KAMPALA- Uganda’s youngest women’s football team is tasked with changing the country’s fortunes against rivals Tanzania.
The sides lock horns today at StarTimes Stadium - Lugogo in the second leg of the first round Fifa Women U-17 World Cup qualifiers with Uganda needing a 1-0 win or to win by a two-goal margin if they can’t keep Tanzania from scoring.
Tanzania have a 2-1 advantage gained from home a fortnight ago to protect. Beyond that, maybe even a legacy as Uganda have never defeated their national teams at any level of women’s football.
At the Cecafa Senior Women’s Cup, Crested Cranes has thrice succumbed to the Twiga Stars; 4-1 defeats in the 2016 and 2018 editions plus a 1-0 loss last year.
Last month, Tanzania ousted Uganda from the U-20 World Cup qualifiers with a 4-2 aggregate score.
The U-17, who managed a 1-1 draw against today’s opponents en route to winning the Cecafa U-17 tourney last December, know one thing - fortune favours the bold.
It is what their coach Ayub Khalifan has taught them up until now. His expansive type of football has been supported with role changes for some players.
Fullbacks Samalie Nakacwa and Sumaya Komuntale used to be midfielders. Defenders Stella Musibika and Bira Nadunga received their football education as strikers.
Recent injuries to Musibika and Kevin Nakacwa have seen leftback Grace Aluka and right winger Catherine Nagadya trusted as centre back and midfielder respectively.
“At this age, players should be taught to be comfortable in any position and give their all for the team,” Khalifan told SCORE.
It is clear Khalifan wants to win through team spirit.
The Fufa president has even pledged $200 (Shs750,000) to each player if they advance while Fufa has scrapped entry fees to have a bigger crowd rallying the girls.
Yet questions linger on how much this qualification really matters in the grand scheme of things.
Some of the key players will be sitting their Advanced Level of education examinations at the time of tournament in November.
Bar Nadunga and her Olila High School teammate Gillian Akadinda, who kept in school before the first leg, the girls have already missed weeks of the first school term as they have spent a combined one month in camp. Progress means that period will be lengthened ahead of the final qualification rounds.
While the girls continue to pick between school and football, the country is in desperate mood to end the Tanzania hoodoo.
UGANDA’S PROBABLE STARTING XI: Daphine Nyayenga; Samalie Nakacwa, Sumaya Komuntale, Bira Nadunga, Grace Aluka; Catherine Nagadya, Shamirah Nalujja; Margaret Kunihira, Hadijah Nandago, Fauziah Najjemba; Juliet Nalukenge
FIFA WOMEN U-17 WORLD CUP QUALIFIER
Today at Startimes Stadium, Lugogo
FIRST ROUND - SECOND LEG
Uganda vs. Tanzania, 4pm
Tanzania lead 2-1