As many, at full-time cursed in disappointment and frustration at how the Uganda Cranes surrendered a goal lead to draw 1-1 with Niger on Wednesday, in the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers, another bunch had already endured worse before kickoff.
The moments to the lead for the St Mary’s Stadium bout had everything in terms of disorganization, delays, unprofessional conduct, recklessness, verbal and physical assaults, and yes, that trademark chaos.
A number of the Cranes diehards made their way to Kitende in the early morning hours but, they were not allowed past the gates till about an hour and a half to kickoff – frustration and disappointment had kicked in by this time.
In the lead to the game, days before, the local football governing body, FUFA had made it public knowledge that the tickets would be sold both at the FUFA House in Mengo and at the Stadium premises, on game day.
By 2:10 pm, the tickets had not arrived and by this time, tempers had reached boiling point, while flares had shot to the peak, among the patient Cranes fans.
“A few years back, Cranes matches had promoters scramble for rights and we never saw this kind of madness. At this time, many of us would be in the stands,” said a disgruntled fan clad in the red Cranes jersey.
At long last, the tickets arrived, albeit, in over an hour to kickoff. But if this was supposed to cause excitement, it instead brewed more anger and frustration.
Eventually a lady came with the tickets in her hands, and moved towards the waiting crowd with no security escort! And you guessed right, she nearly got bangled down, but for a few Samaritans.
Worse still, she trekked with them (tickets and the crowd) to an abandoned ramshackle and tattered room just so she could start making the sales. Who sanctioned this? Your guess is as good as mine.
Verbal and physical fights ensued among the scrambling fans as each craved to support the team, by parting with their hard-earned UGX 10,000. Security came in but, nothing helped to restore calm.
A few ‘entrepreneurs’ who purchased more than one ticket from the ‘shop’ began off with making 100% profits on their sales. 20,000 in exchange for a ticket,” they traded.
Moments later, a vehicle raced in, packed in the space outside the stadium, and called in, “abalala mujje eno mukole line,” (loosely translated as the rest should come and queue here).
Two shops; one in a ragged threadbare room, another in a Toyota Wish. What happened to the organization? What happened to professionalism?
The crowd who had secured their tickets from the said shops then got engaged in more scrambles – this time at the entrance (small gate from Kitende).
Access there was only for the strongest, the select few with the hardest limbs. It was a real battle that also had a fan engage in a physical exchange with an FFU Police officer.
Sadly, the gate could no longer be the only entrance option, as, at this time, the highly anticipated match had started, yet the crowd had tripled. Thousands jumped over the fence and yes, the recklessness of the match organizers was utterly exposed.
The VIP ticket holders, most of whom had bought their tickets before the game, were not spared. They were as well involved in the blood and sweat attempt to watch the game.
Whilst FUFA had announced 15,000 fans would be allowed in the famous stadium, the numbers were way beyond that, and now risk punishment from the Confederation of African Football (CAF).
And, oh yes, Milton Karisa scored the home side’s only goal as Amadou Sabo equalized for the guests in the second half.