Returning Ochaya itching to go again
What you need to know:
The left wingback, who now plies his trade with Egyptian Premier League side, Al Mokawloon Al Arab, last wore the Cranes jersey on Sept 6, 2021 in the goalless draw with Mali at St Mary’s Stadium, Kitende
Joseph Ochaya was not necessarily thinking about a recall to the national football team, the Uganda Cranes. Well, until recently!
The left wingback’s full focus was on his Egyptian Premier League side, Al Mokawloon Al Arab, for whom he has scored five goals and made four assists 21 championship matches into the season.
As such, Al Mokawloon sit sixth on the 18-team table on 32 points, just one point behind giants Zamalek, although the latter have played one game fewer.
Ochaya, 29, had partially come to terms that he was, perhaps, not part of the rebuilding process of the Cranes.
But he never stopped putting in the work after leaving DRC’s TP Mazembe at the end of last season.
And his efforts paid off well at his Egyptian club, where “the coach has full faith in me,” he says.
The Micho call & meet
And now - rather inevitably, the Cranes, where coach Micho Sredojevic has been forced to look further up north for previously trusted soldiers.
“So I was there and coach Micho called me saying that he wanted us to talk when he was here (Egypt) for the U20 Afcon,” Ochaya shared with the Daily Monitor.
“We met and talked. He called me back to the national team and I'm happy to be back. I still have the same energy.
“I told him that if you have seen that I can help the team, then I’m good to go, and I can’t wait to get going again.”
After recovering from a six-month injury following the subsiding of Covid, and turning down a non-improved contract renewal from Mazembe - he says, Ochaya has been working hard at his new three-year-deal Egyptian club.
Took it on the chin
He partly understands why he has been ignored in the Cranes' last few engagements.
“Why I wasn’t called, after I recovered from injury, is the coach’s decision and I have no problem with that.
“The ball was in my court to prove to myself,my coaches, to my club and fans that I was still important.
“But to be honest, a recall wasn’t on my mind. I understand they (Cranes) were rebuilding, and the young players we have are good. So I understand. But now that I’m back, I’m looking forward to helping, too.”
The Cranes go into their 2023/24 Africa Cup of Nations match day three back-to-back qualifier against Tanzania next week bottom of Group C.
Tanzania will be tough
Uganda lost 2-0 away to Algeria and drew goalless with Niger at St Mary’s Stadium, Kitende in their two opening games.
That left the Cranes having beat Tanzania over the two back-to-back games on March 24 and 28 to give themselves a chance of qualifying for the Ivory Coast edition.
“The matches against Tanzania are so important that we have to win both,” said Ochaya, “but it is not going to be easy. It is a derby. I’d rather we face another stronger country outside East Africa but Tanzania will be tough.
“At the end of the day, the hungrier team will win and I think we have it in ourselves to win.”
Uganda are playing their home fixture from Egypt because no stadium in the country fulfils Fifa and Caf international standards, including St Mary’s, which has been hosting them on a provisional basis. Yeah, you read that right!
Meanwhile, part of the 30-man provisional squad (local based) will enter residential camp tomorrow before travelling to Bundibugyo District in Western Uganda on Friday for a game against Kitara Region.
Some of the selected players from the regional tour game will travel to Egypt on Sunday, where they will be joined by their foreign-based counterparts in time for the showdown with Tanzania.
Ivory Coast Afcon 2023 Q
Group F standings
P W D L GD Pts
Algeria 2 2 0 0 4 6
Niger 2 0 2 0 0 2
Tanzania 2 0 1 1 -2 1
Uganda 2 0 1 1 -2 1
March 23: Algeria vs. Niger
March 24: Uganda vs. Tanzania
March 27: Niger vs. Algeria
March 28: Tanzania vs. Uganda
Tanzania vs. Niger
Uganda vs. Algeria
Niger vs. Uganda
Algeria vs. Tanzania