In Uganda’s last Nations Cup campaign, the foursome of Timothy Batabaire, Eugene Ssepuuya, Johnson Bagoole and Joseph Kabagambe were part and parcel of The Cranes setup.
Batabaire enjoyed a first team football at Bloemfontein Celtics in South Africa; Kabagambe had had a blast at Rwandan side Atraco; Bagoole had rejuvenated his career at URA, while Ssepuuya had emerged a formidable force in the Serbian league.
However, as they sought greener pastures, they lost sight of Cranes coach Bobby Williamson. Today, Batabaire still plays topflight football with Bidvest Wits in South Africa after he was released by Celtics; Kabagambe has since moved to Sudanese side Al-Neel, while the whereabouts of Bagoole are sketchy even though he is said to be playing for Congolese side AS Vita. Ssepuuya, meanwhile, is on a club-hopping spree.
This, in many ways, has made it hard for Williamson to monitor their form and fitness, leading to their exclusion from the tentative Cranes team due to face Angola in a 2012 Nations Cup qualifier on September 4. That, despite the fact they have always played well for The Cranes.
“Their fate has been decided largely on the basis of the coach not knowing what state they are in as far as their football form is concerned,” Mike Mutebi, a former Cranes coach said.
Going by his last appearance against Niger, Kabagambe’s flair and sense of imagination should supersede the fast and industrious Vincent Kayizzi or Dan Wagaluka on the right wing. The latter’s display in the 1-1 draw against Zambia last week was unproductive. The last time Bagoole played for Cranes was against Benin in October 2008; then, he acquitted himself well with speed, vision and good passing coupled with a fine defensive stability in front of the back four. He is versatile and can play in many positions.
Meanwhile, there is the polarizing figure of striker Eugene Ssepuuya. In a space of one year, he has transferred to four different clubs; today, he is in Australia. The fact that the unsettled Ssepuuya has failed to settle in one club, is an indication that either his stock has fallen or he has many suitors. The former is more likely.
As such, Mutebi doesn’t think Ssepuuya has a lot to give The Cranes and his absence is unlikely to be missed. “Ssepuuya is not a finisher and at this time, The Cranes need a player who’s going to be purposeful and imaginative going forward,” he says.
However, Ssepuuya’s is a tricky issue because he offers physical presence needed to trouble big defenders. Interestingly, he was the man of the match when Uganda beat Angola 3-1 a little over two years ago and was one of Uganda’s best players in away ties as a lone striker, scoring two goals in four games.
Cranes tentative squad
Goalkeepers: Dennis Onyango, Robert Odongkara, Hamza Muwonge
Defenders: Andy Mwesigwa, Ibrahim Sekagya, Joseph Owino, Nestroy Kizito, Godfrey Walusimbi, Simeon Masaba, Habib Kavuma, Musa Doka, Isaac Isinde, Jimmy Mukubya
Midfielders: Vincent Kayizzi, Tony Mawejje, Patrick Ochan, Hassan Wasswa, David Obua, Steven Bengo, Sula Matovu, Dan Wagaluka, Simon Serunkuma, Robert Kimuli, Owen Kasule
Strikers: Brian Umony, Robert Sentongo, Geoffrey Serunkuma, Geoffrey Massa, Tony Odur, Henry Kisekka