Kampala. So near yet so far! As Uganda failed to earn a much desired point against Guinea last night, Cranes will be looking up to the sky and asking themselves if they are cursed.
Uganda went into yesterday’s game, the final one of this African Cup qualification campaign, needing just a point to return to the summit of continental football after a 37 year absence but lost 2-0 to Guinea in Casablanca, Morocco.
Such scenarios of failing to get the much desired result and falling just a goal or a penalty shootout short have been the story of the Cranes for many Afcon qualifiers that many have raised concerns on whether this is just a curse or a mental barrier the players have to see off.
These memories stretch back to 1993 when Adam Ssemugabi, failed to convert a penalty late in the game at Nakivubo against Nigeria that ended goalless yet Uganda needed a win to all but qualify for the 1994 edition. Talisman, Majid Musisi, had reportedly turned down the opportunity to take it.
For the 2012 campaign, Uganda again needed a win against neighbours Kenya but settled for a draw before capitulating in the penalty shootouts against defending champions Zambia, ahead of the 2013 edition, later in the year.
Uganda beat Angola 3-0 at home, drew goalless away in Kenya, beat Guinea home (2-0) and away (0-1) to move to 10 points after four games in 2012.
The Cranes then needed just a point in Luanda against Angola to qualify. They lost 2-0 to postpone possible qualification to the final game, against Kenya at Namboole.
The pressure from an expectant nation weighed in. Politicians stormed the Cranes camp to be part of the anticipated success. Allegedly, David Obua, the team’s talisman then, disobeyed camp rules when President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni was due to make his visit. Obua was banned from camp, and has since retired with a host of other experienced players like Nestroy Kizito and Ibrahim Sekagya following him, when he was needed most, for his experience, goal scoring prowess, as the Cranes failed to beat the Harambee Stars to end the then 34-year-long wait.
In the 2013 qualifiers, Cranes beat Congo Brazzaville 4-0 at Namboole to overturn a 3-1 first leg deficit suffered away from home.
Uganda were then drawn against Zambia. They just had to beat the then defending champions over two legs to qualify. The Cranes lost 1-0 away and needed to beat Zambia 2-0 at Namboole to progress. The Cranes instead won 1-0 to force a penalty shootout which Zambia won 8-9.
The curse had struck again. Uganda had again failed by a whisker to deliver the desired result. The same could be said of this campaign. Uganda beat Madagascar and Mauritania in the preliminary stages of this campaign to secure a spot in the qualification group stages against Ghana, Guinea and Togo.
A one-all draw away against Ghana and a 2-0 win against Guinea at Namboole raised hopes of the locals. But the Cranes lost a double-header against Togo to cast another shadow over their chances of qualification.
The 1-0 loss at Namboole against the Sparrow Hawks will be remembered, not only for the 10 year unbeaten home run, at Namboole, which Togolese defender Donou Kokou broke with his strike but also for ultimately starting the end of Cranes campaign.
As poor travelers, Uganda couldn’t afford to lose at home but they did. On they went to lose 1-0 in Lome before a Savio Kabugo winner against Ghana restored hopes.
With all teams in Group E capable of possible qualification by kickoff yesterday, with Uganda in particular needing a draw to end the jinx, the Cranes let the curse strike back by losing to Guinea.
Having played the last game away from home, unlike other campaigns, with high hopes and just needing a point, the Cranes can no longer fault the pressure at home as a reason to fall apart as they did last night.
The team is fast running out of excuses and the only explanation could be they are just not good enough to break this jinx.
SOURCE: Daily Monitor