An exciting sporting journey lies ahead in the next twelve months with an action-packed menu that includes the Fifa World Cup and Commonwealth Games. MOSES MUGALU picks out some of the events expected to make headlines in 2018.
CAN CRANES FLY AT CHAN?
With a new coach in charge, Uganda Cranes will aim to break the African Nations Championship (Chan) jinx of failing to go past the group stage. The tournament, which features home-based players from domestic national leagues on the continent, kicks off January 13 in Morocco.
The Cranes have played in the previous three editions (2011 in Sudan, 2014 in South Africa and 2016 in Rwanda), but failed to get out of the groups bracket on each occasion.
In Morocco, newly-appointed Frenchman Sebastien Desabre will lead The Cranes against Zambia, Ivory Coast and Namibia in what looks a tough task on paper.
However, The Cranes are expected to use the experience from previous events and progress to the quarterfinals for the first time. Whether they fly higher and make it or fail for the fourth time, it will be big news anyway.
VILLA/KCCA FOR UPL TITLE
Can SC Villa end the 14-year-long league title drought? The Jogoos, who currently lead the Uganda Premier League (UPL) table with three points at the halfway mark, face stiff competition from defending champions KCCA FC.
It promises to be a blistering second half (between February and May) of the competition as Villa search for their seventeenth league title while KCCA want to make it a hat-trick of back-to-back crowns. Big-spending Vipers SC and Police also lurk in the wings and cannot be ruled out of the title race.
On the other hand, the league’s biggest story could pan out in form of Express FC being relegated for the first time. Express, six-time league champions and one of the oldest clubs in the country, lie second from bottom of the 16-team table and their chances of escaping the relegation monster look slim.
KIPROTICH AT COMMONWEALTH GAMES
Normally, all eyes are on athletics and boxing for Uganda to reap medals when it comes to the Commonwealth Games.
But it could be a different story at this year’s Club Games (slated for April 4-15 in Gold Coast, Queensland in Australia), with the netballers (She-Cranes) raring to upstage the runners and boxers. Going into the Games, She-Cranes have showed they can challenge for top honours at any level, having won the 2017 African championships title.
Former Olympic champion Stephen Kiprotich is expected to make a comeback after recovering from back-to-back injuries. Kiprotich, who won the 2012 Olympic and 2013 World Championships gold, will be the most senior athlete on Team Uganda and, therefore, the man to watch.
Another interesting aspect for the keen watchers of Team Uganda will be whether the athletes will vanish (during or after the games) for greener pastures in Australia.
Ugandan athletes made headlines during the last major events held in Australia; boxers disappeared after the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney and the cricketers went missing during a World Cup qualifier in 2007 in Melbourne.
So, on and off the competition arena, Team Uganda (which will field competitors in swimming, boxing, badminton, shooting, table tennis, track and field events, rugby and netball), will be in the news spotlight during the two-week stay on the Gold Coast.
BOXING POLL STALEMATE
The story of Uganda Boxing Federation (UBF)’s aborted elections spills into 2018. It will certainly return to haunt its leaders, who have been held liable for the mess that halted the scheduled polls last year.
The elections (earlier scheduled for last November) were called off after hitherto little-known boxing enthusiast Robert Matovu acquired an interim court order stopping the process.
Matovu cited UBF’s failure to adhere to the election rules roadmap set out by world boxing body Aiba. These included; communication of the date and place of the general assembly, list of presidential nominees and the executive committee (together with proof of their eligibility) and agenda.
Incumbent Kenneth Gimugu and Moses Muhangi were vying for the top seat.
FOCUS ON RUSSIA 2018
Although The Cranes missed out the chance (at the hands of Egypt) to be one of Africa’s five representatives, Ugandans will certainly look forward to football’s biggest festival when the Fifa World Cup kicks off in June in Russia.
For obvious reasons, defending champions Germany and usual suspects Brazil will be the centre of attraction. A revived Brazil (led by the world’s most expensive player in Neymar and new manager Tite) will be out to get revenge over the Germans, who humiliated them (7-1) in the semifinals in front of their home fans four years ago.
Lionel Messi and his Argentina side and, of course, the African representatives (Egypt, Senegal, Nigeria, Tunisia and Morocco) will also be of interest to Ugandan viewers.