The Uganda Cranes head coach Johnathan McKinstry will have another opportunity to name a squad he believes can take on huge responsibilities of representing their beloved country,Uganda, in the opening two matches of the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) 2021 qualifiers.
The two matches against Burkina Faso and Malawi on November 13 and 17 respectively are very crucial to kick-start the campaign. The anxiety among players and fans is unavoidable at this stage. It is a new coach and that may as well come with new faces in the squad to compete alongside tested stars for places in the team.
With little or no time at all to test players as per international breaks, the coach will be hoping to enter the new year, 2020, with a positive attitude from the players in the next four matches that will include back-to-back fixtures against South Sudan. This euphoria will spread to the 12th player in the stands.
The preliminary squad for the two matches will be announced today at Fufa House in Mengo with all eyes on; who is in, who is out and who is making a debut. The players who get the chance to make the initial squad will count themselves serious contenders for the entire campaign. However, McKinstry has already recorded a win under his belt after beating Ethiopia a fortnight ago.
He had quality players at his disposal including the Uganda Cranes captain Denis Onyango, Joseph Ochaya, Kizito Luwagga, Emma Okwi and Patrick Kaddu. He will welcome back players like Murushidi Juuko, Khalid Aucho and Faruk Miya who never made the trip to Ethiopia for the build-up match.
The Fufa campaign for the match against Malawi dubbed ‘366 Back to Namboole with Cranes’ will come with its own ingredients. A new Uganda Cranes coach, Uganda Cranes at home for the first time since November 17, 2018 and Namboole regarded as a fortress are items on the agenda that fans will be looking forward to.
The fans are already excited in anticipation of great ambiance at Namboole, like it has always been on match days. McKinstry has had the chance to watch local league matches at this great stadium, but not with the national team.
He knows the importance of getting the business started with a win at home. The qualifiers will not be played again until late September in 2020. The players will have to wait for 11 months to play again matches in the campaign.
The duty to name the final squad entirely lies in the hands of the head coach but guided by his technical staff. I believe the players summoned will be out to impress the tactician since it will be their first competitive match under the Northern Irishman. First time impressions always give a coach to learn his players and where to play them.
I can’t wait to see the fans in Namboole under an electrifying atmosphere when Cranes take on Malawi. No fan should be left behind when the biggest intentional match comes around next month. Yes, the Uganda Cranes know how to tickle their fans when in action.
The only language fans understand is winning matches. I can imagine how the feeling will be among the fans, players and technical team when three points are bagged off Malawi at Namboole.
It is ‘366 Back to Namboole with Cranes’. Don’t be left out!
The author is Fufa communications director.