Inside Silverbacks' miserable journey to Angola

Some Silverbacks jerseys had to be numbered with a marker (COURTESY IMAGE)

BASKETBALL Inside Silverbacks' miserable journey to Angola

Ndyamuhaki J Emanzi 09:51 - 26.02.2023

With games being televised, Fiba could not afford to have that and chipped in to help the team travel by providing air tickets.

The time is 11pm on Thursday and the national men’s basketball team, Silverbacks is still in Uganda. They have a game against Angola the next day at 9pm in Luanda, and two more games to come, against Corte d’Ivoire and Guinea.

Eventually, the team leaves Entebbe Airport at 2am via Addis Ababa and arrives in Luanda Friday morning, some hours to tip off of their first game.

The difference between the two sides, basketball-wise, is like night and day. Even at full strength, it is a stretch to expect the Silverbacks to beat the 11-time African champions.

But they have come close before, in 2017 when Angola needed overtime to edge George Galanopolous’ side 94-89.

The most recent meeting had come in these very qualifiers and Angola won that one 84-62 last August.

This time round, it was a pummeling as Uganda lost by 33 points (82-49) to start the last phase of the qualifiers.

No money, again

By Thursday evening, Fuba and the National Teams’ committee had conceded they could not afford to make the trip Angola after failing to secure funding from National Council of Sports.

Fuba President Nasser Sserunjogi wrote to Fiba informing them Uganda would not be able to make the trip due to financial challenges.

The letter sent from Fuba to Fiba and seen by Pulse Sports read: “This is to inform you that Team Uganda National men’s team the Silverbacks will not make it to Angola for the final round of the World Cup qualifiers as we have failed to secure funds from our government. We apologise for the inconvenience caused to you.”

With games being televised, Fiba could not afford to have that and chipped in to help the team travel by providing air tickets.

That was one problem solved. But of the 10 locally based players, who were on standby to travel, one had to be dropped to accommodate a team doctor.

The contingent of 12 left for Angola with just nine players, a coach, physio and team doctor.

The federation, according to Sserunjogi, also did not have any money for accommodation or players’ allowances.

Pleading with the Angolan federation president was the next thing and the team secured accommodation on credit. Allowances? Maybe those can wait too.

Jersey mix up

Because this was one of the most disorganized trips for the Silverbacks, Fuba handed over jerseys to the contingent just as the team was leaving and checks were not done.

Upon arrival in Luanda, it was discovered that some jerseys were not numbered. The quickest remedy was for the team physio Ram Nyakana to get a marker and number them. That is not taught in school if you are a physio but desperate times call for desperate measures.

That was for the white jersey and the team played with no challenges, apart from the battering on court, where an Angola side with eyes on a World Cup ticket, totally dominated proceedings.

The problem came in the second game, and Uganda took long to step onto the floor for the warm ups.

When the team eventually emerged, everyone was in a full kit but three players were donning different numbers from what they had the previous night.

Team captain Jimmy Enabu was wearing number 7 and not his iconic number 5. Fayed Baale had number 2 and not the number 3 he donned against Angola while Rogers Dauna, who had number 8 in the first game now had number 12.

Problems. The three could not play because of the mix up. The red jersey did not have numbers 3, 5 and 8.

And Fiba rules do not allow changing numbers midway through a tournament so the trio watched from the bench as Uganda fell 89-44.

You could tell from the body language of the players and officials that all is not well in camp. It is a trip to forget and one from which Uganda should pick lessons.

That the team did not have any single training session before the tournament, arrived a few hours to tip off of the first game with no single coin from government is disastrous.

Uganda's miserable trip will come to an end after the clash with Guinea on Sunday.