The biennial Chan tournament has become something of a poisoned chalice for Uganda Cranes. Their participation has been as regular as the team’s underwhelming performances at the competition and as happens with every poor showing, an inquisition into the coach has emerged.
Northern Irishman Johnathan McKinstry is the latest Cranes’ coach to struggle at Chan. Bobby Williamson, Micho Sredojevic and Sebastien Desabre all found qualification easy but impressing at the tournament proper very hard.
It is common territory for coaches to be questioned when results are not forthcoming, and McKinstry is finding out now the magnitude before him of making The Cranes play well and win.
Had Uganda maintained its pre-tournament form in matches against Rwanda and Togo, it is unlikely McKinstry’s suitability for the job would be a talking point. But in both matches, the one highlight has been Saidi Kyeyune’s peach of a strike. As the coach, the team stops with McKinstry.
And already, critics are wondering why he selected veterans Tonny Mawejje and Denis Iguma for a competition largely supposed to offer younger home-based players an opportunity to grow in national team colours. Still, it is unfair to write off McKinstry yet.
It is true that his senior national team was also dominated by South Sudan in the double-header Afcon qualifier and Uganda must now beat either Malawi or Burkina Faso to qualify for next year’s Afcon. But McKinstry has hardly enjoyed an extended, uninterrupted run with the national team.
Last year early in his reign, he was powerless as competitive sport was suspended in the country due to Covid-19. What McKinstry needs is time, not criticism. And then again the results at Chan 2021 are a reflection of the Uganda Premier League. Lest we forget, Uganda’s clubs have also been poor in continental competitions in recent times.