Local based stars make Cranes case

Monday November 11 2019

Playing catch up. Emmanuel Opolot (L) of North

Playing catch up. Emmanuel Opolot (L) of North East select chases Joachim Ojera of Uganda Cranes during their friendly match in the Uganda Cranes Namutima regional tour at Katakwi High School play ground. PHOTO BY ISMAIL KEZAALA  

By ANDREW MWANGUHYA

That the Cranes are still in the country 48 hours before their opening away continental qualifier - in part - shows how far things have improved the national team.
The country that once donned an Inter Milan set of jerseys on an international engagement will majestically arrive in Ouagadougou aboard a chartered Uganda Airlines flight tomorrow.
Uganda will then train and on Wednesday take on the hosts, Burkina Faso, in Group B’s opener on the road to the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers.
Mentally, at least, they will be up there knowing that immediately after that one, the black, yellow and red embroidery of a bird will be waiting to fly them home in time for Sunday’s first home qualifier against Malawi.
The battle to be on that plane, meanwhile, raged on at the weekend for local based players.
No foreign based player featured in the 4-0 demolition of a North East Select side in Katakwi on Sunday in the Cranes Namutima Tour bankrolled by Nile Breweries and Airtel.

Cranes coach Johnny McKinstry, preparing for his first competitive assignment since his appointment early last month, had told his players of his expectations.
“Whether it’s a regional tour or training,” he told them mid-last week, “I want the same commitment.
“I have told this to Fufa, to the media, and to you, that the national team is not about the best player, it’s about the players for the best team.”
And when the Irishman gave them a chance, the home based players grabbed it; Mustafa Kizza, Fahad Bayo, Joackim Ojeera and second half substitute Hassan Ssenyonjo scoring.
There was also a good shift at the back, from goalkeeper Charles Lukwago, captain Halid Lwaliwa, Paul Willa and John Revita.
Nicholas Kasozi, Shafiq Kagimu, Bright Anukani and Allan Kayiwa among others also pushed their case in the middle.
Of course a game against a collection of players excited enough to face the national team is hardly a yardstick to pick your best, but it certainly can pass for character search.
Not all of them will make it to that plane tomorrow, but a handful that are deemed to have given 100 per cent to McKinstry will fly Uganda Airlines.
Hassan Wasswa, one of the foreign based players, expects tough reception in Ouagadougou but is backing his team to prevail.
“We have to give our best there so that we can take care of business at Namboole,” he said, “It’s those points away that make you qualify.”
Maximum points in Ouagadougou would be a first for the Cranes.
Uganda were in the same group with Burkina Faso when the country ended a four-decade absence ahead of the 2017 Afcon finals in Gabon.
The Cranes lost 1-0 in Ouagadougou and drew goalless in Kampala but managed to qualify as one of the best runners up from a group that included Comoros and Botswana.

TOTAL AFCON 2021 QUALIFIERS

GROUP B: Uganda, Burkina Faso, Malawi, South Sudan
Wednesday, November 13
Burkina Faso vs Uganda Cranes – Ouagadougou
Sunday, November 17
Uganda Cranes vs Malawi Flames – Namboole
Tickets: Shs20,000 (Ordinary),
Shs50,000 (VIP) & Shs120,000 (VVIP)
Cranes Namutima Tour result
North East Select 0-4 Uganda Cranes

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