New Vision Sports looks back to some of the coaches who have inspired Uganda to the Africa Nations Cup finals.
As newly appointed Cranes coach Jonathan McKinstry prepares to lead Uganda in their second Africa Nations Cup qualifier game against Malawi at Namboole Stadium on Sunday, New Vision Sports looks back to some of the coaches who have inspired Uganda to the Africa Nations Cup finals.
McKinstry replaced Frenchman Sebastien Desabre, who mutually terminated his contract with the Federation of Uganda Football Associations (FUFA), after guiding Cranes’ to the 2019 Nations Cup finals in Egypt.
McKinstry signed a three-year deal and hopes to emulate his predecessor Desabre by leading the Cranes to a third consecutive Nations Cup appearance in Cameroon.
The 34-year-old, who hails from Northern Ireland, has previously coached two African countries namely Sierra Leone and Rwanda.
McKinstry is assisted by local coaches Abdallah Mubiru and Charles Livingstone Mbabazi.
Since his appointment, McKinstry has managed a win (1-0) over Ethiopia and a goalless draw against Burkina Faso in the first game of the 2021 Africa Nations Cup qualifiers on Wednesday.
He will be in charge of his first home game against Malawi on Sunday, where a win will strengthen Uganda’s prospects of making it to Cameroon.
Below is an insight into the coaches he hopes to emulate:
1962- Samson Yiga- He was Uganda’s first coach at the final tournament of the Africa Cup of Nations. This being Uganda’s maiden appearance, not much was expected an indeed the Cranes lost 2-1 to the then United Arab Republic (Egypt) 2-1 and Tunisia 3-1.
1968- Robert Kiberu- Like his predecessor, Robert Kiberu also couldn’t lift the Cranes from the group stage 1968 tournament. Uganda lost all its three matches to Ethiopia, Ivory Coast, and Algeria.
1974- David Otti- He had the unenviable task of taking a relatively young team from the group. But like Yiga and Kiberu, Otti also couldn’t lift his boys to new heights.
Otti failed in this mission but was still credited in earning Uganda’s first point of the tournament when he drew with Ivory Coast. The Cranes for the first time also weren’t at the bottom of their group as they finished third in a group topped by Egypt. Zambia was second and Uganda third. Ivory Coast was last.
1976- David Otti- Whatever Otti had achieved in 1974 edition seemed to fizzle out at the next edition. The Cranes lost all their three matches finishing last in a group that also had Guinea, Egypt, and Ethiopia.
1978- Peter Okee- He is undoubtedly Uganda’s most successful coach. After a fruitless outing in the previous edition where Uganda failed to rise from the group, they were much better in 1978.
Starting off as underdogs, Okee led the Cranes past Congo 3-1 then slipped against Tunisia 1-3 before outwitting tournament heavyweights Morocco 3-0 to top Group B.
It was the first time Uganda was getting out of the group and they had done it in style. A semi-final date with Nigeria followed. Many predicted that Uganda’s luck had finally run out. But they were mistaken.
With talents like Phillip Omondi, Moses Nsereko, Jimmy Kirunda, and Paul Ssali, Okee had a solid team that had after four fruitless Afcon editions learnt its lessons and had now matured into a solid unit.
Okee was again totally in charge as the Cranes beat the Green Eagles 2-1 thanks to Abbey Nasur and Omondi goals. It was Omondi again inflicting the damage as he tore the opponents’ backline to pieces. Okee had led Uganda to a historic final.
The final against hosts Ghana, however, turned out to be another story. Not even Okee could inspire his troops against the Black Stars. The hosts seemed determined to do everything within their means to triumph.
Strange stories are told of the Cranes having a bumpy ride from their base in Kumasi to Accra a day to the match. They then had a sleepless night after being booked in a hotel whose ground floor was a discotheque.
Then come match time and Uganda’s dressing room had some peculiarly smelling stuff that further disoriented the visitors.
In the final proper The Black Stars and company found little resistance against the off-balance Cranes. Opoku Afriyie hit a brace to give Ghana the title before 40,000 fans in Accra’s Sports Stadium.
Uganda had lost but Okee had still helped them write history as the first East African country to not only get out of the group but also reach the final of Africa’s biggest football competition. He passed on in 1998.
2017- Milutin Sredojevich- He stands out as one of Uganda’s most successful coaches because he ended a 39-year absence from the Nations Cup.
At the 2017 finals, the Cranes couldn’t progress from Group D. Based in the Southern coastal city of Port Gentil they lost their group matches to Egypt and Ghana before drawing with Mali.
Away wins to Bostwana and Comoros had prior to the Gabon tournament leveraged Uganda into qualification. This was after the Cranes finishing level at 13 points with Burkina Faso and also drawing in goals for and against. Burkina Faso only edged Uganda to the top slot by virtue of beating Uganda in Ouagadougou after drawing at Namboole.
2019- Sebastien Desabre- With Sredojevic as his predecessor, the Frenchman, who took up the job in December 2017, had big shoes to fill.
He limped at the start of his three-year contract losing a string of matches but when it got to qualifiers proper, he got his act together.
He was also boosted by a relatively weak group of Tanzania, Lesotho and Cape Verde. That and also the fact that qualification had also been eased with a 24 team tournament from the earlier 16.
He not only topped his 2019 Nations Cup qualification group but also booked a ticket to Cairo with a match at hand. That had never happened.
What was otherwise an impeccable run to Egypt was however undermined by a final group 3-0 demolition by Tanzania in what many felt were suspicious circumstances.
While at the Afcon in Egypt, Uganda put up an impressive performance. Desabre became the first Cranes coach since Okee's feat to Shephard Uganda to the knockout phase of the Nations Cup.