24 February 2009

UGANDA : Is there a chance?

By Charles Mutebi

Feb. 23-March 1, Kigali
Men: Uganda, Egypt, Rwanda, Burundi and Kenya
Women: Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi

ONE would say a team with limited expectations in a competition can afford to ignore gruelling preparations –– it has little prospects of success anyway. Yet looking past the plain humour of that argument, it can actually act as a consolation for a team which finds itself unable to have a perfect tournament build-up.

This is a position Uganda’s basketball teams may have to seriously consider if their assignment at the Africa Championship qualifiers does not go quite to plan. What with the kind of preparations they had!

On paper, their chances of securing one of the two qualification berths for the men or the one ticket to the women’s Africa Championship already appeared limited. But then to forego adequate arrangements, probably due to a lack of funds, could have simply wiped out Uganda’s chances.

Heck, boarding a bus for Kigali, Rwanda, about 550km away, at 2am is not exactly the ideal scenario for a team set to be in action a day later.

All that after the original budget of sh84m had to be trimmed to just under sh16m, which, further more, would be raised in the course of the event. That is without mentioning the few number of training sessions which the teams coaches left bemoaning.

Those are the kind of details Uganda will be hoping were not exclusive to their build-up. After all, that might be the only thing that could justify any faith in Uganda’s chances.

For, to put it plainly, Uganda’s men would need a miracle to secure the all-important top-two finish in the five-team event which also includes Egypt, Rwanda, Kenya, and Burundi.
Egypt are ranked fourth in Africa and 35th in the world, while Rwanda are 16th on the continent and 71st on the globe. Uganda along with Kenya and Burundi have no place in FIBA’s world rankings as they have not qualified for any of its tournaments in the last eight years.

Only countries which play at FIBA tournaments, which doesn’t include regional qualifiers like the event in question, get ranked. Even then if they miss out for eight years, they get thrown out of the rankings.
Uganda has to deny an Egyptian side which finished fourth at the 2007 Africa Championship or a Rwandese team that ended 11th out of 16 competitors at the same event.

If Egypt are the more untouchable of the two, then Rwanda’s status as hosts makes them that much harder to face.

That is not to say Kenya and Burundi will be push-overs. Uganda beat Kenya in their last encounter four years ago in Kampala but the Kenyans have the superior head-to-head record. They will likely be harder to beat now especially on neutral ground.

On paper, Burundi poses the least danger but such a conclusion could prove to be nothing more than poor pre-tournament intelligence about the tiny state’s team.

Basically, Uganda could emerge as the tournament whipping boys, which would leave only one place to start with any resultant inquiry. That place would be the nature of the preparations the teams had, or to put it more accurately, the lack thereof.

Then again, may be not, for as the aforesaid comic would argue, what difference would perfect preparations have made for a team which had next-to-no chance of success in the first place?

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