On 12th August 2017, St Mary’s Stadium, Kitende hosted the first leg of the Championship of African Nations (CHAN) qualifier between Uganda Cranes and Rwanda Amavubi Stars.
For starters, the result on the day was that majestic 3-0 win for the Uganda Cranes in the first test for interim coaches Moses Basena and Fred Kajoba after the departure of Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredejovic.
Uganda Cranes was dominant on the day with KCCA players Muzamiru Mutyaba (brace) and Derrick Nsibambi on target on the red letter evening.
Many Ugandan fans including sports pundits thought the result was as good as dusted.
Hell no, it wasn’t.
A week later came the return leg played under a cloudy sky line at the Stade De Kigali. It was a complete reciprocal of the first leg with Rwanda Amavubi Stars dominating play to win 2-0 and but painfully bowed out.
Rwanda took the lead through APR midfielder Yannick Mukunzi and Rayon Sports’ defender Thierry Manzi inside the opening 15 minutes.
Uganda Cranes defence and midfield departments were panicky with lead forward Derrick Nsibambi as isolated as the famous Migingo island found on Lake Victoria between Uganda and Kenya.
Football being tagged as the beautiful game for its never ending thrills and surprises still might have taught us important lessons.
Many could say, after all, Uganda Cranes qualified for the CHAN tournament in 2018 that will be hosted in Kenya.
There are two important games coming up against Egypt in the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers.
Here are some of the crucial lessons learnt from the return leg;
Uganda Cranes players, fans, technical team and the FUFA team will learn the aspect of perseverance.
Playing away from home comes along with its own challenges.
From change of weather, food, language, playing surfaces, hostile environs and the like, it all happens when away from home.
Fine, Uganda and Rwanda are neighbors as they share a lot in common, but Saturday’s game was a match of life and death. Rwanda threw all it could to Uganda and they got the result.
Ugandan football ought to learn to adapt to a couple of playing strategies, systems and formalities.
Against Rwanda in Kigali, the Ugandan team looked impatient. Right from kick off, the visitors were in a rush and delaying tactics were imparted in a wrong way.
It was not surprising when goalkeeper Ismail Watenga got booked for deliberate time wasting. In fact, the same player got cautioned at Kitende during the first leg.
Delaying opponents restart play during stoppages was not properly executed. In fact, the two goals Rwanda scored came from their fast quick reaction on the ball to kill off the Ugandans.
There is a lot of time for Ugandan footballers to learn and borrow a leaf from that match.
When the three stanzas of the Uganda national anthem were played at the Stade De Kigali on Saturday, the stadium stands were full of life.
Hundreds of Ugandan fans (from Uganda and those living in Rwanda) surely outnumbered their hosts.
There was good noise from the Ugandans in the stands. Not even the 2 quick goals silenced many of them.
For the last 10 minutes, with progress to the CHAN tournament envisaged again, the stands lit up.
Inevitably, the players might have been inspired and motivated by the special fans’ show.
This is the way to go about passionate cheering everywhere we are in action domestically in the local competitions.
For the upcoming 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifier on 31st August 2017 against Egypt at Namboole, Uganda Cranes needs constant support from start to finish.
Let us silence the Egyptians with deafening noise and the results will be seen at the end of the evening.
More research on opposition and efficient prior planning
To say that the Uganda Cranes technical team did not perfect their home work well would be totally undermining their work.
On the scale of 100, 50 percent was done and what happened to the other 50?
The advance team led by Joseph Kasana traveling much earlier was a big bonus from the federation.
Come the technical aspects of the game, I believe interim coaches Moses Basena and Fred Kajoba did little.
The technical team had to pay keen attention to the Rwanda star players and active departments.
Rwanda was welcoming back their inspirational captain and first choice goalkeeper Eric Ndayishimye, who was suspended in the earlier match.
Youngster Kevin Muhiire, a good holder and passer of the ball, Police striker Abeddy Biramahire who was to stand in for the suspended AS Kigali forward Barnabe Mubumbyi, were all expected for a run in.
Dancing left footed play maker Dominique Savio Nshuti who was all over on either flanks – left and right was never minded about.
Little wonder, the four players Ndayishimye, Muhiire, Biramahire and Nshuti almost ‘killed’ the Ugandan team on the day.
Perhaps, you could sense that there was something missing on the game approach mentality from the Ugandans on the day.
Guard against gross Complacency
Uganda Cranes playing staff and fans alike were naturally over confident after the resounding 3-0 first leg.
Given the cruelty and unpredictability for the game of football, it proved that complacency has no special apartment in its coffers.
Uganda Cranes ought to guard against over confidence at all levels in the future engagements.
The game against Rwanda would have been done and dusted had Uganda played a normal game in Kigali.
In football, you are punished for your own mistakes.
Uganda Cranes will pick important lessons never to underrate the opposition of any nature in future engagements.
In the first place, Rwanda would have swallowed 5 goals during the first leg.
Clinical affluent finishing and solid defending
When Rwanda took the lead through Yannick Mukunzi in the first 8 minutes, the goal caught the Ugandans unawares. For a moment, the CECAFA giants were in a shock.
Interestingly, after three minutes, the visitors recovered and managed a few successful passes.
Moses Waiswa who had a silent day at office and Muzamiru Mutyaba combined to release Shafiq Kagimu on the far left.
Kagimu missed to beat the advancing Rayon Sports goalie Eric Ndayishimye in a one against one incident.
On any day, that would have been a great opportunity to quickly reply the Rwandese.
Any goal scored would have killed their morale and vigour.
It did not go in and Uganda Cranes virtually struggled to create a couple of other chances to score.
Lead forward Derrick Nsibambi struggled to find a footing against the lanky central defenders Sother Kayumba and Aimable Nsabimana.
Mutyaba at one stage failed to pounce home a rebounded shot off Waiswa from distance.
Second half substitute Martin Kizza who replaced Waiswa shot hurriedly inside the area.
Milton Karisa hesitated to shoot at some moment in the second half after being set up by Nsibambi.
Paul Mucureezi was brought down in the area as Uganda Cranes were denied a clear penalty by referee Alamen Hafiz Abdelghani with 6 minutes left on the clock.
All these chances would have frustrated Rwanda on the day.
In the same vein, the manner by which Uganda Cranes conceded the two goals worries guarantees ample space and time for another discussion.
By and large, Uganda Cranes should work upon a solid defence line for the future coming matches.
Big minds handle big moments in life and experience has no substitute.
The two components proved to be reality as most of the players on the Ugandan side were naïve and taken up by the big stage.
Only Isaac Muleme, Shafik Kagimu, Nico Wadada and later on goalie Isma Watenga as well as the skipper Bernard Muwanga had the right nerves to handle the pressure, demands and expectations from the match.
It is now down the initial preparations of players right from the grass roots.
Preparation of players is a gradual process that starts from schools, academies before migrating to their respective clubs.
How to handle a player, expect the pressure and demands of a football game, a charged encounter and ensuring the desirable result of the day is a process built over time and again.
Good enough, there are over 200 football schools and academies in the country at the moment.
We have development tournaments as the FUFA U-17, Copa Coca Cola, Masaza and returning inter-regions as well as the S1-S2 tournaments.
It is where the missing ingredients from Saturday’s game are imparted into the players at the infantry stage.
The time to start building players is surely not yesterday or tomorrow but now.