There is no way Ugandan clubs can break through on the continent relying on the mediocre talent available locally
The exit of Vipers SC and KCCA FC from the two elite CAF club competitions re-awakened the debate on whether Ugandan clubs can even dream of ever qualifying for the knock out stages.
Vipers who went down 2-0 on aggregate to CS Sfaxien in the Confederation Cup playoff round were denied further progress in the Champions League by CS Constantine of Algeria who beat them 3-0 on aggregate.
The venoms bowed out in both competitions without scoring against the two North African competitions.
They however managed to score and dump East African club Al-Merrikh of Sudan out at the preliminary round of the Champions League.
For the record, SC Constantine are now in the group stages of the Champions League after replacing Egypt’s Ismailia who have suffered the brunt of CAF rules for their fan’s violent behaviour.
On their part, KCCA are out on account of their 3-2 aggregate loss to Congo Brazzaville’s AS Otoho after losing 3-0 away but winning 2-0 at home.
In the eyes of some KCCA supporters, their club will not get to the ‘next’ level as long as a local coach is still in charge, while for many Vipers supporters, their club is still very new to the continent and need years of consistency to make a break through.
The question of pedigree for KCCA goes as far as their last engagement in the two competitions.
They did qualify and play in the group stages of both the Champions League and Confederation Cup over the last two seasons even though they never managed to qualify for the knock out stages.
They were the first and still only Ugandan club to reach this milestone.
Was this season then, the right time for them to take the next step and not only qualify for the group stages again but also get out of the group?
Following debates on various social media platforms, the answer for some appears to be yes.
In fact, so convinced are these that they are even demanding for Mike Mutebi’s sacking.
I take a divergent view.
The dominant clubs on the continent made it first, a habit to qualify for the group stages, then a habit to get into the knock out stages. That takes several years.
Once they won their first title, they then made it a habit to win the titles. Winning these titles is now a part of their club heritage.
Playing in the group stages is a right, qualifying for the knock out stages is a habit and winning the eventual competition is an annual target.
Examples are Al Ahly, TP Mazembe, Zamalek, Canon Yaounde, Raja Casablanca, CS Sfaxien and Club Esperance.
It’s foolhardy to believe that KCCA who have only qualified for the group stages for the first time once in their history, should be deemed good enough already to have turned such qualification into a right.
Not only must KCCA ensure they win the domestic league every year for at least five years consecutively in order to play in the Champions League every year to acquire the necessary pedigree, they must also ensure they have the quality of players who are good enough to keep them at that high level consistently with their experience. Those players cannot be only domestic.
Such quality of players can only be acquired from elsewhere on the continent; from South Africa, West Africa, North Africa and even Central Africa. This is also true for Vipers.
There is no way Ugandan clubs can break through on the continent relying on the mediocre talent available locally.
This is the context in which foreign or professional coaches must also be looked at in as far as their relevance is concerned.
And while KCCA and Vipers are also cited as the richest clubs in the country, their wealth is nowhere near the wealth required to compete on continental level.
The reality is a hard one and it bites. Ugandan clubs are not ready to compete with the best on the continent.
It will take years of consistency of domestic success, investment, ambition and patience.