By Elvis Senono
It’s 36 years now since Uganda’s last foray in the Africa Cup of Nations finals. Philip Omondi’s goals and guile remarkably dragged Uganda by its bootstraps to the final, which they lost 2-0 to hosts Ghana.
The first weekend of September will see The Cranes return to the country where they scripted their most momentous footballing chapter yet.
Ghana is an African football behemoth as its four Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) titles attest. It’s not, however, lost on many that the last of those titles came back in 1982.
More fundamentally, Uganda managed to secure a 1-1 draw in Ghana during the 2004 Afcon qualifiers.
The 2006 Afcon/World Cup qualifiers were more bruising, Uganda losing 2-0 in Ghana after David Obua’s goal had seen The Cranes draw the reverse fixture. But there are no yawning chasms in matches between Uganda and Ghana.
Philip Obwin’s winners in 2000 and 2002 are testament to the Ghanaians’ fallibility.
West African trio
Ghana of course won’t be the only country offering Uganda company in Group E of the 2015 Afcon qualifiers. Togo and Guinea complete a West African trio in what by all measures is a tough group.
Togo secured a 3-0 win in a consummate display during their last visit to Uganda in June of 2001. Guinea were less successful during their last two visits here.
Legendary forward Majid Musisi was among the goals during an en-thralling 4-4 draw at Nakivubo War Memorial Stadium in April of 2000.
That match was a 2002 World Cup qualifier. Five months later, a brace from Hassan Mubiru and Andrew ‘Fimbo’ Mukasa’s stunning finish saw Uganda wrap up a 3-1 win at the same stadium; this time in an Afcon qualifier.
Guinea will be hoping that it is third time lucky when they take to the Mandela National Stadium pitch in Namboole during the second weekend of September.
Their squad is laden with an array of French-based players with the pick being Nantes forward, Ismael Bangoura.
The 29-year-old has found the back of the net 13 times during his 47 caps. It’s hardly a statistic that should worry Andy Mwesigwa and company at Fortress Namboole.
The deciding factor for The Cranes as always will be how they fare on the road. Thank-fully, Uganda shook the monkey off the back by securing a hard-fought 1-0 win away to Mauritania last Sunday.
The win owed more to just the tactics coach Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojevic painstakingly taught in the run-up to the match.
The win, Uganda’s first since one away to Guinea Bissau in March of 2011, was the product of what to the human eye passes off as unconventional, even awkward.
The Cranes avoided food provided by their hosts and took to the Olympique Stadium without fear.They will have to do this and more when they make trips to Ghana, Togo and Guinea.
In Mauritania, The Cranes were profligate. Brian Umony uncharacteristically missed a one-on-one in the first half. It was also worrying seeing the hosts effortlessly breach Uganda’s rear-guard only to match their opposite number’s poor finishing.
With only the top two finishers in each group - along with the best third-placed team - qualifying for the finals, a perfect home record for The Cranes might not suffice. A result away from home might well be the panacea to Uganda’s 36-year-long Afcon hoodoo.