You lack experience is a very common phrase or response in Uganda. The same phrase is regularly used in Football.
It’s a bitter truth to accept when you are on the receiving end of that phrase. Most times it’s a genuine assessment but when it comes from someone responsible for helping you gain experience then it loses meaning.
As Uganda Cranes prepares for AFCON 2019. Allan Okello’s omission from the squad made headlines, and registered a high search count on google.
His omission from the squad was a debate topic on social media, most football shows on television and radio because this’ a player that played well in the 2018-19 season.
Allan Okello didn’t do himself any favors by having the distraction of trials.
I don’t know any football coach that would want to have a distracted player in camp. He was moved to the other Cranes squad preparing for COSAFA and missed that tournament because of his trials in Switzerland.
As I write this blog, Uganda Cranes coach Sebastian Desabre has named the final 23 players to represent Uganda at AFCON 2019.
The squad has three left backs; Joseph Ochaya, Godfrey Walusimbi, and Isaac Muleme.
I am not writing to suggest who should have been in the squad or not but I believe the squad selection has exposed our lack of planning player development in football. That lack of planning is one of the reasons most Ugandan football players lack experience.
Experience challenges in Ugandan Football.
Experience comes from doing. Unfortunately, in Ugandan football, we think experience comes from age. It’s possible to find a 30-year-old player that lacks experience of international football.
The majority of Ugandan footballers lack football related experience because they are not given an opportunity by the people responsible for their development.
The recently concluded UEFA Nations League (UNL) should have been a very good example of how long term planning in football is being implemented to help young players gain experience.
Portugal, Netherlands, England, and Switzerland wanted to win the tournament but used it as an opportunity to name squads that had a mix of youth and experience.
Joao Felix (aged 19), Declan Rice (aged 20), De Ligt (aged 19) and Manuel Akanji (aged 23) all represented their respective nations.
Giving young players an opportunity to gain experience comes at a cost in the short term but has long term benefits. How much experience of a semifinal will those young players have at the Euro 2020 and the 2022 FIFA world cup in Qatar?
Allan Okello, Mustafa Kizza, and Paul Willa are some of the U23 national team players that played well in the league. Going for COSAFA was a good step for them to gain experience of international football but should have continued to AFCON 2019.
They don’t have to play but be part of the squad to gain tournament experience in 2019.
What will happen at AFCON 2023 when they will be required to lead?
They will be older but will most likely lack tournament experience and the cycle will continue.
What happens when Uganda Cranes might be trailing 3-0 with 5 minutes left to play?
What happens when Uganda Cranes is leading 3-0 with three minutes left to play?
That would be an opportunity for those players to get on the pitch and gain practical experience of AFCON.
Reflection of Society
Football is a reflection of society but can also be used to change the society we live in.
It’s common to find a businessman/woman in Uganda operating a business for 10-20 years with teenage sons/daughters lacking experience of how the business operates because, in our mindset, we expect experience to be like an on/off switch.
We keep searching for experienced people in everything.
FUFA acted on it and it’s now operating on paper. In the recently concluded 2018-19 Uganda Premier League (UPL) season, Uganda Revenue Authority Football Club (URA FC) went through an injury crisis but responded by naming only four out of a possible seven substitutes for most of their matches during that injury crisis yet they had a U-19 squad of 25 players available to fill in.
That’s a clear example of denying young players an opportunity to gain experience of top-flight football.
AFCON 2019 should have been a good opportunity for Allan Okello, Mustafa Kizza, and Paul Willa to gain experience from experienced players ahead of them.
Ugandan football needs to greatly improve on planning if we are to solve most football related problems. In this case, it’s a lack of experience in our players.