Uganda Cranes qualify for AFCON after 38 years

© Kawowo Sports | AMINAH BABIRYE
Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojevic lifted by fans at the Namboole stadium.

Uganda Cranes 1-0 Comoros

Sunday, 4th September 2016 witnessed the Uganda Cranes break a 38 year old jinx to qualify for the biggest continental football fiesta – the African Cup of Nations.

On the historic day, the Cranes won 1-0 against the Island nation, Comoros – thanks to Farouk Miya’s goal in the opening stanza of the well attended game at the Mandela National Stadium, Namboole in Kampala.

A fearful, sweaty-palmed angst settled on the Namboole like fog and only really lifted 36 minutes into the first half when Miya, who plays at Belgian top flight side Standard Liege slotted home Moses Oloya’s well set ball into the roof of the net.

By that time, a loud and terrifying noise went up: a guttural, feral roar that seemed to swallow the stadium whole.

Almost the 43,000 fans present including the first lady Janet Kataha Museveni and many millions more in the suburbs and favelas of the CECAFA’s best footballing nation exhaled a cry of exultation, of gratitude, but especially of relief after decades of near misses.

Namboole exploded, an explosion that seemed to part the clouds that had earlier in the day set loose to irrigate the grass and cool the temperatures then.

But mostly, the defining emotion of the evening was nervousness when the Uganda Premier League reigning most valuable player of the year Joseph Ochaya hit the up right of the largely impressive towering Ali Ahamada in Comoros’ goal posts.

Uganda Cranes by and large remained the most focused team on the day full of running, great inter-play and quick off the blocks especially by the Vipers’ captain Nicholas Wakiro Wadada, one of the day’s shining stars for Uganda Cranes with lung bursting runs down the right flank.

Massa missed connecting Oloya’s cross earlier on the half hour mark and was denied by Ahamada with a finger tip save a minute after the half hour mark.

Others were half chances created but the visitors take the due credit for the brave and sportsmanship show displayed on the evening.

Portugese based winger William Luwagga Kizito who plays at Rio Ave was the first sacrificial lamb of the game.

Luwagga paved way for Emmanuel Arnold Okwi after 56 minutes a move that called for addition of numbers up front as the home team sought for the killing punch.

Later, Godfrey ‘Jajja Walu’ Walusimbi came on for the tired but effective legs of Moses Oloya with the last quarter of game.

In injury time, Hassan Wasswa Mawanda was introduced for the team skipper Geofrey Massa, a change merely to cool the tempo of the game.

The last whistle blow of Senegalese referee Malang Diedhiou was treated by the wildest cheers that Namboole stadium has ever received since inception.

The Uganda Cranes qualify to Gabon come 2017 to make the grade as one of the two second best teams after group leaders Burkina Faso scored late to beat Botswana 2-1 in Ouagadougou.

Players led by the captain, Geofrey Massa knelt on their knees in glorification to the mighty Lord for attaining qualification.

Others fell to the ground and many ran towards the direction of fans who lit fires.

Uganda F.A president Moses Magogo was swarmed by hundreds of supporters and whistled to the ground as the celebrations continued.

Head coach Micho was cuddled and threw up the skies by players in appreciation for the huge task and feat achieved.

The excitement definitely continued  over night across the country through out the different parts of the East African land-locked country with wild dancing, beer parties and merry making.

Who knows, by this time next year, couples will be tagging their newly borns names of heroes on the 18 man squad that started the day.

Congratulations Uganda Cranes.

Uganda Cranes XI: Denis Onyango (G.K), Nicholas Wadada, Joseph Ochaya, Isaac Isinde, Murushid Jjuuko, Khalid Aucho, Tonny Mawejje, Moses Oloya, Geoffrey Massa (Captain), Farouk Miya and William Luwagga Kizito

Substitutes: Jamal Salim (G.K), Geoffrey Sserunkuma, Yunus Sentamu, Godfrey Walusimbi, Ivan Ntege, Emmanuel Okwi, Hassan Wasswa Mawanda

Comoros XI: Ali Hamada (G.K), Abdou Nadsm, Fouad Bachirou, Mohamed El Fardou, Yousseouf Mchangama, Bakar Djamel, Ahamada Kassim, Ahamadi Kombo, Ben Youssouf, Chamed Nasser, Youssouf Madi

Substitutes: Mze Ali Ancoub, Mohamed Al Kane, Cheika Houmadi, Omar Mbaranza, Ali Mmadi, Clement Daoudoo

Match Officials: Match Commissioner: George Mwila Kasengele (Zambia)

Referee Assessor: Marcel Njipendi Kuotu (Cameroon)

Center Referee: Malang Diedhiou (Senegal)

Assistant Referee 1: Djibril Camara (Senegal)

Assistant Referee 2: El Hadji Malick Samba (Senegal) Reserve Referee: Maguette Ndiaye (Senegal)

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