If you are from the two neighbouring countries, by now you have heard and seen the hype around this game and in the next 24hours, we shall know who has the bragging rights. From planned bus-rides to Kampala to students studying the many higher learning institutions in the Uganda, this tie must be one of the biggest ever between the two countries in recent history.
There is much at stake for both countries and especially so for Kenya which had lorded over the other East African countries and qualified for the Africa Cup of Nations 5 times compared with Uganda’s 5 appearances (their performance has been better though finishing 2nd in 1978 behind Ghana) ; Tanzania and Rwanda have each qualified once previously.
But this Africa Cup of Nations qualifier carries not just the sporting side but some heavy political connotations given the diplomatic brush the two countries have had recently due to the Lake Victoria islands of Migingo and Ugingo as well as the bombings on July 2010 in Kampala ( after Al-Shabaab militia were said to have launched their attacks from Kenya and the ensuing renditions of Kenyan suspects). It has also been Uganda’s Pres. Yoweri Museveni toying with various Kenyan potential Presidential candidates as each tries to outdo the other in matters regional.
Back to the game though, recent history is clearly in favour of Uganda. They are the highest ranked country on the FIFA rankings at 76 compared to Kenya’s 133. The last 5 games between the two teams have seen Uganda win 4 and draw 1. And of course there is the 12th man advantage with the Ugandans sensing a return to continental glory since 1978 ( which was their best showing ever at 2nd place).
In our VERY HUMBLE OPINION, we would love to be patriotic and root for our team BUT in a way this is pushing our luck a bit too far. We have had such a mixed bag of performances in these qualifiers and this last game would have been avoided if Kenyan football authorities had made their arrangements once the games started. We have a fair share of professionals plying their trade in European leagues but that has never deterred other teams showing us how its done when it comes to wearing national colours (ask Guinea Bissau).
We have also national bodies running football at the mercies of some unscrupulous and incompetent national officials. With the national elections finally announced, we wait to see what comes of this long-awaited process.
And while we have been running all over like headless hens, our neighbours have sorted their national leagues and made much progress. What Kenyans saw in the first game against Uganda left many in shock at the level of co-ordination, passion and support from the highest offices in their land that the team had and continues to enjoy. Our Kenyan politicians have tried replicating this but albeit a bit late in the process. It would be good for Kenya’s Harambee Stars to miss the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations BUT start in earnest preparing for the 2013 one in South Africa as well as World Cup qualifiers in Brazil. It would also serve the new office (if elections come through on October 29th) to start a fresh slate to ensure there is a better strategy for the game in the country.
Qualifying for the 2012 AFCON would give us a false impression that all is good on our game and soon we’re back to business as usual. Let’s sort our domestic issues once and for all and seek a fresh page to write our footnotes in the game in the next one year. All the same, for those who make it to Kampala, enjoy the roast chicken, bananas and waragi from the ‘Pearl of Africa’ and AVOID any passions beyond the game’s. For you back in Kenya, the time is 1700hours on your national broadcaster KBC ( no confirmation yet from SuperSport)
Prediction: Uganda 3- Kenya 1