It is eight months since Uganda Cranes footballers that ply their trade locally last played a competitive game, blame it on the disruptive Coronavirus.
The first time Cranes players had a runout together was about a fortnight ago when they spent a week with coach Johnny McKinstry and his staff in Dubai. Even then, travel approval delays for the Kampala batch of players to the UAE chunked away three days of would-have been nine. That also got into the team's planning. They had hoped to play against a local club in Dubai for McKinstry to assess his players fitness levels in a match situation, which never happened.
That just about left the Northern Irishman will little options but go with those that are already in motion. The 25-man squad McKinstry will name today to face South Sudan back-to-back in next month's 2022 Afcon qualifiers could, therefore, have as many as - perhaps - only three local based players. "We made it clear that in order to play for Uganda you need to be playing, and have a club," McKinstry told us recently.
Chances opened up
This opens up chances for foreign-based newbies like 19-year-old attacker Roy Jayden Onen (Reading), son to a Ugandan immigrant and British mother, and very promising right back Elvis Bwomono of Southend. However, while Onen has played all of Reading U23's four games so far this season, Paradou's (Algeria) Allan Okello's significant experience on the continent could earn him the attacking berth ahead of th England-based teenager. On his part, Bwomono, who has featured in all six for Southend in the English Championship, has a bigger chance given his versatility. Bwomono, 25, was voted his club's Player of the Month six times in a row last season, and has started this solidly, too. He can play across the backline, is good in the tackle and going forward, and his crossing has yielded a number of assists for his club. Bwomono could also be good competition and cover for Nicholas Wadada, whose season is up-and-running with Azam in Tanzania, and England-based Bevis Mugabi. Anchorman Khalid Aucho, whose Egyptian club requested McKinstry not to call him for the Dubai trip, should be available while Mamelodi Sundowns and Cranes skipper Dennis Onyango should resume duties.
Striker Uche Mubiru Ikpeazu has just recovered from a hamstring injury at Wycombe Wanderers, and has played only one match this season; but that McKinstry ranks him highly has him in with a big chance.Derrick Nsibambi, very active with Smouha, should make the cut. Emmanuel Okwi spent about seven months in Uganda during the lockdown, and has played for his Egyptian club Ittihad just once as a substitute last weekend. McKinstry could factor in that Okwi is using the best training facilities and coaching at his club, and his experience, to call him.
November window stricter
Israel-based trio of winger Kizito Luwagga, striker Fahad Bayo and defender Timothy Awany, plus Chicago Fire (USA) midfielder Mike Azira, who all reportedly missed the Dubai camp due to travel restrictions, are expected to be named.
Daily Monitor understands that while travel restrictions have indeed affected businesses worldwide, clubs are said to have taken advantage of relaxed international break rules to hold onto their players in October's window.
However, while October's break was not mandatory because of the relaxed measures, November's will be sternly observed worldwide, with no league matches happening. That would mean that national teams will be availed with their players.
Goalkeepers: Denis Onyango (M.Sundowns, South Africa), Salim M. Jamal (Al Hilal Omdurman, Sudan), Charles Lukwago (KCCA) Defenders: Joseph Ochaya (TP Mazembe, DRC), Alex Kakuba (Desportivo, Portugal), Elvis Bwomono (Southend, England), Nicholas Wadada (Azam, Tanzania), Bevis Mugabi (Motherwell, Scotland), Halid Lwaliwa (Vipers), Timothy Awany (Ashdod, Israel) Midfielders: Allan Kateregga (Erbil, Iraq), Farouk Miya (Konyaspor, Turkey), Allan Kyambadde (El Gouna, Egypt), Khalid Aucho (El Makasa, Egypt), Bright Anukani (KCCA), Kizito Luwagga (Hapoel , Israel), Milton Karisa (Vipers), Mike Azira (Chicago Fire, USA), Allan Okello (Paradou, Algeria)
Forwards: Derrick Nsibambi (Smouha), Alexis Bbakka (Umea, Sweden), Edrisa Lubega (Paide, Estonia), Emmanuel Okwi (Ittihad, Egypt), Uche Mubiru (Wycombe, England), Fahad Bayo (Ashdod, Israel)