More than half of the players currently with the Uganda Under-20 women’s team preparing for the upcoming Fifa World Cup qualifiers were part of the Under-17 that was on the brink of World Cup qualification last year before Covid-19 struck.
The U-17 team was coached by Ayub Khalifan, who has been upgraded to continue overseeing the age group girls. In their previous age games, they thumped Ethiopia and Tanzania 5-1 and 6-2 before setting up a crunch final round encounter with Cameroon with the U-17 World Cup ticket on offer.
However, Fifa cancelled the competition due the Covid-19 pandemic.
Khalifan has a similar task as he climbs one grade to the U-20 fold.
“I’m excited for this opportunity because it shows that Fufa are pleased with my work with the [national] U-17,” he told Daily Monitor.
Almost all the players that were key in that campaign have been promoted and Khalifan is now tasked to oversee their secondary transition into professionals, a task he believes will be easily executed.
“I believe the federation looked at ensuring a smooth transition for these girls from the U-17 as they enter the U-20 because I worked with them,” he said.
“It is not an easy job because this is a very crucial stage where the girls move from amateurism to semi-professional and above. There are things that we have to adjust to prepare them well for this stage because the challenges they faced are not the same.”
Building from positives
Khalifan says that they will pick the positives from the previous age-grade campaign and build on it.
“These girls played well in the U-17 World Cup qualifiers but their dreams were ended by the Covid-19 pandemic just before we played Cameroon in the last hurdle,” he said.
“This should be a motivation that we carry forward to see that we replicate the success in this qualifier and fight to make it to the U-20 World Cup finals.”
The team, currently camping at Fufa Technical Centre in Njeru, will face Kenya between September 23 and October 9 in a two-legged fixture. The winner of the tie then plays the winner in the fixture between Mozambique and South Africa in the third round.
Only two teams from Africa will qualify for the U-20 World Cup finals in Costa Rica in August next year.
Khalifan’s team will be boosted with the return of Lady Doves youngsters in Joweria Nagadya, Halima Kanyago and goalkeeper Daisy Nakaziro, and Daphine Nyayenga who are expected to in the camp today.