McKinstry hopeful as action resumes

Sunday June 07 2020
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Keeping in Touch. Cranes coach Mckinstry wants his team to be ready for international action whenever Fifa, Caf and the respective governments give a greenlight for international soccer resumption. PHOTO/EDDIE CHICCO

Even for a man caught up in an Ebola-hit Sierra Leone in 2014, whose national team he was coaching then, Johnny McKinstry agrees Coronavirus hits differently. The Coronavirus world pandemic that started in Wuhan, China, has infected 6.4m people worldwide, with close to 0.4m dead; and has halted most economic activities globally.
McKinstry, who was appointed Uganda Cranes coach last September, has also seen his first year in charge rudely interrupted, with his would-have been first continental tournament – Chan – suspended in Cameroon and a 2021 round of Afcon qualifiers in March halted.

“I do not think anyone has experienced this (Coronavirus) situation (before) in the entire world,” said McKinstry, “It (Ebola epidemic) posed very unique challenges and some of which are quite similar.”

Still awaiting guidance
“Obviously, everyone is waiting for guidance from Fifa and Caf in terms of how we are going to proceed,” added the 34-year-old Northern Irishman, who was speaking to Fufa website.
“We have international windows in September, October and November and hopefully the Africa Cup of Nations tournament in January 2021. I know there are lots of discussions going on if we shall go on or postponed.
“At the moment, if we can start to play in September. We have four games in that window. But nobody knows how this pandemic is going to unfold.
“Progress is being monitored not only here in Uganda but across the African continent because if one of our opponents is still struggling with the pandemic, then we cannot play. We are patiently waiting.

Football is back!
And the resumption of some European leagues has McKinstry’s optimism levels raised. “For example, Luwagga Kizito (Hapoel Kfar Saba, Israel) and Timothy Denis Awany (F.C. Ashdod, Israel) played last weekend, as well as Robert Kakeeto (AaB, Denmark), who played the full 90 minutes.
“We are starting to have our players get back to the field of play. In the coming weeks, we are getting more and more players coming into action. The Swedish league is coming back soon, the South African league.”
There were also players that were injured before Corona struck, and McKinstry says it has been a good break for them.
Positivity in adversity
“With the forced break in football, nobody welcomed it,” explained the former Rwanda coach, “But it has been a period for most players to fully recover from their ailments.

“In March for instance Faruku Miya was injured but he is now doing well and will be ready to play when the Turkish league resumes. Kizito Luwagga in Isreal is back and played 65 minutes last Saturday.
“The biggest challenge is now match fitness. When you have not played for so long, it is tiring and physically demanding.
“That is where they need to improve but it is the same situation for all footballers everywhere in the world.” At least, for now, the round leather is being kicked somewhere.