04 July 2011

UGANDA : Dennis Mbidde: 7Up Falcons will bounce back after rocky start

Written by Dennis Mbidde

Two weeks ago, there was an unprecedented media frenzy when Falcons unveiled a new sponsorship deal worth Shs 130m with soft drink giant 7Up, a new coach in Zsirivar Mwogi as well as star players Phillip Amenyi and Abdullah Ramathan.
In essence, the euphoria reflected the recognition throughout Fuba’s most scrutinised club that handling this season’s enormous expectations would require as much mental rubbing and attention to bonding as pure, hard physical work.
After playing like nervous strangers in their first match in which they lost 77-91 against Warriors, Mwogi wasted no time, making it a point to stress the importance of teamwork. Now, Falcons look smooth-running and spectacular.
This is in sharp contrast to a few days back when several pundits concluded Falcons’ basketball epitaph following the demise of club founder, John Ssimbwa. But as the man tasked with moving Uganda’s most successful team forward, that scepticism didn’t get into my head.
Meanwhile, anticipating the animosity that would follow Falcons’ collection of star players, Mwogi is preaching brotherhood. He senses that players can truly sacrifice for one another only if they cared about and respected one another like family members - a pillar on which Ssimbwa built Falcons’ successes.
Mwogi isn’t alone in his pursuit. Richard Osando Omondi, the team’s engine last season, opened his arms to his new teammates, diffusing any tension with grins and shrugs
If anything, last weekend’s training session provided the perfect glimpse of what to expect of Falcons for the rest of the season. All this, surely, is a mark of a team on a mission. Falcons may be down – two wins in the first five matches – but they are definitely within a shot at the playoffs. And everyone knows what they can do afterwards.
At each of their recent matches at YMCA court, Falcons’ players have faced sold-out, vibrant crowds and throngs of the media. That was unheard of a few years back when the team was the envy of many a basketball fan as it dominated the local scene. The buzz the new ensemble has generated makes them feel, players say, super special.

So, amid the echoing and booing, cheering and jeering, they remain focused. That’s the only way to move forward.

The author is Falcons president

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