The ground was miraculously passed as playable by the FIFA officials
It is said that you can’t play good football on a bad pitch.
That seems to have exactly been the case in the World Cup qualifier between Uganda and Ghana.
Mandela National Stadium or Namboole as the ground is popularly known had the worst pitch in all the Russia 2018 qualifiers that weekend.
This was blamed on a religious crusade that ended on Thursday.
Thousands of praying believers of Pastor Aloysius Bugingo’s church descended on the ground and stamped the grass with passion.
By the time they were done on Thursday morning, the ground was in terrible state. It was not only uneven, but also littered with garbage.
Even after efforts to reclaim the pitch, several almost bare patches, requiring at least a fortnight to reclaim, remained.
The ground was miraculously passed as playable by the FIFA officials.
But come the match proper and it was evident that both sides were paying the price. Passes took an unpredictable spin just as injuries also heightened.
At the end of the day, our own Denis Onyango, who conceded a goal that was inexplicably cancelled, was the biggest complainant.
This bad pitch scenario reminded me of the just concluded Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon.
Coaches led by Ghana’s Avram Grant blamed the high number of injuries on poor pitches.
The quality of the play in the tournament was also criticised, not just a lack of goals but also the general technique of the players.
Mali's Bakary Sako lashed out at the surface in Port Gentil, which he said looked as though it had had 20 games played on it in the last week and not just four.
"The pitch is horrendous, it's really tough to control the ball, to drive with the ball," the midfielder said. "You have to be focussed 100 percent. But it is the same for both teams so we have to get on with it."
As injuries spiralled, the game was also robbed of scintillating, flowing and attacking football. Goals also dwindled.
The pitches were without a doubt a major contributor to all this.
I happened to be in Port Gentil where Uganda was also based. I took it upon myself to inspect the ground and was shocked by the complaints.
Compared to Namboole, Port Gentil was paradise. But of course that in itself was also a bold statement in how bad Namboole actually is.
I was so used to Namboole’s horrendous state that anything better was paradise!
A Nigerian journalist once told me that it is only Uganda that can play at Namboole.
Isn’t it time we questioned the calibre of our grounds men?
Namboole’s management could do also with some lessons from their cricket and golf counterparts who do a thorough job maintaining their grounds.
It is also time Namboole management got a little more patriotic. How can you have a crusade a day to a match?