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How to make The Cranes get its groove back

Cranes players against Ivory Coast at Chan

Cranes players against Ivory Coast at Chan

Much of the past 10 years of Moses Magogo reign as Fufa president has been about feeding off the gallant efforts of his predecessor, Dr Lawrence Mulindwa.

Longtime national team players such as Dennis Onyango, Tony Mawejje, Godfrey Massa et al, had held the national team as a tightly-knit group that was able to qualify for the 2017 and 2019 Afcon tournaments.

There is hardly anything to mention about at both showpieces but whereas Fufa heralded a new era of automatic’ Afcon qualification, things have gone down south since then. What we have at the moment is a dysfunctional Cranes side that cannot even harm a fly.

There is hardly any emerging player that the country can bank on to be a future star for the national team due to lack of consistency. I stopped my count at 45 the number of players that featured for The Cranes in the year 2022 alone.

So, the recent humbling exit from the African Nations Championship (Chan) was a testimony of what I predicted after scrutinizing the laxity and corruption involved in getting players to the national team.

In truth, we are doomed as a nation if we don’t make grand reforms of our game to get the groove back for The Cranes. My two cents worth revolves around overhauling of the grassroots setup of local football. Fufa, for all the mega billions it controls in funds, uses it to buy off loyalty at the expense of professionalizing the game but here is a five-year golden roadmap to reshape the future of Ugandan football.

Firstly, Fufa needs to identify best local coaches by blending those with experience and others with qualifications to form a dependable and solid crust. This combo would be made to be in charge of identifying youngsters countrywide from the age of 14 years through regional rivalries.

This may seem odd on the surface but from my experience as a football investor, no one identifies prospective youngsters like regional coaches that traverse the game up to the grassroots.

Picture this; in Europe and South America where the game is at its best in spotting special talents, top prospects are identified and followed up from as young as eight years. Once identified, those players are rigorously followed up for years, both physically and statistically, and by the time they clock 19 years, they are ready to conquer the world.

This applies with my grand strategy that would see these youngsters turn 19 in five years’ time and, therefore, be ready to represent Uganda. Today, Kylian Mbappe is a French project that started when he was seven years old; yet in Uganda, we expect to start grooming players at 17 years.

What’s more, I root to have Fufa delegates given more responsibility to control operations on the ground, right from coordination to funding for grassroots operations in order for them to get a sense of belonging.

Forget this arrangement where Fufa brings the Drum tournament to locals who can hardly identify with the teams playing. My view would be to split the country into six regions; northern, eastern, central, western, southern and southwest and northeast.

Furthermore, having local delegates and coaches control the game at the grassroots provides the perfect balance of developing players with a sense of belonging and responsibility not to disappoint their fans.

Many former players are struggling to adjust to life after retirement but this initiative would bring them closer to relevance and to the youngsters who see them as idols.

The likes of Jackson Mayanja, Sam Ssimbwa and most recently Hakim Magumba, among others, would be valuable additions to the project as a way in igniting football interest in youngsters. What’s more, I would root to have delegates control the teams’ funding and coordination as Fufa controls the referees and the supervision process.

This provides delegates with a sense of responsibility. I have got no doubt that this arrangement would check Fufa’s overbearing approach of controlling all aspects of the game to the detriment of progress. It would also empower grassroots structures of developing the game from the bottom to the top.

The author is SC Villa first vice president in charge of mobilization.

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