KAMPALA- At least five Ugandan players for the U-20 team (Hippos) were denied a chance to take part in a lifetime showpiece after failing to get their passports in time for the Cecafa U-20 Challenge Cup that kicks off tomorrow.
Goalkeeper Mutwalibu Mugoloofa, sensational midfielder Abdul Karim Watambala, KJT’s Ashraf Zizinga, SC Villa’s Charles Lwanga and towering striker Frank Sebuufu were among the key omissions as the team arrived in Gulu amidst pomp yesterday.
Watambala, who has had two man-of-the-match accolades in as many appearances for Vipers this season was hoping to use the championship to show what he’s got yet his passport could not be ready before the team left.
But now he and others will have to wait for another chance because the final squads have already been submitted to the secretariat.
Mugoloofa was replaced by Patrick Mubiru, who was a late call-up to fill the three mandatory places.
It is unclear why Turkey-based midfielder Thomas Kakaire was left out but impressive displays from Steven Serwadda and Hassan Ssenyonjo, could have forced the decision.
Watambala told Daily Monitor that: “Well, I was really ready for this tournament but sadly I will not be part of the team. I know everyone else who was selected is up to the challenge and I wish them the best of luck. It is not about me but the country.”
The team has been in camp at Njeru Technical Centre since September 11. Yet it remains unclear why the passports took long to be processed.
Express service normally takes a maximum of two working days. But a source indicated that there were many passports being handled at the time including those of the U-17 girls national team.
But head coach Morley Byekwaso is confident his chosen players will deliver. “Everyone was competitive in camp and I think we have the best squad to represent us,” he said. Uganda open their Group A action tomorrow against Eritrea before playing Djibouti on Monday and Sudan on Wednesday. All their games will played in the northern Uganda town of Gulu. Other games will be hosted at Njeru TC in Buikwe District.
CECAFA U-20 CHALLENGE CUP
Dates: September 21 - October 5
Venues: Pece War Memorial Stadium, Gulu
& Fufa Technical Centre, Njeru
Group A: Uganda, Sudan, Eritrea, Djibouti
Group B: Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Zanzibar
Group C: Burundi, S. Sudan, Somalia
TOMORROW, SEPTEMBER 21 AT PECE
South Sudan vs. Djibouti, 2pm
Uganda vs. Eritrea, 4pm
CECAFA U-20 CHALLENGE CUP
CAST OF CHAMPIONS
2010: (Eritrea): Uganda
2006: (Burundi): Uganda
2005: (Zanzibar): Ethiopia
2003: (Zanzibar): Zanzibar
1999: (Kenya): Kenya
*In brackets is edition’s host.