By Harold Atukwatse
The Uganda National Football team, Uganda Cranes was for the sixth time dumped out of the CHAN tournament at the group stages. We were pitted against DRC (D), Senegal (W) & Ivory Coast (L).
In my opinion there were no surprises. That performance is a true reflection of what football in Uganda is. Anybody who expected different is dealing with Uganda football as it should be.
That football you saw at CHAN is the exact same football the majority of the teams in the two pro leagues in this country play. At least 90% of the teams in the Uganda pro leagues do not play possession based football. Very few teams can barely put five consecutive passes together.
I have been at Soltilo Bright Stars FC for six years now and year in year out we have struggled to encourage coaches to build a football philosophy. Now I think we are on the right path.
You meet players who struggle with the simple basics of the game.
Ugandan players are not encouraged to think/use their heads. Very few players get credit for their intelligence. We are very quick to applaud and reward hard work rather than the intangible qualities like intelligence, confidence & tactical awareness. I saw this first hand when Soltilo Bright Stars contracted Japanese footballer Kazuto Kushida. He had everything but the “hard work.” By hard work I mean grit, pace & metal.
These won’t take you anywhere in any sport. Not even in wrestling. Sports intelligence is paramount.
The national team is selected from this same league where we don’t play possession based football. The national team coach only has these players for 2-4 weeks in a year. This is a very short period for one to instill any football values most especially the ones we all want to see.
He’s more often than not forced to go the fire fighting route: boot it forward and let’s deal with it in the least dangerous part of the field, the final third.
Unless football teams in this country make it a habit to build a philosophy we will not see any success. You’ve seen the African Schools Championship, the UYSSA schools championships and many other youth football tournaments but can you comfortably say that at that level we are playing “possession based football”. NO! Kids at that age are taught that it’s more important to win than to learn the basics of the game. The story is similar in the different teams in the FUFA Juniors League. That’s the level where all these things we want are taught. Not at the National Team.
The writer is a Corporate and Sports Lawyer & Director Bright Stars FC