THE CRANES OVER THE YEARS: 14 Local coaches and 8 Foreigners

By Robert Mugagga
The federation of Uganda football association, FUFA recently named the new national football team, the Cranes coach. Mulutin “Micho” Siredojevic from Serbia now becomes the 22nd Cranes tactician since 1968 when Uganda entered serious competitive continental football. However he becomes the eighth foreigner to be given the job.

According to Uganda’s football records, the first ever foreigner to be entrusted with the task of managing the national team was Germany-born Burkhard Pape who managed the national team between 1968-1972. He was credited with building a formidable youth team whose graduates for years fed the senior national team and comprised part of Uganda’s most successful soccer squads of the seventies.

Pape came to Uganda after leaving his job as coach of Sierra leone. The German is rated among the most successful Cranes coaches, having won 41 out of 70 games while in charge of Uganda. Pape who was a former Germany right winger spent nearly 40 years managing National teams in Africa, Asia and the pacific. From Uganda, he next coached Egypt.

After Pape the next foreign coach to be signed by Uganda was also a Germany, Westerhoff Otto who took over from David Otti in 1974 until 1975 when he left before being replaced by Peter Okee. Between 1978-1999 the Cranes team took a long break from expatriates and was managed by a total of 10 local coaches, notable among them being Peter Okee, Bidandi Ssali, Robert Kiberu, Polly Ouma and Paul Hasule.

It was not until 1999 that a third foreigner was recruited. This time it was Nigerian-born Harrison Okagbue. Okagbue’s spell was however short lived and never a bed of roses. He left a disgruntled man in 2001. The Nigerian would go months without pay while his car often lacked fuel, leaving him no choice but to travel by boda bodas. Okagbue was eventually replaced by former SC Villa skipper Paul Hasule.

Next came Argentine Pedro Pasculli in 2003. Speaking only native Spanish and not a word of English, Pasculli coached through an interpreter and this somehow made it difficult for him to effectively control the players . Little wonder that when he left for Christmas holidays back home he disappeared in thin air and never returned. Pasculli’s term is one of the shortest in Uganda’s football history. He was replaced by his assistant, Leo Adraa.

In 2004, the fifth foreigner and second from Africa was named the new coach. The Egyptian Mohammed Abbas came here, thanks to the Uganda-Egyptian co-operation agreement and it was the Egyptian government that was responsible for paying his salary. Abbas managed the Cranes team for two years and his reign will be remembered for among others, once calling a press conference making it clear that a certain Cranes official tried to rape his players while in residential training as the team prepared for the 2006 World Cup qualifier against Cape Verde.

Mohammed Abbas left in 2006 and was replaced by Csaba Laslo. Despite recording some instant success notably in the regional CECAFA tournaments, the latter abandoned the team after only two years ending up joining Hearts FC in the Scottish league. After Csaba, it was Scottish Bobby Williamson turn to take the driving seat. He has been Cranes coach from 2008 until last month when he was fired due to poor results.

Now here comes “Micho” Siredojevic locally known as “Sserunjogi” during the time he coached SC Villa in the Ugandan Super league in the ninties. As to whether Micho will deliver and take the Cranes to the “promised land” -the second Africa Nations cup tournament since 1978, remains to be seen. This and nothing else seems to be FUFA’s number one target.

Meanwhile, FUFA’s decision to sign a foreign Cranes coach has met criticism from some Ugandans who argue that local coaches can perform as good as or even better than foreign coaches if well facilitated and get equal treatment and respect. Well, it could be true, for history has it that some indegenious African coaches have in the recent past been responsible for bringing success to their national teams and proving no match for loud talking expatriates.

Just to mention a few , what Nigerian Super Eagles coach Stephen Keshi achieved early this year in the Nations Cup held in South Africa will ever be remembered. His team beat a number of teams managed by European coaches all the way to the title. Before Keshi, Egyptians Mohammed Al Gohari and Hassan Shehata too did it for Egypt.

And lest we forget, in 1992 there was this little known Ivorian , Yeo Martial who made world headlines when Ivorycoast beat Ghana in the final’s spectacular Nations Cup post match-kicks. Even here at home no one should forget that Uganda’s best football achievement came courtesy of a local coach. In 1978 when the Cranes lost to Ghana In the Nations Cup finals, it was late Peter Okee who was in charge of the team.

Still any doubting Thomas? Actually some of Africa’s memorable soccer successes of the past have been registered by indigenous coaches. For instance, in 1978 in Argentina, Tunisia became the first ever African nation to win a World Cup finals match with a 3-1 spanking of Mexico. This, the Tunisians achieved when son of the soil Chetali Abdel Majid was in the driving seat.

Later in 1982 in Spain, Algeria caused one of the biggest upsets in World Cup history by defeating eventual finalist West Germany 2-1 in the opening group matches. The Algerian team was being coached by local tactician Mahieddine Khalef. Surely gone are the days when Africans coaches were considered nothing but spring chicken.

BURKHARD PAPE – 1969-1972

DAVID OTTI – 1973-1974


PETER OKEE – 1976-1981



GEORGE MUKASA- 1984-1985


ROBERT KIBERU – 1988-1989

POLLY OUMA – 1989-1995


ASUMAN LUBOWA – 1996-1999


PAUL HASULE- 2001-2003


LEO ADRAA- 2003-2004


LASZLO CSABA- 2006-2008



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