Uganda’s representatives in the Caf Confederation Cup face a daunting task to qualify for the group stage of the competition.
Over the weekend, Tunisian giants Sfaxien held Vipers to a goalless draw at St Mary’s stadium while Congolese side Otoho D’Oyo stunned KCCA FC 3-0.
For the record, no Ugandan team has ever overturned a 0-3 deficit from the first leg to go through but if there was time to do it, KCCA has the perfect opportunity. As for Vipers, failure to score at home against a traditional giant can be equated to doom.
We all know what always happens when sub-Saharan teams make the long journey to North Africa. But without sounding like a devil’s advocate, both KCCA and Vipers should not lose any hope, especially in this day and age when games are decided by thin margins.
If there is any reference I can offer Vipers, it is the 1995 Caf match between Express and Dynamos of Zimbabwe when the visitors won at Nakivubo before the Red Eagles came back to win away and qualify for the next round.
As for KCCA, the 1991 Villa match against the all-powerful Al Ahly stands out and holds some similarities with the Otoho D’Oyo tie.
Villa was good enough to bully teams in the region but it was a heavy underdog against an Al Ahly side that boasted several members of Egypt’s 1990 World Cup team such as goalie Ahmed Shoubeir, Adel Abdel Rahmanne and dangerman Ayman Shawky.
Matters were not helped when the Jogoos lost the first leg in Cairo 0-2, prompting many Villa faithful to leave the return leg to fate.
After all, Al Ahly had embarrassed Villa in the same competition in 1988; winning 3-2 in Kampala before sealing a 6-3 aggregate victory in Egypt.
On match eve, Geoff Hudson, the Villa coach, downplayed the history and pedigree by insisting Villa has nothing to lose and that the pressure would be on the visitors.
Hudson had been criticized by some sections of the media for starting Paul Hasule in Egypt, with many claiming that the skipper, fresh from a 71-day layoff after Fufa lifted his one-year suspension, was rusty.
There were even calls to put out an understrength Villa for the return leg so that the team concentrates on winning the league title.
However, Hudson was unrelenting and vowed to field his strongest side which included Mike Mukasa, Paul Hasule, Geoffrey Higenyi, William Nkemba, Adam Semugabi and Paul Nkata. Others were Robert Semakula, Sula Kato, Idi Batambuze, Magid Musisi and Peter Nsaba.
Come kickoff, Nakivubo was full to the brim but a sizeable number of the fans had come either to mock Villa [due to its overshadowing of KCC and Express] or to watch the Egyptian World Cup stars in flesh.
With prime minister George Cosmas Adyebo leading the cheering, Semakula restored some hope with a low drive that threw Nakivubo into a frenzy after about 10 minutes.
What had been taken as a game of pride for Villa turned into a tense affair in the second half. Al Ahly players became timid, the crowd became impatient but, most importantly, Villa grew in belief. Musisi powered in the second after a melee, sparking a stampede of sorts in the stands.
Chief guest Paul Kawanga Ssemogerere, the then Foreign Affairs minister, rose to his feet and was soon joined by sports minister Amanya Mushega.
Villa was unthinkable was unfolding right before our eyes but panic was all over the stadium; Villa chairman Patrick Kawooya joined the technical bench and shouted his voice hoarse. At one point, the tension was too much that Villa had as many as five ‘coaches,’ each giving instructions.
There was little to separate the two sides thereafter but the referee’s whistle after the end of extra-time signaled a dash for exit for fainthearted fans. Several Villa supporters, including officials, left the stadium immediately for fear of the penalty shoot-out heartbreak.
Villa still carried the momentum into the spot-kicks and converted all their penalties though Kato, Semugabi, Kivumbi and Musisi before Mukasa emerged the day’s hero by saving the decisive Al Ahly penalty for the 4-2 victory.
Looking back to that day, I have no doubt KCCA can overhaul that deficit.