Hockey teams brace for Afcon as NCS pledge support

National men and women’s team coaches Vincent Kasasa and Moses Nsereko have named their final teams for the January 17-23, 2022 hockey Africa Cup of Nations in Accra, Ghana.
As the men vie to return to the continental showpiece for the first time since 2007, Kasasa has maintained the core of the team that beat Kenya twice in three games at the International Hockey Federation (FIH) Series in Nairobi in March to earn an international ranking.

Fourteen of those 18 players will travel to Ghana high on confidence to cause upsets, especially against the hosts with whom they open the men’s competition on January 18.
Only Topher Kyamanywa and goalkeeper Charles Ekapolon have been dropped while Jerome Owori and Innocent Raskara ruled themselves out with personal commitments.
Their absence made it easy for Kasasa to incorporate Emmanuel Baguma and Collines Batusa, who were in Italy in March, into the team. 

Goalkeeper Richard Kaijuka has proved to be better competition for Bosco Ochan while Richard Ssemwogerere was also recalled after missing Nairobi and his versatility will help in the absence of Raskara.
Huge changes
For the ladies, their humiliating defeats to Kenya meant Nsereko, who replaced Sandra Namusoke as coach, was not dealing with any untouchables bar captain Doreen Asiimwe and maybe defender Consolate Muber, who has been allowed a lenient training schedule.

Asiimwe was the only player on the women’s team that left Nairobi with an intact reputation as her skillset and determination matched the Kenyans’.
So it is not entirely surprising that half of the team that went to Nairobi will not travel to Accra for the women’s maiden appearance as Nsereko went for even younger guns like Joy Sserunjogi, Paula Kibwika, Jolly Alimo, Thuwaibah Kiggundu and Lucky Akello.
Both goalkeepers Esther Chelimo and Shakirah Nambooze have been dropped for Wananchi sisters Susan Ayomirowth and Sylvia Giramiya.

The Kampala Hockey Club (KHC) defensive trio of Desire Mukisa, Carol Aguti and Pauline Achom are also out. 
The latter could not beat a foot injury and is only among the reserve players.
Weatherhead’s Joan Mukoya and Sarah Mbekeka also barely played in the domestic competitions last season while Wananchi duo Faith Achom and Teddy Aciro are also out.
Mukoya’s experience will be missed but has been ably replaced through her club-mate Pauline Korukondo while Aciro’s skill can be matched or bettered by Teopista Anyango.

‘Anchorman Richichi’
Meanwhile, Italian coach Francesco Richichi, who will be head coach for both teams, also arrived on Wednesday morning to support the two coaches and was expecting Ashiraf Tumwesigye and Timothy Ntumba to join the men’s squad from their brief stint in Italy.
Umpires Stanley Tamale and his namesake Kenneth will officiate in the men and women’s competitions respectively while George Ntegeka is among the technical officials.
“Uganda’s presence has been missing on the continental level and we believe it is a huge opportunity for the players to grow,” National Council of Sports (NCS) general secretary Patrick Ogwel, said.

“We are looking forward to it but this event is in third quarter of the financial year that starts in January meaning the money to support the teams can only come from the Treasury,” Ogwel said.
“However, we have committed to support the team and majorly we are looking at taking care of air tickets and full-board accommodation. But more conclusive information on that and other things like Covid-19 testing for the teams will be made after January 3,” he added as he urged UHA to push for double vaccination of players and more funds.

On Tuesday, the federation announced an official water partner in Jibu Water but NCS have also finally started to replace the damaged slabs around the hockey astro-turf that had turned into injury threats for the players. 
About 500 slabs are set to be replaced before the new year.
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