KAMPALA- Johnny McKinstry, his assistant Abdallah Mubiru and their support staff had finished laying cones and other training aids when the players walked out of the Lugogo dressing room in a file, each shaking the coaching team’s hand before forming a circle of devotedness.
A few years older than a number of these Cranes players at 34, the Northern Irishman – respectful yet firm, imposing yet relaxed – gave them his first major pre-training address at home ahead of Uganda’s kick-off of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualification. “Our approach,” he started, “Will be the same. It doesn’t matter whether home based or foreign based players. We are all one and the same.
“And whether it is Chan, Afcon or World Cup, our approach, our style of play will be the same. Maybe one day or two before the game, we can make some small tweaks here and there… Whether against Burkina Faso away, Malawi at home or Cecafa in December, our style is the same.”
In his first interview after his appointment early last month, he told this newspaper he prefers Jürgen Klopp and Sir Alex Ferguson’s way of first break attack ahead of Pep Guardiola’s tiki taka, but added he was not about to religiously bury himself in one system. “We shall make small adjustments here and there depending on the opponent, but we want to keep our style of play.”
McKinstry, the group still holding each other’s shoulders, continued: “Every time we are together like this, it’s the most important day of our life. “Whether it’s a regional tour or training, 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.
“No dream players; just committed players to give me the best team combination. And this is your time to show me that ‘hey, I can be part of that best team.” Skipper Denis Onyango, defender Timothy Awany, forward Farouk Miya and striker Patrick Kaddu were yet to arrive by yesterday, but experienced stars Hassan Wasswa, Khalid Aucho and Emmanuel Okwi among others joined home based players for the drills.
The team will play a friendly against a local Katakwi side tomorrow before they fly to Ouagadougou for their 2021 Afcon qualifying opener against hosts Burkina Faso.
Cranes for Regional Tour game:
Charles Lukwago (KCCA) and James Alitho (URA) Others; Paul Willa (Vipers), Halid Lwalilwa (Vipers), Mustafa Kizza (KCCA), Revita John (KCCA), Kato Samuel (KCCA), Paul Mbowa (URA), Nicolas Kasozi (KCCA), Shafiq Kagimu (URA), Hassan Senyonjo (Wakiso Giants), Muzamiru Mutyaba (KCCA), Allan Okello (KCCA), Bright Anukani (Proline), Joachim Ojera (URA), Vianne Sekajugo (Wakiso Giants), Allan Kayiwa (Vipers), Joel Madondo (Busoga Utd), Fahad Bayo (Vipers) Ashraf Mandela (URA) and Edrisa Lubega (Proline FC)
Cranes for 2021 Afcon qualifiers
Goalkeepers: Dennis Onyango (Mamelodi Sundowns, South Africa), Robert Odongkara (Horoya AC, Guinea), Charles Lukwago (KCCA, Uganda) Defenders: Ronald Mukiibi (Ostersunds FK, Sweden), Nico Wakiro Wadada (Azam, Tanzania), Bevis Mugabi (Motherwell, Scotland), Murushid Jjuuko (Wydad Casablanca, Morocco), Timothy Denis Awany (Sport Club Ironi Ashdod, Israel), Hassan Wasswa Mawanda (Jeddah, Saudi Arabia), Halid Lwaliwa (Vipers, Uganda), Isaac Muleme (Viktoria Zizkov, Czech Republic), Joseph Ochaya (TP Mazembe, Democratic Republic of Congo) Midfielders: Michael Azira (Chicago Fire, USA), Khalid Aucho (Misr Lel Makasa, Egypt), Tadeo Lwanga (Tanta, Egypt), Nicholas Kasozi (KCCA, Uganda), Allan Okello (KCCA, Uganda), Allan Kyambadde (El Gouna, Egypt) Forwards: Emmanuel Arnold Okwi (Ittihad Alexandria, Egypt), Patrick Henry Kaddu (RS Berkane, Morocco), Alexis Bbakka (Carlstad United BK, Sweden), Fahad Bayo (Vipers, Uganda), Farouk Miya (Konyaspor, Turkey), Abdu Lumala (Pyramids, Egypt), William Kizito Luwagga (Shakhter Karagandy, Kazahstan).
AFRICA CUP OF NATIONS
Cameroon 2021 Qualifiers
November 13, Ouagadougou
Burkina Faso vs. Uganda, 10pm
November 17, Namboole
Uganda vs. Malawi, 4pm
Entry Fees: Shs20,000 (ordinary), Shs50,000
(VIP) and Shs120,00 (VVIP)
Cranes Namutima Tour, Katakwi