Amazing Laki Otandeka & The Crested Cranes
By Arinaitwe Rugyendo
There is talk in football circles that Western Uganda has contributed fewer footballers to the national team than the other regions.
This is true.
I have no idea whether this has to do with limited talent or complete disinterest in the game.
In my entire lifetime, the only football stars I have come across from the region are Geoffrey Bukohore and Andrew Arinaitwe.
I do not know where Andrew Arinaitwe disappeared to, but; I have occasionally met Bukohore walking on the streets. He has no known job, looks clearly frustrated and completely disappointed. This is how far destitute our football stars have been and will continue to be if no clear programme is put in place to help them live beyond the game.
However, those who know these two legends will recall that Bukohore was a thick wall in the Uganda Cranes defence. He carried a cone- shaped forehead on his shoulders that he used to spin aerial balls away from danger. These balls rarely skipped him unless he decided to dodge them. Football maladministration forced him and his colleagues to flee to the USA for ‘studies’ and they never returned until recently when packed his bags and came back home.
Arinaitwe (not your columnist’s relation) was a lethal striker. He had the chest of a lion. He was massive. And he was intimidating. He was a thorn in the opponents’ defences. He would tear them apart. He was terrific. And that was it. I did not hear any other kids from the West that can be rated in the same league as these two and, indeed, the region has not fielded any other kids as terrific as these ones.
Therefore, for a region that has performed dismally in football, only fielding Bushenyi United FC, Mbarara United FC and Rwampara FC in the super League’s history, to field someone in the national team was no mean feat. He must have been awesome.
To prove my point, the region has only gambled with administrators in the top echelons of football, the latest being myself as the first Westerner to head the Uganda Premier League and Justus Mugisha who has crawled with difficulty to become the 1st Vice President of the Federation of Uganda Football Associations (FUFA). Justus is an awesome guy. He likes straight things at FUFA. He will not go far!
But while we were at it, a little known star (in Ugandan circles) was helping the Crested Cranes (the female version of the Uganda Cranes) wallop Zanzibar in a 9-0 thriller in the ongoing CECAFA Women Football Championships being hosted at the FUFA Technical Centre in Njeru Jinja. A 20-year-old Laki Otandeka, netted two goals. I was excited to learn that the US-based striker was from my village in Rwampara, Mbarara District.
The third child of Ambassador Duncan Muhumuza Laki of Uganda’s Mission in New York and Doctor Catherine Muhumuza a pediatrician at Nemours hospital in New Jersey, Laki told journalists she was here to help the Crested Cranes work as a team and eventually take the trophy.
Indeed, the Otandeka-inspired Crested Cranes needed to defeat Burundi on Thursday to stand any chance of advancing to the semifinals.
A Fazila Ikwaput goal from Teso in the 42nd minute did the magic. Uganda had performed poorly on Sunday, suffering humiliating defeat from the Kenyans. They now have hope they might make it to the finals.
But Laki had kept inspiring her team to fight on like lionesses.
I suspect she picks this audacity of hope from her grand father, Mzee Laki, who was assassinated in the 1970s for collaborating with President Yoweri Museveni’s FRONASA guerillas.
I think the region now has something to offer after Bukohore and Andrew Arinaitwe. It must wake up. After all, this is Football Made in Uganda!
The Writer is the Chairman of the Uganda Premier League
He can be reached on 0752 466 778 & Email: [email protected]