KAMPALA. When Cranes coach Sebastien Desabre first summoned Bevis Mugabi ahead of a friendly against Sao Tome and Principe last year, he made it clear to the England-born Ugandan that he would have to fight his way in.
“He told me that ‘I’ve watched some of you online and got some more information. I’m giving you an opportunity but it will not be easy.
“You have to come and I take a look at you. You will have to earn your place in my team.”
Mugabi, who had a year back been summoned but denied to come by Yeovil Town, who have since released the player among 10 others after the English club were relegated in the just ended second tier season, citing a late communication, took on the challenge.
He will have been happy with himself after the 24-year-old finally made the 27-man squad to camp in Abu Dhabi, where they will play two friendly matches, ahead of the June 21-July 19 Afcon finals in Egypt.
Mugabi, who tweeted his good buys and gratitude to Yeovil and fans a fortnight ago, is fast looking ahead and wants to put his club woes quickly behind him to use Afcon to win hearts of Ugandans and potential club suitors.
“Of course there were problems (relegation) but we got to move on,” Mugabi told Daily Monitor.
“I’m glad coach Desabre gave me an opportunity and I will use it to stay in the league or even get better deals elsewhere.
“For me it’s both a privilege and bonus to be called to represent my country and I know the kind of challenge in front of me. This could be the turning point for most of us.”
Mugabi was born in Harrow, London to Ugandan parents, starting his career with Fulham before joining Southampton’s youth system in 2011, and later signing with Yeovil Town in 2016.
Ugandans can compete in UK
The gangly defender is humbled by the quality and competitiveness of his Cranes colleagues since his debut against Sao Tome.
“The competition is good. When you are in the UK, you think of football in Africa as mainly physical but I can tell you that I’m humbled. There is more to it. The quality is better and I think a good number of guys here can compete in England.”
But why is this not happening, with Ugandans looking for greener pastures abroad only ending in Asia, South Africa and lesser European leagues, even after which they fail to command regular playing time?
“I think the main problem is the lack of that bridge between Uganda and England or Spain, someone to connect you to the right people. We there need to continue doing our best and one day it will happen.”
Mugabi acknowledges Group A that includes the Cranes, Egypt, DRC and Zimbabwe is the toughest but believes Uganda will shock people.
“We shall surprise a lot of teams with the way the coach is preparing us, and this group of players is strong together.
“Of course Egypt are favourites given their history and that they are the home team. Every game will be tough but we should be good enough to progress from the group.”
The Cranes open their Afcon campaign on June 22 against DRC, taking on Zimbabwe later before wrapping the group against hosts Egypt.
Squad to AUH
Goalkeepers: Denis Onyango , Jamal Salim, Robert Odongkara, Charles Lukwago.
Defenders: Bevis Mugabi, Nicholas Wadada, Awanyi Timothy, Hassan Wasswa Mawanda, Ronald Mukiibi, Murushid Juuko, Godfrey Walsumbi, Muleme Isaac , Joseph Ochaya
Midfielders: Tadeo Lwanga, Khalid Aucho, Kirizestom Ntambi, Michael Azira, Waisswa Moses, Sadam Juma, Faruku Miya, Kizito Luwagga, Kateregga Allan , Emmanuel Okwi, Abdul Lumala
Strikers: Patrick Kaddu, Allan Kyambadde, Alexis Bakka, Nsibambi Derrick