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Denzel Musumba

Denzel Musumba


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The goalless 2012 Nations Cup qualifier at Nyayo National Stadium at the weekend had Kenya’s Harambee Stars fans overwhelm the 30,000-seater stadium; but it’s the Ugandans’ spirit of oneness, the spirit of belonging and most of all, the love for their Cranes that left Kenyans in admiration. “We really love our team,” said Dennis Mabuka, a Kenyan journalist, a Ugandan flag proudly draped around shoulders. Mabuka was apparently tired of the “rot” in the two warring football managers — Football Kenya Limited and the Kenya Football Federation — whose wars, according to him, are responsible for Harambee Stars’ sharp decline, and the reason he supported the Cranes in this particular match. This writer, who was in the country for the mouth-watering encounter (or was it?) as early as Thursday morning, was somewhat taken aback by the apathy showed by the hosts’ fans. You can call it total resignation. “You mean there is a match?” a Jomo Kenyatta Airport cab driver, George Kimani in his mid-thirties, answered in surprise when asked his prediction. Whilst accepting the patriotism burden, most scribes the Nation talked to had rather Harambee Stars fail to make the Nations Cup for the second time in just eight years. “I even don’t want us to qualify, because we shall only be cheating ourselves. We are not good enough,” said a journalist who requested anonymity given the sensitivity of his words. It was in sharp contrast to the mood back in Kampala. Hordes of Ugandan fans had left Kampala for Nairobi for the clash as Uganda sought to end a 34-year absence from the continental showpiece. “Are we in Kampala? The Wagandas have really invaded us. They love their team,” said a Harambee Stars fan. All of 648 kilometres on archetypal patchy East African roads is not a fun ride, but the over 6,000 Cranes fans at the Nyayo Stadium to cheer the boys to a very precious point enjoyed it. And that excludes those that flew.