END OF THE ROAD: Did KCCA blow out their CAF confederation Cup challenge? What lessons do we pick from their exit?

KCCA FC lining up for the match Vs Club African in Tunis ( photo by KCCA FC media) 

By Danito Nsubuga 

The journey for KCCA’s continental Cinderella adventure got to a painful end on Friday night at the Estadio Olympico de Rades in Tunis. They went in this match needing only to avoid defeat but inside only 11 minutes, they had succumbed to an early goal from Saber Khalifa. Mike Mutebi and his team ran out of ideas after Mannoudi Haddad and Zemzemi Moaataz extended the Tunisians’ lead in the 25th and 41st minutes respectively.

It was now all but done for KCCA but they were handed a lifeline when FUS Rabat equalised against Rivers United after the Nigerians had gone into the 2nd half with a 1-0 lead. Doom was confirmed in the 85th minute when Rabat were awarded a penalty that Mohamed Fouzair confidently sloted home with a delightful “Panenka” to ensure the Moroccans were through to the quarters finals alongside Club Africain.

Geoffrey Sserunkuma and co. had a night to forget in Tunisia (Photo credit: KCCA media) 

To many and by Ugandan standards KCCA exiting the tournament with 9 points would be regarded a success especially it being a first attempt in many years of not trying enough. But I believe that whichever measure you draw, KCCA exiting Africa’s 2nd elite competition before the knockout phase from a group containing FUS Rabat, Club Africain and Nigerian Minnows Rivers United who were not even in existence a 2 years ago is a bit challenging judging by what was really at stake, the manner in which they exited the cup points to a fact that a lot was left to be desired. They should have done better.

Going into this final match, it was all theirs to lose and in fact here at Swift sports, we ran an article trying to explore all the possible permutations through which KCCA would progress, it was concluded that all they needed was avoiding defeat and win the group. But they failed miserably by falling to a 4-0 defeat. That’s why we ask, where could they have gone wrong and what are lessons to be picked from this heart break?.

THE DREADFUL AWAY FORM

KCCA FC lost 2-1 in Nigeria against Rivers United in a match they should have at least picked a point

Whereas it’s very imperative to make your home ground a fortress, it’s equally important to have some discipline when playing away. This has been KCCA’s biggest handicap after having failed to win any points on the road. They have conceded a whooping 10 goals and managing only 1 goal on away matches and lost all 3 matches in the group stages. This poor patch can be traced back to the preliminary stages of the CAF champions league. One would argue that not many teams have managed to pick away points but KCCA did themselves a big disservice of failing to at least pick a point from Nigeria. Rivers United beat them 2-1 away.

THE LACK OF EXPERIENCE

Julius Poloto was thrown into the decisive match in Tunis which proved too costly 

This campaign has provided a very good learning curve for whoever is associated with KCCA, from the Technical team, Playing staff, the fans and the decision makers (Executive), to the men in suits, a lot has to change especially in as far as game management and approach is concerned. For example, KCCA have played 2 away games under the flood lights but too less preparation has been done to ensure that the players do not get challenged by this factor, well they did some practice but it was still wanting. They lost miserably in Morocco and in Tunisia. The technical team also need to work on game approach depending on the opponent, they need to institute a fully functional scouting network that helps provide all the necessary information to the coaching staff about the opponent. The playing staff too has been inexperienced to the tune that stats show, the average age of players that took part in KCCA ‘s campaign was 24.5 years. Only Geoffrey Sserunkuuma, Denis Okot, Benjamin Ochan, Habib Kavuma, Brian Majwega, Tom Masiko and Muzamir Mutyaba were above 25 . This is emphasised by the manager Mike Mutebi in his comments after the defeat,

“We have a young side with an average age of 24. I think the first attempt was not disappointing, we can only improve on the next attempt”

The team had rookies in Allan Okello and Julius Poloto whereas most of the other more senior lads had never tested continental football. Let’s hope this team will be left to be knit together for better forthcoming campaigns.

THE TACTICS

Manager Mike Mutebi employed some questionable tactics especially on matches away from home ( photo credit : KCCA FC media) 

The philosophy to use Mike Mutebi’s Parlance of “Playing our way” is commendable and understandable, but success should not be hostage to fortune, much as we appreciate beautiful and fantasy football, we shouldn’t neglect the fact that the game now evolves on money and finance. Teams that advanced to the quarterfinals will earn in excesses of $350,000, imagine what a difference it would make to a club like KCCA ‘s budget. Mike Mutebi was quoted by the official club website insisting that he would not mortgage his philosophy for a result. He said

“We are not going to Tunisia to sit back and defend, we are going to play our way. And our way is to attack but remain organised defensively”

“We can’t mortgage our identity, that business of parking the bus, is not our way, we have to frustrate them even if they are home because I believe we have their players to match them”

Sometimes everyone has got to swallow their pride and complete the task at hand, after all history never remembers the near misses or even the beautiful football exhibited, what matters most is the results and the Arab clubs in group A must have taught him a lesson or two.

THE INSTABILITY IN THE SQUAD

Tom Masiko’s exclusion from the final 2 group  games proved a costly mistake 

Back in May, during their first group match against Rabat in Morocco, KCCA FC failed to travel with the core of their usual stating 11. Captain Denis Okot and 1st choice goalkeeper Benjamin Ochan were suspended, Midfielder Muzamir Mutyaba , the then on fire Paul Mucurezi were out Injured and youngster Allan Okello was off for school duties with Kibuli S.S school team. They went on to lose 3-0 but were back to winning ways when the contingent returned. Along the way, Tom Masiko returned from injury and in during the same period, Vincent Kayizzi and Brian Majwega picked form and helped the team along the way. This inconsistence did not only affect the outfield players but also the sensitive goal keeping department. These rotations were either forced or instituted by the coach in his desire to explore more and blood some of his burgeoning starlets.

THE OPPOSITION

Moroccan giants FUS Rabat possess a high level of experience in CAF competitions 

KCCA FC were drawn into a group of perennial African challengers, FUS Rabat won the tournament in 2005 and lost the finals in 2006, they also won the CAF champions league in 1985, whereas Club African won the CAF champions league in 1991 and were Runners up of the Confederations cup in 2011. Nigerian Minnows Rivers United were the only light weight team in the group since the club was only formed in 2016 after the merger between Sharks FC and Dolphins FC. Uganda ‘s best performers being Simba FC in 1972 and SC Villa in 1991 who were both losing finalists. It’s argued that KCCA might have punched above their weight by obtaining 9 points but they should have done better since the continent’s big boys are all playing in the Champions league not the equivalent of Europa league.

THE INTERNAL DISCONTENTMENT

Internal Club affairs are yet another important factor that shouldn’t be overlooked if we are to find reasons as to why KCCA were dealt that exit heartbreak, rooting from the mistimed signature of Saddam Juma, to the exponent dropping of Midfield linchpin Tom Masiko following rumours of his imminent move to Vipers SC . Inner circles reveal that all is not rosy in KCCA hierarchy evidenced by the switch of positions for Club CEO David Tamale to the post of Assistant Chairman, it’s believed that some of the players are not happy with the coach’s school strict kind of management. Some players cite that the mode of remuneration leaves a lot to be desired.

Saddam Juma’s clearance by CAF came a little too late for him to make an impact

It takes more than just winning your home games for you to qualify to the knockout stage like we saw with the National team the Cranes on many occasions. It was after they figured out how to pick points away from home that they finally made it to AFCON after years of trying.

Mike Mutebi and his boys can pick a leaf, first in any group you are put, you must use what I call the ‘Predators theory’ this is a very simple theory in which the predator identifies the weakest animal among a group of possible preys and concentrates on it (it works most of the time). Like earlier mentioned, Rivers was the easiest ‘prey’ in the group and KCCA should have worked tooth and nail to pick a point in Nigeria which would have seen them go through.

They say experience is the best teacher and hopefully KCCA have learnt a thing or two from this journey.

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