What you need to know:
- Incidentally, Kenya had nothing to lose after the humiliation suffered at the hands of Mali in their previous rounds of the campaign. Uganda, on the other hand, were still very much in the race for a place in the play-offs, trailing leaders Mali by just two points.
In the midst of the ruckus that greeted the disbandment of Football Kenya Federation (FKF) last week, it may have been lost to some fans that that very day Harambee Stars were in Kampala to lock horns with Uganda Cranes in the penultimate round of the 2022 Fifa World Cup qualifiers group stage.
Incidentally, Kenya had nothing to lose after the humiliation suffered at the hands of Mali in their previous rounds of the campaign. Uganda, on the other hand, were still very much in the race for a place in the play-offs, trailing leaders Mali by just two points.
But at the final whistle, the Michael Olunga-led team replicated what Dennis Oliech and his teammates did exactly 10 years ago by ensuring the Cranes didn't take flight to a place where the Stars couldn't reach.
Without a doubt that epic showdown of October 8, 2011 at a chock-a-bloc Namboole Stadium remains to be the more memorable of the two encounters, and for various reasons, most notably because of the quality of squads and the punch that each of the two protagonists packed back then.
The match is also remembered for that famous “I’m not Father Christmas” post-match remark by then Harambee Stars head Zedekiah “Zico” Otieno.
That was after Stars broke the heart of an entire nation by frustrating the Cranes to a goalless draw that denied Uganda their first appearance at the Africa Cup of Nations after 33 long years.
Uganda needed an outright win over Kenya to end the long wait, but the draw worked against them as Angola punched their tickets to the biennial event courtesy of an away victory over Guinea Bissau.
On that occasion, I did a 12-hour road trip from Nairobi to Kampala on the night bus to cover the match.
The convivial mood that greeted me on arrival in Kampala that Saturday morning would be in stark contrast to the gloom that descended on the city later that evening.
But the noisy band of travelling Kenyan fans cared less about their heartbroken neighbours.
After spoiling Uganda’s party, Kenyan fans poured out into the streets of Kampala and partied till the wee hours of the morning.
In contrast, on what was the eve of the country’s 49th Independence Day celebrations, Kampala turned into a ghost city as a distraught nation came to terms with the Cranes’ failure of massive proportions.
The gloom in Kampala extended to the next morning. The Sunday newspapers in Uganda were awash with images of dejected Cranes players at the end of the match.
“Cranes still a long way from Uhuru” Sunday Monitor lamented in their banner headline. Below that headline was a picture of an utterly crestfallen left back Nestroy Kizito crouched with his face buried in his hands.
“The Saturday fixture, on the eve of Uganda’s 49th Independence anniversary ended with a mixture of humiliation and controversy as they were held to a goalless draw by the Kenyan side,” Andrew Mwanguhya wrote on his page three column.
The story was aptly titled “Cranes Inquest: What went wrong?”
“Oh no!” screamed Sunday Vision on their back page splash.
The paper blamed the team’s failure on the expulsion of controversial striker David Obua from the Cranes’ camp on the eve of the match.
And while Ugandans grieved, Cranes’ Scottish coach Bobby Williamson – who would in later years coach Harambee Stars – apologised to the nation.
“I am devastated most especially for the players who gave their all throughout the campaign,” said Williamson.
That was back then. Last week, when Harambee Stars yet again spoiled the Ugandan party, no tears were visibly shed, no quirky remarks were made by the coaches and certainly no juicy stories appeared on the papers.
Times have truly changed.