendly game against South Africa early in the week, it meant that the team would also have to adjust to the weather in Cape Town in just two days ahead of their must-win fixture against Burkina Faso on Sunday.
Most people do not appreciate the work that goes into preparing for a tournament. You have to plan to be there for the whole period and that means visiting all the possible hotels and training venues you will prefer to use.
You do not want to arrive and find out that the weather in the city you will be based varies considerably from that in Kampala.
Now that wasn’t Micho’s responsibility. He needed a team to do that for him.
What the Serbian needed to focus on as soon as the draws were made was gather detailed reports on each of Uganda’s group opponents (Morocco, Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe ) – their results, goal scorers, assists, crosses, likely line-ups and formations.
He needed that information early enough to allow his players practice how to counter each of their opponents.
The Serbian stated last year that: “We will also use the CECAFA Challenge Cup in December to prepare the home-based players. Several other strategies will also be discussed in due course.”
Did the CECAFA tournament really contribute to his team’s preparations? Or was it a wasted opportunity?
A lens through the 23 players selected for the CHAN competition indicates that Micho’s first team will likely comprise of just five players from the preferred 11 that took part in the regional competition.
Apart from Benjamin Ochan (goalkeeper), Nicholas Wadada (right-back), Savio Kabugo, Richard Kasagga (central defenders), Brian Majwega (midfielder), the rest of the players were either part-timers like Joseph Mpande, Said Kyeyune or played no part in CECAFA at all.
The likes of Isaac Muleme (left-back), Ivan Ntege (midfield) Francis Olaki, Simon Okwi, Yunus Ssentamu and Yasser Mugerwa, who are likely to play a significant part will confront unfamiliar territory. That said, there is already debate, on the composition of the team. How did Ali Kimera (SCVU), a goalkeeper, who had not played enough games (if any) and had been second fiddle to Ochan at Victoria University, make his way into the team? Was Muleme (SCVU) a better candidate than Habib Kavuma at left-back?
What makes Yasser Mugerwa (SCVU) so special?
We can only hope that Micho made the right choices.
Of course the Serbian is charge but we only hope he made the right choices and selected the right group of warriors ready to go pound for pound with the opposition.