Like all his predecessors, Sebastien Desabre, the new Uganda Cranes coach, was quick to heap praise on the technical ability of the players he took through training during his first days on the job last week.
Equally, the feeling was mutual from the players, many of whom were impressed by his methods of work.
However, Desabre had to beat off stiff competition from three applicants on the final shortlist to take The Cranes job for the next three years. Former Rwanda coach Johnny McKinstry (Northern Irish, 32 years), Emilio Ferrera (Belgian, 50 years) and Cranes interim coach Moses Basena, were the other contenders for the job.
So, what could have given the 41-year-old Frenchman the edge?
Fufa spokesman Ahmed Hussein declined to give the inside story of the whole process, arguing that details were confidential. But a source in the corridors of power at the Mengo-based federation has told The Observer they relied on recommendations from people who knew the applicants.
Being French, Desabre does not only originate from a football power-house, but a host of his countrymen have succeeded in Africa. One may recall that Kalusha Bwalya, former Zambian international, headed the panel of experts charged with picking Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojevic’s successor.
And because of Bwalya’s connections, which saw him hire another Frenchman, Herve Renard, who led Zambia to the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon), Desabre was bound to have rave reviews. It is not farfetched, that Renard, who also went on to guide Ivory Coast to the 2015 Afcon, gave the thumbs-up for Desabre.
In addition, Fufa wanted to hire a coach with African experience. Desabre has been coaching around Africa for the last eight years; therefore, he is unlikely to get a cultural shock being in new surroundings. For Cranes’ sake, the team needs someone who can manoeuvre through the dirty games of African football, especially in away games.
This would require thorough psychological preparation of players, something Micho was at grips with, seeing how The Cranes were able to win games away from home during qualifiers.
In the same vein, a host of African footballers have made their breakthrough on the global scene of football by securing their first contract in one of the world’s elite leagues, plying their trade in France. Desabre could be the gateway for a host of Ugandan players in that regard.
Furthermore, Desabre’s experience working at top African clubs like Asec Mimosas in the Ivory Coast, Club Ismaily in Egypt, Wydad Casablanca in Morocco, JS Saoura in Algeria, Recreativo Desportivo do Libolo in Angola and Club Esperance in Tunisia mark him out as a widely knowledgeable coach.
Bearing in mind that Desabre’s resume includes top teams, which go for the best available, including upstarts, his coaching qualifications and credentials make him a gem for The Cranes.
Also, Desabre has a long history of coaching academy teams, a key component needed for the Ugandan game.It should be noted that at 41 years of age, Desabre has a lot of hunger to scale great heights.
Since his arrival in Africa, Desabre has only won one league and cup title, which was at Asec Mimosas between 2010 and 2011, meaning he has a lot to prove as a winner.
In comparision, Basena had limited experience having only coached in East Africa (Tanzania at club level)while 32-year-old McKinstry, who guided Rwanda to Chan quarterfinals in 2016, was considered too young to handle national team of Uganda’s calibre.