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Experts Weigh in on Uganda Cranes Failure to Qualify for Afcon finals

Uganda Cranes started the campaign with a promising performance after collecting seven points in the first three games. These included a draw to Malawi, two wins against South Sudan and Malawi respectively, which helped them to top the group.
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Ex-Uganda Cranes players have weighed in on the botched Uganda Cranes 2021 African cup of Nations finals campaign. Uganda dropped out of the 2021 African cup of Nations finals after losing 1-0 to Malawi’s national football team, The Flames in a do or die game of Group B.



Uganda Cranes started the campaign with a promising performance after collecting seven points in the first three games. These included a draw to Malawi, two wins against South Sudan and Malawi respectively, which helped them to top the group.  

URN sought the opinions of Ex-Uganda Cranes players on the team’s performance. Some of the ex-internationals questioned FUFA’s last-minute decision to suspend the head coach, Jonathan McKnistry a few weeks to the two decisive games. Others on the other hand blamed the head coach for the choice of players he used in the last two games. 

Andy Lule, the former Uganda Cranes Captain said Uganda’s problems started when they lost to South Sudan during the second leg. He, however, says this was a lesson to the team and he expects better results next time 

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He however advises the team to use young players, saying they have a bright future.

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James Odochi, another ex-Uganda cranes player says Uganda undermined her opponents in the group. He says Uganda Crane players looked down on their South Sudan and Malawi opponents, which cost them dearly. 

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Odochi also blames the Fufa technical bench for summoning injured players at the expense of better local players. He singles out local league top scorer; Steven Mukwala whom he thinks would have performed better on the team.

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Several players sustained injuries prior to the Malawian game. They included among others, Timothy Awany, Abdu Lumala, Allan Kyambadde, Fahad Bayo, Patrick Kaddu and Bevis Mugabi.  Jackson Mayanja, an ex-International says Uganda’s loss to South Sudan was the turning point in their Afcon campaign. 

“Uganda lost it against South Sudan, we were supposed to get six points from South Sudan, that was the turning point why we did not qualify,” Mayanja told URN.

Where did FUFA go wrong?

Federation of Uganda Football Association made a bold decision and suspended the Cranes head coach, a few weeks to the last two qualifying games. He was replaced by his assistant Abdallah Mubiru as interim coach to guide the team in the last two clashes.

However, several people have questioned FUFA’s decision claiming it was very late. Odochi says it was a tricky moment for Abdallah Mubiru, adding that he can’t even explain why FUFA had to take such a decision.





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Jackson Mayanja says the Federation would have left McKnistry to complete  the job of qualification or else they should have suspended him after the loss to South Sudan.

“I don’t know what the Federation thought, but I think McKnistry would have finished that campaign other than tasking the local ones with the two games because McKnistry was handling the team. If they were to do it, they would have done it when we lost to South Sudan. So that Mubiru has time to cope up with players,” he said.

Way forward



Although Abdallah Mubiru failed to help Uganda to qualify in the last two games, the ex-internationals says that he should be given time because he is capable of delivering. Lule says Uganda should copy other countries that use local coaches because foreign coaches have little time to follow local players.

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Odochi says Abdallah Mubiru should be given more chance and shouldn’t be judged based on the two games.  

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Mayanja also says FUFA should give the local coaches a chance, saying there are competent people like Moses Basena and Sam Simbwa.  

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FUFA is yet to make a final decision on whether or not to retain McKnistry as head coach.

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