Uganda's Caf Champions League representatives KCCA were dumped by South Africa's Mamelodi Sundowns after conceding a late equaliser in the one-all draw, reports JOHN VIANNEY NSIMBE.
KCCA FC’s spirited performance against Mamelodi Sundowns in the return leg of their first round Caf Champions League (CCL) last Saturday at the Phillip Omondi stadium, Lugogo was undeniably commendable.
Geoffrey Sserunkuma put the hosts ahead in the first half but Sundowns made a late comeback with their Liberian import Anthony Laffor scoring the equaliser on 81 minutes. KCCA manager Mike Mutebi has been widely blamed for making uncessary changes when his team was firmly holding onto the lead.
The result means, KCCA were not good enough and they miss out on the lucrative last-16 stage in which they would have been assured of receiving $550,000 or Shs 1.98 billion.
However, it is all not gloom for KCCA. They now drop to the Caf Confederation cup (CCC) round-of-32. And if they do well there, and qualify to the round-of-16 of that tournament, they will be placed in one of the four groups, and handed $279,000 (Shs 1 billion).
This would still be a big boost to the coffers of KCCA, considering the big objectives they have going forward. Expansion of their stadium, to become a 10,000-seater at least remains high on the agenda. And any extra earnings would help the club expedite that, and continue to keep the club on course to becoming a fully-fledged professional one.
Improving the players wages is another goal that KCCA has. Club chairman Julius Kabugo said before the return leg with Sundowns was played, that he was already happy about the players’ commitment to the cause. “Showing that we could compete with the African champions was encouraging. So, as a club, we believe in rewarding excellence.”
It is no secret that Kabugo realizes how being the best requires investment in players. And by getting into the lucrative stages of Caf club competitions, there is a good chance to beef up the squad and get better.
Getting into the last-16 of the CCL would have guaranteed KCCA at least six more continental games, three of them at home. That is money through gate collection. But also, the players would have improved a lot from that experience of competing against the continent’s best sides.
However, they still have a shot at such experience, if they do not relent in the CCC. It is not only money that they stand to gain from making the last-16 there if they indeed do, but also more games under their belts.
That, inevitably, will be a whole new world to KCCA. With the Uganda Premier League (UPL) and Uganda Cup still on the horizon, this will mean more games, which could stretch the players, especially when one considers that they have not been in this situation of bumper-to-bumper fixtures before.
KCCA would have no off-season since the Caf club competitions run from February to November. This is when a big squad comes in handy to avoid fatigue.