Loyal ‘Mi­cho’ still out to make Uganda proud

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - NJAB­ULO NGIDI

MI­LUTIN SRE­DO­JE­VIC used al­most ev­ery word he knew in the English lan­guage to prove his loy­alty to Uganda.

But he still didn’t say much about his fu­ture amid spec­u­la­tions that he could leave the post af­ter this Africa Cup of Na­tions. Be­fore this tour­na­ment it looked like Sre­do­je­vic’s de­par­ture would be his de­ci­sion as he was linked to the Bafana Bafana, Or­lando Pi­rates and even Ghana coach­ing jobs af­ter he helped the Cranes qual­ify for the Af­con for the first time in 39 years.

But af­ter the Cranes crashed out of the group stage in Gabon with a game to spare, there were sud­denly talks about how his man­date was to reach the last eight.

De­spite those talks, the play­ers and even the Fed­er­a­tion of Uganda Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tions, have gone on the record to say that they would wel­come the Ser­bian stay­ing on.

“I have a con­tract with Uganda un­til (next year),” Sre­do­je­vic,

pic­tured, said. “I am fully com­mit­ted, ded­i­cated, loyal and I have been giv­ing 200 per­cent to this team. I can’t speak much about my fu­ture now. I still have the bit­ter taste of be­ing dis­ap­pointed that we got knocked out. “Uganda doesn’t de­serve to be out, es­pe­cially in this fash­ion. If some­one beats you con­vinc­ingly, you put up yours hands, ad­mit de­feat and keep quiet. But los­ing be­cause of one lapse of con­cen­tra­tion (against both Ghana and Egypt), it is very painful. “This is the school fees we need to pay to be among the best in Africa.”

If “Mi­cho” stays, his big­gest drive will be to take the Cranes to the World Cup for the first time in the coun­try’s his­tory.

He has al­ready made his­tory by end­ing an al­most 40-year ab­sence in the Af­con. Their par­tic­i­pa­tion in this tour­na­ment would have pre­pared them well for this year’s World Cup qual­i­fiers.

The Cranes are in Africa World Cup 2018 qual­i­fier Group E, along­side Ghana, Egypt and Congo-Braz­zav­ille. They cur­rently sit in sec­ond place with four points, two points be­hind Egypt and three points ahead of the Black Stars, but will have to fin­ish on top of the group to qual­ify for Rus­sia.

“We have shown that we have what it takes to qual­ify for the World Cup,” Sre­do­je­vic in­sisted.

“You must keep in mind that in the three games that we have to play against Egypt and Ghana, two of them are in Kampala. I can tell you that we aren’t pushovers there.

“We have high am­bi­tions. We can hold our own against any team in the con­ti­nent. We man­aged to hold Ghana and Egypt for long mo­ments. Our next step of de­vel­op­ment will be to play for the en­tire 90 min­utes so that we can make our sup­port­ers happy.”

Uganda left Port-Gen­til for Oyem to face Mali there in their last Group D match to­mor­row night.

The Ea­gles still stand a chance of mak­ing it to the quar­ter-fi­nals.

The Cranes held their own against teams that have won this com­pe­ti­tion a com­bined 11 times. It took a last minute goal from Ab­dal­lah El-Said to knock Uganda out of the tour­na­ment af­ter they had held seven-time African cham­pi­ons, Egypt, for 89 min­utes.

A mis­take by Isaac Isinde cost Uganda in their 1-0 loss to Ghana.

“We are a very proud team,” Sre­do­je­vic con­tin­ued. “Ev­ery match we have played here has felt like we’re in the (Af­con) fi­nal. We want a win (against Mali), noth­ing else. I can as­sure our sup­port­ers and ev­ery­one that we will go into that match with the aim of get­ting some­thing, so that we can go home with some­thing to be proud of.”

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