Fufa has handed National U-20 Women’s coach Ayub Khalifa a timely boost by recalling striker Juliet Nalukenge from her first days at new club Apollon Limassol in Cyprus.
The U-20s are preparing for a double-header that starts Saturday in Nairobi against Kenya in the Fifa U-20 Women’s World Cup second-round qualifiers. Both sides got a bye in the first round.
But in the thick of preparations that have included three friendly matches against the national team Crested Cranes, who are preparing for the Cosafa Women Championships in South Africa next week, one thing has stuck out; the bluntness in front of goal.
The U-20s have lost two of these encounters 1-0 and seemed to have cracked the code in a 4-0 win in-between, one in which new skipper Fauzia Najjemba scored a hattrick and creative midfielder Shamirah Nalugya added the other.
Najjemba, however, has always flourished when sharing responsibility with someone – just like she did with Nalugya at Isra Academy and with Nalukenge at the U-17 level.
At Kampala Queens, which she joined in 2019 and immediately took over the captaincy and lead scoring roles, the slim and tall forward struggled.
Also Khalifa has struggled to get anything of note out of the other forwards in camp like Joan Ainembabazi, Bernadette Namwenge, Kamiyati Naigaga, Eva Naggayi and Joweria Nagadya – who was with Caf Champions League qualifiers in Nairobi earlier with the Lady Doves but registered no goal.
The other options in the duo of Zaituni Namaganda and Hadijah Nandago showed during their cameo roles in the U-17s World Cup and regional campaigns that you cannot bank on them for goals just yet.
Khalifa, who worked with them to the final qualifying round of the 2020 Fifa U-17 Women’s World Cup - in which they had to play Cameroon for a place in India before the ravaging Covid-19 pandemic wiped out everything, will know that and therefore welcome the return of Nalukenge to the fold.
Nalukenge, who has led the line for Khalifa’s teams at Kawempe Muslim since 2016, has just today to work with her teammates - and there will be no unfamiliar faces as she will know all of them from previous U-17 and Crested Cranes camps, before they fly to Kenya tomorrow.