I struggle to pick out a player from those who made the final squad who has been as consistent over the last three seasons
It is not every day that a football wannabe nation like Uganda gets a young prodigious talent like KCCA Football Club’s pint-sized left-footed playmaker Alan Okello.
Standing at 1.79m above sea level, the 19-year-old is the closest thing at that age Uganda has got since Jackson Mayanja swept all under his feet in 1987 when he was only 17.
It isn’t that Okello is as good as Mayanja was at that age. It is that it’s the first time since Mia Mia that a genuine talent has come to the fore.
At such a tender age, Okello has been the epicentre of KCCA’s domination of domestic football for the past three seasons. At first glance, he looks like a kindergarten boy dressed in adult clothing.
His boyish looks, matched by his shy persona and unassuming presence have conspired against him, as many of his critics have used this to fallaciously reason that he is unready for full national team duty.
This anti-fan club has been joined by Cranes coach, Sebastian Desabre, who shocked the nation last week by omitting Okello from the final squad preparing for the finals of AFCON 2019 in Egypt.
I struggle to pick out a player from those who made the final squad who has been as consistent as Okello over the last three seasons for their club at both local and international level.
The boy set his own high standards and after dropping a notch in form for some spell in the recently concluded season, the response from the Cranes technical team has been to drop him. Scandalous. Cranes do not have a player in Okello’s image.
A natural playmaker whose game is entirely based on raw instinct, pure talent, skill and intelligence so much so that, he does not need to run to influence a game. Artists in Ugandan football have been a rarity since Jamil ‘magic’ Kyambadde.
Pretenders like Mike Sserumaga and Steven Bengo had their cameos but their limitations were for all to see and they never really made an impact in the Cranes jersey.
Since then, Uganda has largely adopted a physical and tactical approach to the game to the point that joy footballers no longer have a place.
The Africa Cup of Nations is the ultimate place an African footballer can dream to showcase their talent to the world.
Indeed, this is the tournament where ambitious nations want to showcase and boast of the talent blossoming at their grassroots which is why nations which know better even make a provision for young players in their final squads without an intention of playing them.
The experience alone of being part of the spectacle at the finals is enough to help a young player mature and dream for a higher plane. Okello is not just an artist worthy of gracing any club shirt but he is a poster boy whose image carries a big commercial value.
On his day - and he has enjoyed many days - he lights up dull matches on record with his sublime skill and penchant for the abnormal.
At the same time, his left foot, the sweetest still at our disposal is a dream. Like a circus master, he dances almost gleefully past stubborn opponents.
As he glides past, he’s always capable of the ridiculous as often he lets fly to catch goalkeepers unaware.
For a player so young, his arrogance on the ball evokes a simmering temper in dumbfounded defenders who often resort to kung fu tactics to stop him.
A dead ball specialist, a goal-scoring play maker, a match winner. As unpredictable as Mayanja once was.
If only to keep our reputation as a nation rich with talent at the grassroots intact, Okello should have been included in that final squad. I shudder to think that several of the players who have been preferred ahead of him will be tourists anyway.
Why would that chance for experience with the senior team not be given to the best young talent we have in the country today?
Only Desabre has an answer.