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Uganda Cranes soiled in Mkapa mist

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Added 29th March 2019 12:35 PM

Ugandans wanted to see their team compete against Tanzania.

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Cranes head coach Desabre conducts a training session ahead of the game against Taifa Stars. PHOTO: Richard Sanya

Ugandans wanted to see their team compete against Tanzania.

 CHARLES MUTEBI

Senior Sports Writer

Brand equity is like glass. Potentially very attractive but incredibly fragile.
 
The Uganda Cranes tumbled down the popularity scale in 90 minutes of surrender to Tanzania’s Taifa Stars on Sunday, with the verdict of many fans at the end of the 3-0 defeat the worst indictment possible for any sportsman.
 
To be accused of match-fixing is as low as it gets, at least for a true sportsman. To find out you have been watching a foregone conclusion disguised as a competition is the worst insult to a sports fan.
 
Ugandans wanted to see their team compete against Tanzania. They wanted it to care. That the Cranes had already qualified is no excuse. If anything, it was more reason for them to put on a show, as is the case when a strong side is not under pressure. 
 
This was a great opportunity for Uganda to show Tanzania why they had won the group, why they are the giants of East Africa. Rivalries are golden and Uganda could have secured the eternal enmity of Tanzania by preventing their qualification. 
 
Instead, they settled for the villain’s role in what many saw as a tacky soap opera.
 
Whether the game was fixed or not, what is beyond dispute is the damage done to the Cranes brand. It was colossal. Even those who fall on the ‘it-wasn’t-fixed’ side cannot claim Uganda gave it their best shot – from the team selection to the on-pitch performance.
 
What if Uganda was in Lesotho’s position, wouldn’t they hope for a real contest between Tanzania and Uganda? It is called the spirit of the game. And the Cranes massively transgressed it.
 
The argument that it will all be forgotten and life will move on is superficially true. There were many fans for whom Sunday’s events were some kind of epiphany, that moment their perception of the Cranes as a worthy cause was shattered.
 
That is immeasurable damage. At a time when attendances of Cranes home games have decidedly fallen, this will only send more Cranes fans packing.
 
Fans did not walk away from the elite national league overnight and, of course, few factors have done more damage than allegations and instances of match-fixing, past or present.
 
Ugandans love the Cranes because Ugandans love football and many are ecstatic the team is going to a second consecutive Afcon. But there is a fine line between love and hate and Sunday’s 3-0 defeat to Tanzania was the sort of thing that makes fans cross it. 
 

 

 

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