Volleyball Cranes fall short in Kigali

The Uganda Volleyball Cranes missed out on qualifying for the Africa Cup at the Zone V qualifiers held in Kigali, Rwanda over the weekend.

After winning the first game against Kenya 3-2, Uganda fell to hosts Rwanda 3-1 before winning 3-0 against lowly South Sudan on Monday.

That performance, was not good enough to see Nason Bwesigye’s charges through to the continental showpiece and neighbours Kenya laughed last.

After losing to Uganda, Kenya regrouped to win 3-0 and 3-1 against Sudan and Rwanda respectively.

Rwanda went into the last game, against Kenya, already assured of a place at the African event and Kenya wanted the win the most.

Kenya took the first two sets on Monday night before the home side got one back but that would be all as the Kenyans rallied to take the fourth set and win the game.

The build-up to the tournament for Uganda was far from ideal. With just a day to the tournament, team captain Dickens Otim and his assistant George Aporu pulled out of the team.

The two were joined by setters Smith Okumu and Albert Gayi to leave punctures in the Cranes travelling contingent.

Sport-S, employers of Otim and Gayi joined hands with Nemostars, who own the services of Aporu and Okumu, to withdraw their players at the eleventh hour as the team left for Rwanda Thursday last week.

Sky Volleyball Club duo of Cuthbert Malinga and John Bosco Opendi were earlier on banned by Uganda Volleyball Federation from taking part in any Volleyball-related activity for featuring in two leagues at the same time.

The pair were found guilty of double licensing as they played for Sky and Kenyan outfit Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) in the Kenyan league.

Coach Nason Bwesigye, however, included the two players in the final team to travel to Kigali, something the team managers from Sport-S and Nemostars found disturbing.

Without the services of Aporu and Otim, arguably the team’s back bone, the Cranes’ lost the first game before stepping onto the court.

The team was already missing the services of Ivan Ongom and Nicholas Dheyongera.

Uganda has failed to escape from neighbours Rwanda’s shadow in vying for a slot at the continental event.

And, this time round, with Egypt not taking part in the qualifiers, Kenya managed to force their way to qualification as the second best team.

The absence of three starters forced coach Bwesigye to name his assistant coach Amon Aine in the playing staff while handing the captaincy to Emma Kato who was assisted by Daudi Okello.

The naming of Cuthbert Malinga and Daudi Okello as best server and attacker respectively, however, will give Uganda hope in the future engagements.

The top two teams, Rwanda and Kenya, will represent Zone V at the Africa Cup of Nations set to be held in Egypt in October.

The top two teams at the continental showpiece will earn tickets to the 2018 World championships finals in Japan.