The recent demise of legendary Cranes captain Jimmy Kirunda awakened memories of the 1978 AFCON milestone where “the kaiser” led Uganda to the final, only to lose out to a brilliant Ghana side that boasted joint topscorer Ofori Afriyie (scorer of the brace in that match to equal Philip Omondi’s tally of 3), tournament MVP Karim Abdul Razak and George Al-Hassan who also went on to lead the charts as the Black Stars won the 1982 edition.
Buoyed by a mammoth home crowd, this array of stars was never going to let a rather weakened Ugandan side stand tallest on the Accra podium.
Unknown to so many, the Peter Okee and Mister Jaberi Bidandi Ssali managed side was missing the undoubted Dennis Obua (scorer of one of the two goals that helped Uganda prevail over Ethiopia in the final qualifier).
Obua (RIP) was mysteriously dropped from the final squad to Ghana for what was termed as indiscipline and the Police marksman’s slot was taken by Simba’s Fred Isabirye.
There was no way Isabirye was going to fill the gigantic boots of one of the greatest dribblers and hardest shooter of the ball this country has produced.
Add that to his wealth of experience having featured prominently in the AFCON editions of 1968, ’74, and ’76 (scoring 3 goals). This move apparently disillusioned two other seasoned forwards Polly Ouma and Stanely Mubiru “tanker” to the extent that they never commanded the first-team status at the finals.
Having played on the same team at the 1968 finals, Obua and Ouma never felt Okee as an able gaffer just like senior player Stanely Mubiru “tanker” (scorer of all 3 goals for Uganda at the 1974 finals and the only Ugandan on the CAF team of the tournament).
No wonder the final XI had Kisitu and Abbey Nasur start ahead of Ouma and Mubiru respectively (just like KCC’s Sam Musenze displaced Lord Ashe Mukasa who was the only Ugandan selected for the 1976 CAF team of the tournament).
Who knows what would have happened if the sentiments in the camp had been different especially if Obua had made the team to complete the deadly quartet with Ouma, eventual joint topscorer Philip Omondi and Moses Nsereko?!
Note; The latter two were selected for the CAF team of that tournament.
Fast forward to the qualifiers of Senegal ’92 all through to the 2010 edition.
Stories of players disappearing from camp prior to Cranes games in other campaigns aside, the one of 1991 when some Villa players excused themselves from national duty protesting a ban on their captain Paul Hasule stands as tall as that of dismissing David Obua from camp ahead of the do-or-die duel with Kenya.
As the vocal Harambee Stars fans responded “where?!” to our “we go, we go” chants in the useless goalless draw, memories of the “mugende mukafiiremu” statement by legend Magid Musisi evoked a Deja Vu feeling of another bolted attempt at feasting on the table of African football men.
In conclusion, assuming the impasse over bonuses at the 2019 AFCON edition (had an effect on our eventual performance), an inquisitive analyst would say, Uganda would by now have achieved more than we have if it wasn’t for some cases of indiscipline and, or administrative failure to swiftly avert any subversive cases within our playing psychology.
Another reason to emphasize this virtue amongst our current and future stars.