(CNN)They were the athletic heroes of a state, the no-hopers that showed up Africa’s footballing establishment and whose success saw them showered with presents from the infamous dictator Idi Amin.
Yet the story of the Uganda team that is last to meet the requirements for the Africa Cup of Nations – the continent’s showpiece tournament that is international – is one that former defenseman Tom Lwanga looks back on with at odds emotions.
Despite upsetting a few of the most powerful teams in the continent to make the 1978 AFCON closing and defying the odds, he is said by Lwanga and his teammates returned home following a controversial loss to host country Ghana into a dull reception.
As the savage Amin regime fell in just an issue of years, at least two of the 1978 team will be dead. As Uganda descended into madness others were made to flee.
From 1971 to 1979, among the very violent dictatorships in history griped Uganda after Amin came to power by means of a military coup. A estimated 500,000 departures and disappearances have been credited to his regime.
“We were the underdogs and that helped us to fight even more difficult to demonstrate a point to the teams,” Lwanga tells CNN as he remembers his encounters of the 1978 AFCON in a telephone interview from Uganda.
“(But) when we came back there was nothing. Just our families in the airport for us.”
A AFCON journey
Lwanga describes the team being handled using a close noble fear after conquering Zambia to win the East and Central Africa Championship in Zanzibar in 1976.
Amin ordered an airplane to carry them back ordering the team so that they could possess a celebration before landing to remain in the atmosphere.
The man dubbed “The Butcher of Uganda” after coordinated an all-expenses-paid shopping visit to Tripoli, Libya, supplying spending money for every player as a compensation, Lwanga says.
For Lwanga, the delight brings memories of his own athletic glory days back. Uganda is a rank outsider in a group including the fancied Egypt, old enemy and Mali Ghana – its opening adversary on Tuesday.
If the present harvest of Ugandan Cranes is trying to find guidance on the best way to topple the big guns in the continent, they could do worse than to look to seasoned hands like Lwanga.
Many of the current stars like Farouk Miya are professionals plying their trade abroad and while the game has moved on, an opportunity few of 1978 team managed to experience,Lwanga considers some easy theories that helped his side could help the existing generation.
“I ‘d tell them which you go and play your game. Do not think about other teams, the names of the teams. We did, because that is what. We did not think about Ghana,” he informs.
“We did not think about Morocco or Tunisia or Congo. We only went there to play and win.
“When you go to play and win, you forget about about Mali or Egypt. You only play your match.”