The national Under-17 football team (Cubs) takes on Zambia this Saturday with a berth to the 2015 Africa Youth Championship at stake.
But so daunting is the task ahead that the Cubs not only have to defeat Zambia, they have to at least outscore the visitors by three goals, writes John Vianney Nsimbe.
From the look of things, 2014 could be a great year for Ugandan sport. From Moses Kipsiro’s momentous gold medal at the Commonwealth Games to the She Cranes’ qualification to the 2015 Netball World Cup, the Cubs have it within their hands to make the nation proud by eliminating Zambia. Cubs coach Matia Lule has been composed all week as he took his players through their paces.
He sounded more confident than cocky that his charges can indeed turn around the tide and write themselves into Ugandan football history folklore. Yet, again, Lule isn’t delusional about the task at hand and how the odds are stark against him. Sam Ssimbwa, the former coach of Rwanda’s Police FC, told The Observer of his experiences as a national team player from the Under-16, under-18 and under-20 teams dating back to 1982.
“Without any clear focus and dedication to develop the underage teams, qualification for a major Youth Championship was impossible,” Ssimbwa said. But Fufa today has shown dedication. And because of that, there is reason to be optimistic that the lads can knock Zambia out.
But Ssimbwa believes that more than what Fufa has done, Lule and his coaching staff have been quite determined to get the job done by qualifying for the Niger showpiece next year. Lule has been working as technical director of the Copa Coca-Cola football championship from where he picked most of these players.
“There have been times when Fufa didn’t have resources handy, yet Lule organized special training sessions for the players privately,” Ssimbwa revealed.
Which brought Maroons coach Asaph Mwebaze to say that the lack of proper structures is Uganda’s undoing.
“We don’t give our young players substantive competition. That makes it difficult for them to upstage their continental opponents. The only thing we do is assemble teams. That isn’t a structure. An ideal one is where we have the under-14s and the under-12s also playing regularly,” Mwebaze, whose two players Bashir Asiku and Pius Obuya are a shoo-in to start on Saturday, said.
Mwebaze played for the Under-17 side in 1990 alongside Geoffrey Bukohore, Andrew Arinaitwe and Benjamin Musoke, who is now a cricketer. In essence, if the youth structures were operating well, Mwebaze reasoned, players would have all-year-+round activity to improve them. That makes having national youth leagues imperative to supplement the Copa Coca-Cola.
But even with all that said, hope reigns supreme that the likes of Muhammed Shaban, Hassan Ssenyonjo and Julius Poloto, some of the gifted players among the many in the squad, don’t only have to overturn a result, but also beat the odds and do what Ssimbwa and Mwebaze failed to do in their time.
Source : The Observer