Published: September 07, 2019
Uganda are Cecafa U-15, and U-17 champions. In a fortnight’s time, with a home-ground advantage, I wouldn’t bet against us being crowned U-20 champions. And later in December I expect us, as record holders, to complete the grand slam with the senior challenge cup. My modest inference; we are the bull of these kraals.
Our football might have enjoyed a purple patch over the last 3 years, but this lording of the region isn’t something recent. Not much can be said of the infant under-age tournaments. But we have always been top dogs at senior level, winning the tournament on a record 14 occasions.
Though, because our achievements are always dampened by our cynicism, we like to see our supremacy as a case of the one-eyed man and his blind peers. And while it is true Djibouti, Somalia, Eritrea, and Zanzibar, aren’t shining examples of football might, this tournament has not always been populated by minnows.
There was a time when Zambia and Zimbabwe were members. Eventually they went off to join Cosafa, seemingly out of geographical convenience. But I also suspect it was because of the clout-deficiency monkey Cecafa has carried on its back for ages. Still, the tournament has attempted to compensate by inviting weighty guest nations like Ivory Coast and Libya. The success of that strategy has been erratic, but the one thing that remains constant, then and now, is our dominance.
I guess a key factor the region can’t sanitize with invitations to distinguished guests, is that of limited continental success. Only Sudan and Zambia, have been crowned African champion. And none of those who stayed or left have ever made it to the World Cup. The regions’ age-old love for football maybe captured in the tournaments 100-year history, but to move up a tier, the region must look beyond wearing age as a badge of honour.
To eat at the same table as the West and North African nations, football in this region will have to stop viewing the game as a pastime to be played by those children for whom an academic career isn’t an option. And to make that mindset change, the game must be promoted from down up. When I look at us, I see good signs.
Without even referencing the thriving academies and the gradual professionalising of our league, Fufa has just backed up its fledgling junior league with a ballsy decree that mandates teams in Uganda’s topflight league to populate squads with a minimum four players that have featured in the Fufa Junior League. That policy alone, overbearing as it may seem to some, has taken the youth game and helped it leap a couple of years forward.
Insufficient youth development has always been the major difference between us and the West or North Africans. Now we can at last say we have set the ball rolling in the proper direction. So, here is to a brighter future, a future in which Uganda is bound to carry her regional dominance beyond East and Central Africa. source