Big chance for newbies as Uganda take on Mali

Morley Byekwaso is going to give many new players a chance against Mali and Zambia. PHOTO/COURTSEY 

What you need to know:

The Cranes confront Mali today in the first of two international friendlies lined up as Uganda gear up for their two opening matches of the Fifa 2026 World Cup qualifiers next month. From Mali, coach Byekwaso and his boys will proceed to the UAE to face Zambia next week 

Maroons faithful are still coming to terms with their marksman Fred Amaku missing out on the final 24 Uganda Cranes players that made the trip for two upcoming international friendly matches. 

Uganda face Mali in the capital Bamako on Friday before proceeding to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to take on Zambia next Tuesday as the Cranes gear up for their two opening matches of the Fifa 2026 World Cup qualifiers against Guinea and Somalia next month.

The imposing Maroons striker, Amaku, missed out despite leading the scoring charts of the StarTimes Uganda Premier League with three goals to send his team to third on the log after three matches.

The above notwithstanding, it is also hard to argue much with interim coach Morley Byekwaso’s picks in attack. 

Youth and experience 

Byekwaso went for national team experience in Vipers captain Milton Karisa, Richard Basangwa of Egypt’s Wadi Degla SC and Sanliurfaspor’s (Turkey) Rogers Mato.

He infused that with the exciting fresh faces in Lawrence Tezikya of second-placed BUL, currently on two goals in the league, and Denis Omedi of table leaders Kitara - top scorer in the Fufa Big League last season and currently with one goal in top-flight football.

Byekwaso will look to extract what he can from his five attackers over the two matches, and what an opportunity they have to show what they can!

Go for it

The other players that will be desperate for a chance to prove their worth are  midfielders Rogers Mugisha of Gor Mahia, SC Villa’s revelation Elvis Ngonde, Laban Tibiita  of URA, Ibrahim Kasule of New York Red Bull II and KCCA wonderboy Usama Arafat.

Khalid Aucho is an assured name on the startlist in the middle of the park, with Bright Anukani the other fairly experienced amongst the midfield collection.

Ibrahim Juma of Spain’s CD Leganes and URA duo of Hudu Mulikyi and Enock Walusimbi will be the ones pushing the issue in defence.

But SC Villa duo of Gavin Kizito and Kenneth Semakula, BV Vestmannaeyjar’s Elvis Bwomono, Abdu Aziizi Kayondo of Hapoel and the experienced Halidi Lwaliwa (FK Bregalnica, North Macedonia) and Vipers Livingstone Mulondo are shoe in for an early look-in.

South Africa based Ismail Watenga and Bul’s Joel Mutakubwa will try to make the coach’s choice difficult in goal, while youngster in Vipers goal minder Jack Komakech will grab any chance with open arms.