Kabaddi national coach Ephraim Makubuya is brimming with hope and expectation as Uganda prepares to travel to Kenya for the Africa Kabaddi World Cup qualifiers.
A 30-man team was due to travel to Nairobi by road for the qualifiers where a place in the final guarantees qualification to next year’s World Cup to be hosted by either India or Iran.
The eight-day event, booked at Kasarani Stadium indoor arena, will runs from July 29 to August 5.
The expected teams include hosts Kenya, South Africa, Rwanda, Zambia, Uganda and Burundi. Malawi, Lesotho, Namibia, Eswatini and Senegal could be denied by the travel hurdles brought about by Covid-19 pandemic.
Kenya are pre-tournament favourites and the African title is theirs to lose. The hosts are the only African team to have graced the Kabaddi World Cup having taken part in the last two editions.
They recently finished second in the Bangabandhu Cup, an international kabaddi tournament in Bangladesh.
Uganda daring giants Kenya
But according to Makubuya it will not be a smooth run for Africa’s number one country. Kenya is ranked fourth in the world while Uganda, second in Africa, are yet to get the rankings.
“We are at an equal footing with Kenya now and beating them will greatly boost our rankings,” Makubuya said.
Players are eager to have a bite at the cherry. Captain Joel Machari, 27, says qualifying for the World Cup is the focus.
“I believe we’re going to qualify. We’ve trained for over two months. But all will depend on the strategies,” Machari said.
He is among the experienced players on the team alongside Douglas Mulaalira, Isaac Kayiwa and Frank Kamoga.
“There is no bigger motivation than qualifying for the World Cup. We expect scouts who can secure them big teams. There are no friendlies in kabaddi and it is at such events that players can be spotted,” Makubuya said.
The women’s team, ranked first in Africa, have already qualified for the World Cup and will travel to Kenya for the East African Championship.
Men: Joel Machari (C), Douglas Mulaalira, Isaac Kayiwa, Frank Kamoga, Joseph Bbosa, Fahad Kitaakule, Abbey Kiwalabye, Shafiq Katamba, Eric Ssengendo, Jimmy Ssengendo, Huzaifa kitaakula and Pius Musungu.
Women: Angella Nakaye (C), Nabillah Nakigudde, Olivia Nalubega, Deborah Nabatanzi, Shanita Najjemba, Linnet Kayaga, Aisha Namukovu, Dorothy Nagawa, Sarah Nampenja, Shamira Nakamya.