Africa-Press – Uganda. Debuting at the home-based Africa Nations Championship (Chan) in 2011 under coach Bobby Williamson meant that any new national team manager would be judged on whether Uganda immediately returned to the event.
Fortunately for Bobby’s successor Micho Sredojevic, neighbours Tanzania did not prove that a hindrance as the Cranes beat them 3-1 in Kampala and 1-0 in Dar es Salaam to be home and dry at the 2014 edition.
The finals tournament took place between January 11 and February 1, 2014 in South Africa. It was originally due to be hosted in Libya but for the security concerns in the North African country. It was also the first edition where all games were considered full international matches.
The hosts were knocked out in the group stage, primarily because – it is said – the national league failed pause during the tournament. Many South African clubs refused to release their players, forcing Caf to announce a rule change for future versions of the tournament.
Had to improve
Onto the games proper, having been rudely welcomed to the event earlier in 2011, where Uganda lost all three group matches, this was one they had to show improvement. And start brightly they did, two bright prospects in Yunus Ssentamu and Francis Olaki introducing themselves onto the continental scene in impressive fashion.The build-ups had heavily fancied Burkina Faso, the African heavyweights, against Micho’s apparent lightweights – Uganda.
But once Micho lined up his boys against the West Africans, Ssentamu and Olaki, who were an impressive duo upfront, took centre stage, the latter instrumental in the for former’s execution in front of goal.By half time little-known Sentamu had breached Burkina Faso; the young striker – 26 today – doubling Uganda’s advantage on 73 minutes.
Uganda’s first ever victory was on the cards and not even Bayala’s last ditch goal back for Burkina Faso would stop that.Even if the Cranes would be ejected now, they had improved already by winning their first match at the event.
But the performance had been too good to settle for less going forward.Zimbabwe were next in line and thereafter the Cranes had to wrap up the group against Morocco.Dreaded pressure dayThe Cranes had to beat Zimbabwe so as not to leave themselves in a must-win situation against Morocco if they wanted to avoid final day mathematics. But Micho’s boys were frustratingly held to a goalless draw.
This was not a bad place either since only a point against Morocco, who had drawn their two opening games, would see Uganda progress. The problem is that Morocco had to win this one themselves if they had any chances of progressing.Win it they did it, and emphatically as they dispatched the Cranes 3-1 after Uganda’s early resistance.
Still, there was no dismissing the Ssentamu story. He was the talk of town in South Africa at this time, with several clubs fancying their chances at his signature.
The striker – 19 at the time – scored Uganda’s consolation to end the tournament with three goals. Yet his also remains one painful story from that championship.Ssentamu’s temperament, and perhaps questionable representatives have put cost to a career so promising.