By Tom Ongeso
We saw it and coach Micho said it. The Uganda Cranes in their AFCON opener against the Black Stars of Ghana on January 17th, were overwhelmed by the big stage of the competition and lost 1:0. Fred Kaweesi, reporting from Port Gentil, Gabon, fears that “only a miracle can save the Cranes”. Yes, it can happen!
Ugandans should, like the Martyrs, have absolute faith in the miracle of resurrection after death. For the Uganda Cranes, it is a divine precedent that Jesus Christ, after crucifixion, resurrected after the same three-day period. And, like Jesus, the Cranes can fly to greater heights of glory.
The signs are good. At a high-profile CNN interview, Micho has clear plans over the problem. Joseph Ochaya also promises that the team will lift itself, for the nation. There are already glimpses of the miracle since, as Kaweesi aptly describes, “The Cranes appeared stunned by the stage, but the induction lasted 45 minutes as they bounced back in the second half with a thrilling display of attacking football…”
Ochaya’s promise that the team will lift itself for the nation speaks volumes. Uganda’s participation at the tourney is not only prestigious, but actual participation at this highly leveraged level of soccer which, itself, is the highest open physical form of human expression. Uganda, arguably at the compass centre of the globe as well as the fine replica of the biblical Garden of Eden, belongs to this club. Uganda is the fountain of talent in many fields, including soccer. It must therefore fiercely defend its credentials in AFCON 2017 after nearly forty years of absence. Soccer not only promotes health and wealth, but inspires, spontaneously, human virtue over vice, with the power to unite the human race.
To put Uganda at the helm of this process, with the political credit that comes with it, Ochaya’s promise deserves absolute support from the gallant citizens of Uganda.
First, the imposing big stage atmosphere should be neutralized. In this, Ugandans should storm Gabonese towns and “namboolesize” the stadia, to enhance the players’ psychic security. Together, messages, especially from the IT savvy youth, should pervade the social media to congratulate the Cranes on its performance so far.
Secondly, high-grade counselling services should be extended to each player to uplift the spirit, inspire self-confidence and elicit maximum ambition to win the cup. In lieu of a more robust unit, this role can be played by the coach, captain and renown professionals within the team.
Thirdly, the team should be specifically prepared for each match. In the next match, the game should be inspired to powerfully flow from Uganda, like the mighty River Nile, to get results in Egypt, in delta-like fashion - to get three goals, three points. Geoffrey Massa’s experience in their league should apply and target this.
In the Mali match, Micho may use Uganda’s flair and guile against the heavily muscled men. The option to commit several strikers upfront is no longer a risk, but a strategy to overwhelm their defence and score from the melees and fouls that come with it, even a penalty. The Onduparaka teenage star, Shaban Mohamed, should be in the starting line up to bring these results. Athletic skills must, however, be developed in the Cranes’ defence to race and contain any counter-attacks, as Denis Onyango patrols his range.
Finally, Government should handle this not only as a matter of national pride, but as an emergency rescue mission. The vision is victory. A special presidential commission should be on site to maximize logistical and welfare support and accountability by the officials in charge.
Writer is the co-founder, Adriano Oriekot Football Tournament in Kaberamaido District.