Few players polarise opinion like Allan Okello, the diminutive KCCA attacker who has been knocking on the Uganda Cranes door for a protracted period now. The ongoing regional Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup is an opportune moment for Okello to announce his arrival, writes MARK NAMANYA.
Five months ago, former Cranes coach Sebastien Desabre decided not to take Allan Okello to Cairo for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon), insisting that the youngster hadn’t matured enough to compete at the highest level.
Desabre disregarded Okello’s precocious talent and went as far as picking a club-less player in Hassan Wasswa but not the KCCA forward who has become an integral part of Mike Mutebe’s project at Lugogo.
In the StarTimes Uganda Premier League, Okello has torn defences to shreds with regularity as a dribbler, playmaker or finisher. Quality left-footed players are largely treasured anywhere regardless of whether they are defenders or attackers especially since they are a rarity.
Finding a right-footed attacker is not a challenge considering that the game of football has by far more of them than left-footers. Okello is good at set-plays, can load a pile-driver, beats his marker and can generally be a handful for a defender when he is at his electric best.
In scoring a double in Uganda’s 2-0 victory over Somalia on December 9, Okello did his chances of commanding a first team slot in Cranes no harm.
The national team is being managed by a new man in Johnathan McKinstry while the two other coaches in his backroom staff Abdallah Mubiru and Livingstone Mbabazi have either been on the receiving end of Okello’s brilliance in the UPL or seen firsthand what he can do to defences.
That Okello has been a regular in KCCA’s continental engagements both in the Caf Champions League and Confederation Cup, scoring in games against sides like Egypt’s Al-Alhy and Namibia’s African Stars, is evidence of his maturity.
But as the game against Malawi showed, he is still a diamond with rough edges. He was given a huge ovation when he was introduced as a substitute but barely made an impact in Uganda’s 2-0 victory.
Okello’s critics say his frame is lacking and the freedom accorded to him by coach Mutebi is a luxury a national team coach wouldn’t afford. However, only time will tell. And only Okello and no one else can confound those who doubt him.
Cecafa is a low-pressure stage with some lightweight opponents, who should provide Okello with the ideal games to announce his arrival in The Cranes colours. With games against Djibouti and Eritrea to come, Okello and his sea of admirers ought to be licking their lips.
Today, Dec 11@4pm:
Eritrea v Uganda
Friday, Dec 13@4pm:
Burundi v Somalia
Saturday, Dec 14@1:30pm:
Kenya v Zanzibar
Saturday, Dec 14@4pm:
Sudan v Tanzania
Sunday, Dec 15@4pm:
Uganda v Djibouti