Uganda, Kenya set for Cecafa final
These two East African neighbours, Uganda and Kenya, love to hate each other when a ball is thrown at them just as they love to love each other after the skirmish.
And on Saturday evening, they will resume regional hostilities on the Namboole Stadium turf when the Uganda Cranes face Kenya’s Harambee Stars in this year’s Cecafa Tusker Challenge Cup final.
The encounter is a repeat of the January 2009 final in which hosts Uganda edged their neighbours 1-0 with striker Brian Umony grabbing the lone goal.
They have already clashed in this tournament, Bobby Williamson’s Cranes beating James Nandwa’s Stars by a lone strike en route to finishing atop Group A.
Exciting youngster Geoffrey ‘Baba’ Kizito scored in that encounter last month before Uganda embarked on four more wins, scoring 10 more goals without conceding any.
That unmatchable run has perfectly set up an exciting finale in which they must beat Kenya if they are to break their own record of 12 Cecafa titles, their opponents on the day – the Stars - coming closest at five trophies.
Kenyan fans did not mind that gulf in regional success after the Stars beat Zanzibar to make the final, chanting: “We want Cranes, we want Cranes.” Cranes fans responded: “We want Spain, Kenya is weak.”
But Bobby, the Cranes tactician, knows Kenya are not that weak after all. “It is going to be a difficult game just like the rest we have played against them,” he said after the Cranes 3-0 dismissal of Tanzania in the semi-finals confirmed the final cast.
Nandwa, who will be without the injured Victor Ochieng and Bernard Mangoli, is optimistic they prevail over Uganda.
“We’ll we are ready,” said Nandwa, adding, “We know what is at stake during that match but all I can say is we will not let them defeat us.”
Robert Ssentogo has worked his way into Bobby’s books and his brace against Tanzania that brought his tally to four in the tournament surely earned him a starting place against Kenya.
“Ssentogo is the player I love,” admitted Bobby, “He is my type of player. He is disciplined, works hard and never stops running.”
But the Scot is still sweating over the fitness of his other two weapons in attack in Emmanuel Okwi, who scored in the win over Tanzania, and Umony. The two are nursing knocks picked from their previous games.
If the Cranes are to break down the Stars, then one area they must try to starve supply of in the midfield marshalled by the elegant Humphrey Mieno, who has been authoritatively outstanding in the area.
Skipper Hassan Wasswa and Kizito suffocated Tanzania’s playmaker Mrisho Ngassa in the semis and if they pull it off against Mieno, a 13th title could stay here.
The winners will take home US$30, 000 (about UgShs78m) with runners-up pocketing US$20, 000 (Shs52m). There is further US$10, 000 (Shs26m) for the third place.