Express FC head coach Wasswa Bbosa expressed how proud he was of his team’s efforts in the return leg CAF Champions League clash against Al-Merreikh at the Al-Ubayyid Stadium despite elimination.
The Red Eagles carried a 2-1 advantage obtained in the first leg at home (St. Mary’s Stadium, Kitende) but agonizingly fell to a narrow 1-0 away loss to the Sudanese thanks to Ahmed Hamid’s lone goal in the 74th minute.
This ensured that the Wankulukuku outfit bowed out of the tournament at the first preliminary round on the away goal’s rule following a 2-2 aggregate scoreline.
“It is heartbreaking that we find ourselves out of the tournament in such a manner, it is not pleasing at all I must say,” Bbosa told the club media after the game.
“This is a game that was meant to be played on Friday but they played on our minds here and there, from changing dates to changing the venue. All that was quite embarrassing although we professionally accepted it.”
“Even during the match, the general conduct from the referees was clear that something was wrong since Friday, I was not happy with the officiation,” he added.
It should be noted that this encounter was slated for Friday, September 17 at Al-Hilal Stadium, Khartoum but was moved to Sunday at Al-Ubayyid Stadium.
Reports indicate that this came in the aftermath of Al-Merreikh’s dismissed request to use Al-Hilal Stadium, thereby pushing the organizers’ hand to change the venue.
The former SC Villa and Tooro United tactician was also not oblivious to the fact that his charges were short of experience at such a stage but admitted that lessons had been learnt and that they would return a better side.
“I am very happy with my players, they did what they could afford given their level of experience because, for most of these players, the challenge was their first time to play in this competition.”
“Let us build on the experience acquired here, go back home and try to retain the league title so that we return to the champions league next season, I know then we shall do better,” Bbosa noted.
Club captain Enoch Walusimbi also did not disagree with his coach and shared similar sentiments about their lack of experience at such a big stage.
“It was Al-Merriekh’s chance to qualify but we put in a lot of effort and to us, the experience is the most important thing we shall build on that going forward and when we return next time we shall be better off,” Walusimbi said.
Realistically, only Mazamir Mutyaba and Murushid Juuko in the current Red Eagles squad have played at this level of the competition with KCCA FC and Simba SC respectively.
There is however a school of thought that Bbosa’s ineligibility to make the touchline due to lack of qualifications might have been responsible for this demise.
Express FC had earlier sought the services of Simon Peter Kirumira, a ‘CAF A’ licensed coach to sit in on a ceremonial basis.
This should be a lesson to take home for both Express and Bbosa-who is a ‘CAF B’ license, he will be required to consider upgrading in order to match the qualifications set by CAF.
Al-Merreikh progressed to the second preliminary qualification round and will face Zambia’s Zanaco who eliminated Equatorial Guinea’s Akonangui 3-0 on aggregate.
Express FC on the other hand will shift their focus to the semifinals of the Stanbic Uganda Cup where they take on BUL FC. A game which they will approach as favourites given their exposures.