When Yasser Mugerwa scored a 25-yard strike on 37 minutes to give URA a 1-0 lead, there was an unconfined joy at Namboole stadium.
At that stage, the tie was locked at 2-2 on aggregate but URA were heading to the second round of the Caf Confederation Cup on away goals rule. However, a spirited second half fight back from Pirates saw them score two goals to take a 2-1 lead.
And by the time substitute Frank Kalanda came on to level the score at 2-2, the Ugandan club’s involvement on the continent had come to an end. Yet another disconcerting tale.
Make no mistake URA gave their all over the two legs despite the gulf in resources between the two teams. You can never tell how the match would have unfolded had Robert Ssentongo, URA’s best player, not been suspended for the two legs. Or the several injuries that befell the Taxmen in the lead-up to the return leg.
Afterwards, URA coach Alex Isabirye told The Observer that much as the result was disappointing, he felt the Taxmen matched their more-illustrious opponents. “Pirates were not better than us technically but they showed more experience in key moments. And that was the difference between,” Isabirye said.
URA goal scorer Yasser Mugerwa (R) attempts to dribble past Pirates midfielder Nthsumayelo Thandani
Pirates coach Eric Tinkler echoed the feeling. He said that while URA are a good team that gave his charges a lot of trouble, especially in the first half, all he told his players was to change approach in the second half.
Tinkler explained that he realized the zest in URA’s players to go forward particularly after scoring the opening goal. So, he knew they would leave spaces behind for his team to exploit, which they duly did with quick breaks and it paid off.
Essentially, it was a matter of having players that know exactly how to adjust their game plan. And that is what experience is all about. This comes with time of continuous involvement in top-quality games on the continent, something most Ugandan players rarely experience.
Isabirye added: “We cannot run away from the fact that we are still not as good as we would like to be. And unless we have the right facilities, exposure and stability, it will be difficult for Ugandan teams to make a mark at the international stage. If we had stayed in this competition longer, by next season, we would be a very difficult team to play against.”
Apart from KCCA FC, which made it to the second round of the Caf Champions League back in 2009, no Ugandan club has gone past the first round.
Notably, prolonged involvement in Caf games is a good aertising platform for the players. And with the way youthful players like Mugerwa, Moses Feni and Saidi Kyeyune applied themselves against Pirates, there is a high chance for the trio to be approached by football agents.
Source : The Observer