Back last June Rio went to Uganda (skipping all those summer weddings to do it!) - that story's here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2007/aug/12/sport.obsmagspecial4 Last month some of the Ugandan players came over to the UK for a tour including a visit to Carrington. Uganda: Proline Academy Trip Leaves Indelible Mark The Monitor (Kampala) 17 May 2008 Posted to the web 16 May 2008 Mark Namanya London The cold in Portsmouth was unbearable. The players were freezing, their hands feeling paralysed. Midfielder Mohammed Ali Feni left the pitch early, dizzy and short of power to brave the conditions. Striker Patrick Edema departed almost simultaeneoulsy, having aggravated a troublesome ankle. West Ham defender Anton Ferdinand, an English footballer who would naturally be expected to adjust comfortably, was standing with a shiver, hands firmly kept in his jacket. But Proline had a mission to execute. The plan was not merely based around execution; it required execution of the highest managable mark. Suddenly, it dawned on the team that succeeding to play at any level in England necessitates that one must acclimatise to the challenging weather conditions. Portsmouth was proving worse than Manchester where Proline had been three days before, the northern town having been earmarked as the coldest because of its perennial rains. Ironically Proline's visit coincided with Manchester's highest temperature of the year. At the Wellington Sports Ground, Proline's match with Portsmouth blatantly exposed the apparent potential of Ugandan football. The Ugandan boys secured a 2-0 triumph, whose basis was owed to grit rather than expression. Not that Proline lacked spells of expression - they enjoyed territorial dominace - here, but they had to contend with the weather and a very organised Portsmouth defence. "They got used after the opening quarter of the match. Before that, they were acclimatising to the conditions like they had done in Millwall," Proline director Mujib Kasule said. When the final whistle was blown, the goal keeper Johnson Luyiga had scarcely been troubled. At the other end, brave headers by Ronnie Kisekka and Robert Wurube maintained the team's run of clean sheets in England, a streak that was halted three days later by London Cranes. Competent "These boys are technically competent. They seem to internalise things faster than our players. I think they are superb," Portsmouth Academy chief Paul Hart said. Hart reports to manager Harry Redknapp. Hart explained that the pitch on which the match was played is detested by their side yet Proline were unfazed by the ground. "I wondered why their team complains about that playing surface," pondered Kasule. "It is better than any pitch we have played on back home, Namboole included." Kasule and coach Baker Mbowa run their voices hoarse throughout the match, urging their team forward as desperation crept in. If Portsmouth proved to be the toughest encounter (it came two days after a straightforward 3-0 mauling of Aspire FC), the trip to Manchester on April 26 was the most educative and productive. Going to Old Trafford stadium and the famous museum (Man United's 2-1 loss to Chelsea was watched in the Red Cafe in the stadium) was certainly a highlight but the visit to the Â£25m Carrington Complex achieved incomparable results. Opened in 2000, Carrington is Manchester United's ultra magnificent training ground built with over a dozen pitches and a state of the art gym. The public is not allowed access and a visit is only sanctioned by the club. With the club preferring to assess the boys through a training session on astroturf, Academy coach John Shields took the team through a series of sessions to test their capacity to understand basic passing skills, awareness and mobility. Shields was instantly won over and will travel to Uganda in September in the company of technical skills coach Rene Meulensteen. "They are one or two things that can be polished. But the boys do have the capability," Shields told Saturday Monitor. Rio joins team Rio Ferdinand, who launched Proline when he visited Kampala in mid June last year, arrived at the Premier Travel Inn where Proline was staying shortly after he flew back with the rest of the Manchester United team from London. "How are the boys doing?" a jaded Ferdinand asked his father Julian and Kasule. Manchester United's preparations for the return Champions Leg match against Barcelona put paid to Ferdinand's hopes of travelling to Portsmouth but he expressed his delight at the team's 2-0 midweek win over Millwall. On Sunday morning, Ferdinand invited Proline to Carrington. While there, they watched all players who did not start the match at Chelsea go through their paces. Paul Scholes, Park Ji-Sung Gary Neville, Cristiano Ronaldo, Carlos Tevez, Patrice Evra and Gerrard Pique participated in practice under the close supervision of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Meulensteen. Carlos Queiroz soon arrived before the last and most important man, Sir Alex Ferguson. The Manchester United manager made his way to the front of the parking lot where Proline was watching United's senior team train. And in an instant, Shields was standing humbled together with the rest of the boys as Fergie shook everyone's hands. The players were evidently star-struck and satisfactorily dazed. "So you are the team from Uganda!? Enjoy your tour and feel free," Ferguson said. Told that the team was scheduled to play a series of matches many in London, Ferguson, after losing to Chelsea the day before, enthused with humour, "But you must be careful with London sides, they act funny. Dont trust them." Ferdinand then arrived to watch the United training session - he was exempted because he started the Chelsea match - and, like Shields, answered all kinds of questions from Proline players. After the senior team's training session concluded, United's star players including Cristiano Ronaldo met the players and took a series of pictures with Proline. Ferdinand gave the boys a tour of the gym, the treatment section, the manager's press conference room and MUTV studio. Proline may not produce the next Manchester United super star. But having seen what transpires at the top, and beaten resilient teams like Millwall and Portsmouth without conceding a goal, Uganda's potential to produce professional footballers is not a far fetched dream. The only goals conceded were to a physical London Cranes side of Ugandans in a 2-2 draw, further accentuating the capability of the country's talent. "The major difference between their structures and ours in Uganda is how we look after our players after the 16th or 17th birthday. We get it completely wrong and they get it right," Kasule argues. Challenges Next month, Anton visits the Academy. And in September, Man United coaches will be in town. And after landing a Shs1b sponsorhip deal wih Nike and on the brink of securing land promised by President Yoweri Museveni last year, Proline's future looks bright. But that is not to forget the stiffer challenges of nurturing players at various age groups, keeping them focussed and the financial cost of mainatianing an expensive venture. Kasule is aware that when he started the project two years ago, he had not expected to make such strides in a short time. It is that belief in hope that keeps him inspired and motivated. And so far, he can take comfort in the fact that he is on the right track. Just thought it'd make a change from the CL build-up stuff!