Custom Search 1

Uganda Cranes hit the heights again at AFCON

KEY MAN: Godfrey Walusimbi

FOR the first time since 1978, Uganda reached the knockout phase of the African Cup of Nations - and they made quite an impression.

The Uganda Cranes qualified for the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) for the first time in 41 years when they reached the group stage in 2017.
However, they went home winless and finished bottom of the group.

But at this year’s edition of the tournament, under new boss Sébastien Desabre, they impressed having qualified out of Group A alongside hosts Egypt.

The Cranes' started well with a win over Ivory Coast in their final friendly before the tournament began. After defeating DR Congo in their opening game, a draw with Zimbabwe gave them the four points they needed to reach the next round and book an exciting round of last 16 tie against Sadio Mane’s Senegal, the highest ranked team in the competition.

The Cranes’ best performance at AFCON was the runner up spot in 1978, where they lost out to Ghana.

Their record appearance maker Godfrey Walusimbi was in the current squad, as was Emmanuel Okwi the top scorer. They were joined by 24-year-old Bevis Mugabi, who has been in England for several years, having spells with Fulham, Southampton and most recently Yeovil Town before departing earlier in the summer.

Uganda’s AFCON bid was affected by off field drama. The players have been on strike recently and refusing to train, allegedly owed monies by the Ugandan government for bonuses earned during the tournament so far.

The FUFA (Federation of Uganda Football Associations) have responded and said they have honoured the payments but there remains a dispute, which was still under discussion as the Senegal fixture approached.

The strike has distracted on what should other wise have been a great celebration for Uganda, who played extremely well against hosts Egypt in their final group game, going down 2-0.

Desabre told the press: “We are very disappointed [with the defeat] but I’m proud of my players because we have shown a good side of Ugandan football.
“We played an open game, but we could have done more both defensively and in the attack”

While, Walusimbi remains Uganda’s most capped player, the most famous, must be Ibrahim Dafala. Nicknamed, ‘The British’ the defender became the first Ugandan to ever train with an English team back in the 1960s.

He started training with Manchester United, although unofficially, it was a milestone for a Ugandan to be with the biggest club in the world.

Walusimbi captained the national team for five years and according to the record books, didn’t pick up a single booking or a red card in his entire 20-year career. He spent 15 years of his career as a starter for Ugandan team Express FC, winning two domestic league titles in 1974 and 1975.

Did you know...

Most capped player: Godfrey Walusimbi (104)
Top scorer: Emmanuel Okwi (23)
Highest FIFA ranking: 40 (March 1978)
Home stadium: Mandela National Stadium (45,202) capacity

Read every story in our hardcopy newspaper for free by downloading the app.

Facebook Comments