By Denis Bbosa
The last time Cranes needed penalty conversion to progress was 1993 and like on Saturday when a determined Cranes side lost 9-8 on penalties to Zambia, it never lived to be.
The atmosphere at Namboole after the game the Cranes perceptibly dominated evoked memories of that great AFCON encounter with African giants Nigeria at Nakivubo.
Like the Zambian game, the 1993 Cranes incalculably talented team needed a win of any nature to progress to AFCON finals in Tunisia and burry the 15 year wait.
Come the 62nd minute of the evenly poised game, the much anticipated moment arrived; dazzling midfielder Robert Aloro received the ball at the edge of the box, within seconds he was floored prompting the day’s referee to point to the spot.
Coach Polly Ouma’s side that included Sadiq Wassa, George Ssimwogerere, Adam Semugabi, Robert Mukiibi, Charles Temaligwe, Rajab Sekalye, Robert Aloro, Idi Batambuze, Sula Kato, Magid Musisi and Jackson Mayanja was so endowed that he was spoilt for choice on who should take it.
In fact the decision on who to convert it was taken on the pitch amongst senior players and left to Ssemugabi by who by then lay third in taking the national team penalties behind Musisi and Majanja.
Without much ado, he failed to get it passed a then on form Peter Rufai whose heroics where to help the Super Eagles a year later to lift their second and last AFCON title in Tunis. Blame games ensured thereafter with the incident creating a rift between Ssemugabi and brother Ssekalye who was also an authoritative penalty taker in his own right.
Almost two decades on, the same ghosts arrive at our glorified fortress Namboole ahead of lady Luck. Godfrey Walusimbi who has been smolderingly proving to be our first penalty taker gets his chance after captain Andy Mwesigwa has blown away his chance. As that poor start settles with both teams technical converting penalties, Partick Ochan’s moment of truth blows the game out of proportion.
For the ten years I have seen the lanky, dark dread locked Ochan, he has been a sure deal scorer when it comes to taking penalties. He showed that with Standard High Zzana in the CocaCola games, SC Villa and URA only for his composure to desert him when he needed it most.
The fore seer in me tells me his chances for Cranes are headed for a nose dive. You need to learn the unfriendly ambience extended to Ssemugabi by federation, Players and fans then to heed o my insinuation .In fact the former Pepsi and Villa winger cut short his blistering football career to flee to Japan in 1995 where he lives to date.
Former Express and Cranes hard tackler, Iron Man Nkata who frantically sat next to me in the VIP section shouting instructions to players feet away summed up the two pulsating moments.
“We got only one chance in 1993 and blew it wide, these boys would have progressed had Bobby Williamson organized them in the right order during the shootout,Jjaja Walu should have led the way” a concerned noted before rushing to help out a female fan who fainted when Kennedy Mweene intercepted Ochan’s would be ninth penalty.
I have two burning questions for Bobby before I sign out, what happened to the inspirational Mike Sserumaga the defacto heir apparent to David Obua?What’s the way forward for the Cranes, retain the team or go for a complete overhaul?.Before am answered, my soul will meanwhile hate the ghosts that have haunted us for 36 years.