The Sunday Mail
Robson Sharuko in CAIRO, Egypt
THE protest bug that destablised the Warriors’ 2019 AFCON finals campaign finally caught up with the Ugandan Cranes, last week, and could have played a part in their elimination from the tournament by Senegal here on Friday night.
The Ugandans crashed to a 0-1 defeat at the hands of the Lions of Teranga in a game in which Liverpool star Sadio Mane scored his third goal of the tournament before missing a penalty after he had been brought down by goalkeeper Denis Onyango.
But the build-up to their showdown against the Lions of Teranga was blighted by in-house problems which saw the players boycott training in protest over unpaid dues.
It was like a recap of the challenges that also rocked the Warriors camp, ahead of all their three matches – including a game against Uganda – here.
Zimbabwe and Uganda drew 1-1 in a game that will always be remembered for a shocking miss by Warriors skipper Knowledge Musona to fire his side to a victory that could have kept them in this tournament, at least, until the Round of 16 matches.
The Ugandan players held a series of meeting with their leaders, to try and break the impasse, with a solution only being found after the Federation of Uganda Football Associations released the US$6 000 which was being demanded by each of the players.
Their training session on Wednesday, two days before the match against the Senegalese, was delayed by about five hours.
“Considering the magnitude and importance of the event of Uganda Cranes match against the Teranga Lions of Senegal, the interests of the Nation, Government, the Sponsors, and the gallant fans, FUFA has agreed to pay 6,000 USD over and above the agreed terms in the Code of Conduct,” a FUFA statement read.
The organisation also released a video by Cranes coach, Sebastien Desabre, assuring the Ugandans that his team would give it its best shot against the Senegalese.
“We will give the maximum, like against Egypt, Congo or Zimbabwe,” the coach said in a video released by FUFA.
“We have a chance if we keep the same high spirits and motivation. We have continued our work, and that shows the commitment of the boys.”
Even the Ugandan President, Yoweri Museveni, added his voice.
‘’Despite losing to Egypt, Uganda Cranes put up a good performance at the #AFCON2019. It is good that the team progresses to the next round of the tournament,’’ he said on Twitter.
‘’We pray and hope for better results going forward. Congratulations to the team and officials for the success so far.’’
However, the Cranes appeared a shade slower against the athletic Senegalese, who forced them to make a number of mistakes, including the midfield turnover from where Mane scored the only goal of the match.
“We conceded an early goal from an individual mistake which is regrettable,” said Desabre after the match. “We had some good moves which we could not finish but I am proud of my players.”
Meanwhile, the DRC’s battle against Madagascar today will again provide the Warriors with a reminder of what could have been for them had they, at least, finished third in Group A.
The Congolese thrashed the Warriors 4-0 in their final match and the three points were enough to take them into the knockout stages as one of the four best third-placed sides.
Madagascar shocked the world by beating Nigeria 2-0 in their final match to top Group B.
“No one knows about us, maybe only the movie Madagascar,” defensive midfielder Anicet Andrianantetaina told CAFOnline.com.
“Our secret is the teamwork. We play as a team and we fight for each other. There is no star in the team and everyone is equal.’’
Madagascar skipper the COSAFA Cup this year to concentrate on their special programme to prepare for their debut show at the 2019 AFCON finals.