2019 has been another good year for football in Uganda with the nation achieving on both the local and continental scene.
Amidst the controversies surrounding the game, several national teams and club sides have continued to excel and here are the seven (7) standout stories/moments according to PML Daily editor Shaban Lubega.
- Change in Uganda Cranes top management
Sebastien Desabre ushered Uganda into 2019 on the back of qualification to the Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt and despite a few poor results in the build-up games, the Frenchman would help the Cranes reach the knock-out stages of the competition for the first time in over 40 years.
After the achievement, his contract was terminated by mutual consent and later moved on to manage Egyptian side Pyramids FC. Abdallah Mubiru was handed a care-taker role which he executed for a couple of months before a certain Johnathan McKinstry took over as the head coach on a three-year deal.
As of 30th December, it is exactly 90 days since the North Irishman took over and by the look of things; he may be the right man to take Uganda forward.
- Proline FC defies odds
Proline FC has been one of the biggest stories of the year as they have continued to impress the football fraternity.
After spending one season back in the Big League (Second tier of Ugandan football), the Lugogo based side won a double. Under the guidance of Shafiq Bisaso, they were crowned the 2018/19 Big League winners on May 18th and seven days later, defeated Bright Stars on penalties to win the Uganda Cup.
The Uganda Cup was their first in history and in-process Proline became the first club to win it as a lower division side, a record that may take ages to be broken.
With the two trophies in the bag, Proline embarked on their first-ever continental campaign as took part in the CAF Confederation Cup, the second most lucrative club competition in Africa.
While there, they got past Malawian side-Masters Security in the Preliminary round before taking care of AS Kigali of Rwanda in the first round. At the playoff stage, Proline fell to Algerian side Paradou AC to bow out of the competition.
Despite the defeat, it was an experience that will always be cherished by the Proline faithful.
- Rise of Women football
In the past, there was a feeling that Women’s football had been left out as their male counterparts continued to move forward. However, that perception has almost been washed away by exploits in the women’s game in 2019.
The Women national teams have taken part in several tournaments this year, excelling in a couple.
In April, the Crested Cranes were dumped out of the Tokyo 2020 CAF Women’s Olympics qualifiers by Ethiopia but it was a step in the right direction as the team was taking part in their maiden qualifiers for the Olympics.
Later in the year, the Crested Cranes took part in the CECAFA Women’s championships 2019 in Rwanda where they finished third after losing their semi-final clash to Tanzania.
2019 also saw the U17 Girls’ team in action. Taking part as guests, the Girls defeated hosts-South African 2-1 in the final to win the COSAFA U17 Championship in September.
In December, Ayub Khalifa’s side also won the CECAFA U17 tournament that was hosted in Uganda, topping the six-team log after four victories and a draw.
Women’s football may in the past have been in the shadow of the men’s game but in 2019, it has indeed started to take shape.
- KCCA FC wins the treble
KCCA FC have been the standout club side in Ugandan football in the recent past and continued in the same vein this year.
The Kasasiros fought off competition from Vipers SC to seal the Uganda Premier League in May.
The league triumph meant they qualified for the CECAFA Kagame Cup where they defied odds and won it. It was their first regional championship in 41 years and they achieved it with a team that can be described as one ‘full of kids’.
Like that was not enough, Mike Mutebi’s side thrashed Proline FC 4-1 on August 28th to win the Uganda Super Cup, completing a hat trick of trophies in 2019.
Despite a slow start in the 2019/20 Uganda Premier League, KCCA all but justified the tag of the best club side in Uganda.
- Local Players finally come of age
The Uganda Premier League players have always come up short when national team duty calls.
Save for qualifying for the CHAN tournaments, they have somehow failed to satisfy the Ugandan football fraternity to the maximum but in 2019, they have done exactly that.
As expected, they sealed a spot at the 2021 CHAN final’s tournament as they overcame Burundi and Eritrea in the two qualification rounds. This is the 5th time Uganda is reaching the finals’ tournament and the expectations will be high come to the championship proper.
The local players’ next assignment was to try and win the CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup and they delivered. Under the guidance of Johnathan McKinstry, Uganda won all five of their games at the tournament including a 3-0 victory over Eritrea in the final played at StarTimes Stadium in Lugogo.
Qualification for CHAN and winning the CECAFA Senior Challenge cup have proved that local football and players are on the right path.
- Magogo suspended
Ugandan football suffered another set-back in October when the Federation of Ugandan Football (FUFA) president-Moses Magogo was suspended for two months after entering a plea bargain with FIFA for the illegal sale of the 2014 World Cup tickets allocated to Uganda.
The ban was the latest of dramatic events that had seen Magogo step down days earlier during a 95th FUFA general assembly that was held in Adjumani. On the day, Magogo announced that he will be stepping aside to allow FIFA carry out investigations.
However, he would return to office on December 10th and Magogo is now back to running football in the country.
- Cranes @AFCON 2019
After sealing qualification to the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), Uganda would make their second successive appearance at the finals’ tournament in June.
At the finals’ they progressed to the knock-out stages for the first time since 1978 before they lost 1-0 to eventual finalists Senegal.
However, the tournament would not go without controversy as the players threatened to lay down their tools over ‘unpaid bonuses’ before the second round game against Senegal. After several discussions between them and officials, they (players) took to the pitch before losing to a Sadio Mane lone strike.
The performance at AFCON 2019 was so good that it opened the door to several players securing transfers to different clubs, with the biggest bunch getting clubs in Egypt.
Can 2020 better 2019 in terms of achievements in Ugandan football, maybe, just maybe!