Rise and fall of Cranes coaches

After Burkhard Pape left in 1972, Uganda has had a high turnover of coaches, but success has been elusive. HASSAN BADRU ZZIWA recalls;

David Otti, 1973-74

When Burkhard Pape left, first in the line was David Otti who handled Uganda Cranes for the 1973 Challenge Cup held in Kampala. He successfully won the first ever East and Central Africa Championship. However, he was put aside and replaced by another German tactician Westhoff Otto. In 1975, Otti bounced back, introducing several new comers among the Cranes. The relatively new side did not reach the finals of the CECAFA Cup in Zambia, so hell broke lose and the climax came in Addis Ababa in 1976 staged Africa Cup of Nations where Cranes finished at the bottom of the group after losing to Ethiopia, Egypt and Guinea. Back home Otti quit. Currently Otti is one of Cranes assistant coaches.

Westhoff Otto, 1974-75

German Westhoff Otto succeeded Otti and was given the task of guiding Uganda to the 1974 Nations Cup. He came good when Uganda eliminated Algeria 3-2 aggregate to make it to Egypt. However, The Cranes couldn’t get past the group stage and lost to Egypt and Zambia before drawing with Ivory Coast. Later that year, Uganda also lost at the final of CECAFA Cup to hosts Tanzania via penalty shoot out. He returned to Germany the following year, leaving his assistant Otti as interim coach.

Peter Okee I, 1976-81

In came Peter Okee in 1976. He took over from Otti but ironically retained the same players. He wasted no time in winning the CECAFA Cup in 1976. Okee’s Cranes successfully defended the title in 1977.
Okee would later guide the ‘Pape Boys’ to the 1978 Nations Cup in Ghana, the third time in a row Uganda was qualifying.
Okee went on to achieve a national milestone when Uganda reached the final before losing to eventual winners Ghana.
In a twist of fate, the team disintegrated after the 1979 war. With nearly half of the Cranes squad belonging to the Uganda Army side Simba FC, many of them were hounded and ended up in jail or exile.
Goalkeeper Paul Ssali and Godfrey Kisitu were locked at Luzira Prisons while Polly Ouma, Abbey Nasur and Timothy Ayieko fled to exile in Kenya.
This situation was compounded when several others such as Phillip Omondi, Tom Lwanga and Jimmy Kirunda among others, went to play professional football in the United Arab Emirates.
That was the start of a downward trend that saw Uganda lose all CECAFA Cup group matches in 1979. 
Okee’s Cranes still failed to impress in the 1981 CECAFA Cup held in Tanzania but he left for a coaching course in Germany.

Bidandi Ssali, 1982

His was a brief tenure when Okee had gone to Germany. Having been Cranes Team Manager from 1976, he was entrusted with the Cranes as stand-in coach during the CECAFA Cup in 1982 hosted in Kampala. He came in with his gang of new young players. The Cranes reached the final but lost penalty shootout to Kenya.

Okee II, 1983

He returned in 1983 to re-assume his duties.
The Cranes finished third at the 1983 CECAFA but there was public outcry as fans demanded a change of guard. Hence the 1984 premature elimination from the Nations Cup and World Cup qualifiers at the hands of Tanzania and Zambia respectively made Okee’s position shaky. However, it was The Cranes elimination at the hands of Algeria in the 1984 Olympic qualifier that put paid to Okee’s tenure.
Uganda had won the first leg 4-1 but lost 3-0 in Algiers. He crossed to Kenya to handle Mumias FC till 1998 when he returned to Uganda and passed away on April 12, 1998 at Mulago Hospital.
But due to his 1978 Nations Cup feat, Okee is considered by many as the second only to Pape.

George Mukasa, 1984-85

He took over in October 1984 and his main task was reclaiming the CECAFA title. Under him The Cranes played entertaining football but Uganda lost the 1984 semi to Malawi. It also marked the first time that The Cranes failed to reach the final at home. He was sacked in October 1985. George currently stays at Mengo-Kisenyi.

Barnabas Mwesiga, 1986-88

His first assignment was the 1985 CECAFA Cup held in Zimbabwe but the Cranes failed to impress in Harare. He embarked on the Cranes campaign for the 1988 Africa Cup of Nations planned for Morocco. Uganda brushed off Somalia but lost to Cameroon on 4-6 aggregate. Weeks later Uganda was also shown an early exit during qualifying for the 1988 Seoul Olympics by Zambia. FUFA gave him a chance in the CECAFA Cup held in Ethiopia in 1987 but again Cranes failed to go passed the hosts in the semi-final and his fate was sealed. Mwesiga is currently the secretary of Uganda Baseball Association. 

Robert Kiberu, 1988-89

His first mission was to build a new Cranes team as well as recapturing the CECAFA Cup, which Uganda had not won 11 years. So he took the team to Malawi for the 1988 CECAFA Cup. But Kiberu failed the test as the team finished bottom of the group without a win. He got the chance to make amends in the preliminary round of the 1990 World Cup qualifiers but his Cranes lost 2-3 on aggregate to Malawi. Kiberu was sacked.
He passed away on May 5, 1990, a day after guiding Express in a league match at Tororo.

Part II continues next week starting from Polly Ouma to Bobby Williamson.

bzziwa@observer.ug, bzziwa@yahoo.com

© 2016 Observer Media Ltd