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CAF CC: Proline FC, victims of their own downfall or was it a step too high for them?

Proline FC players having a team talk before their game against Al-Nasr, Benghazi | Proline FC media

It has been a fun-filled and tremendous six month for Proline FC. They ended last season on a high, winning their first ever double in history, after winning the Uganda Cup and the FUFA Big League.

Ultimately gaining a place amongst just three clubs to have won a double after SC Villa, Express and KCCA previously though the latter three earned it by winning the Uganda Premier League trophy.

Proline’s success did not end there as they managed to hold their own on the continent. Coming within reach of making it to the group stages of the CAF Confederations Cup, before they fell at the play-off round to Libyan side AL-Nasr 4-2 on aggregate.

Proline held the advantage heading into the second leg, after picking up a 2-2 victory in the first leg in Alexandria. But two goals in either half sent them crashing out of the tournament.

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The manner in which Proline fell at the ninth hour, on the cusps of history left many sympathizers agitated. But were they masters of their own downfall or had they overachieved?

The numbers suggest that perhaps Proline knew what their ultimate objective was, out of the six games played in the qualification rounds, Proline won two, drew twice and lost just once.

However, the loss came at the least opportune moment with qualification imminent. The fact that they headed into the second leg with the advantage over Al-Nasr, it could have allowed room for complacency to creep in.

You could not fail to sense the excitement within their camp when they picked up an unfancied 2-2 draw away from home.

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And it is at that moment that they perhaps allowed a deep in their concentration levels. On matchday, they lacked the urgency and zeal exhibited against Masters Security and AS Kigali.

The mentality of the players was not helped by the calls for ‘success at all costs’ from the club’s top management.

Confederations cup group stages come with huge bonuses that can go up to the tune of UGX1B and profitability is vital if a club is to stay aloft.

The club’s overall vision rotates around developing and nurturing talent, while competing at the top level. So the opportunity to rub shoulders with the best on the continent presented a massive window for the club.

Football games are equally won by the decisions made by the man at the touchline. Not to say that head coach Matia Lule carries the blame for his team’s failure, but the approach he executed on the day left a lot to be desired.

Playing at home presented Proline with the absolute chance of progress, but Lule rolled out a defensive approach, in an attempt to hold onto their advantage.

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His choice of starting four holding midfielders Joseph Mandela, Sam Kintu, Arnold Sserunjogi and Ibrahim Wammanah, limited his team going forward. On top of that, he named a back four of predominantly center backs.

This means that eight players provided so little going forward, which allowed their opponents to draw numbers forward. A quick goal did not help matters as it piled more pressure on Proline.

In a nutshell, Proline should take heart in the kind of performance they put up on the continent. They don’t get into the money bracket, but they leave with their heads high, coupled with loads of experience and exposure gained both by the club as a brand and by the players.

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