Appearing at the maiden Beach Soccer Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) tourney is a once in a lifetime opportunity that Sand Cranes skipper Meddie Kibirige cannot trade with anything.
Kibirige, also SC Villa goalkeeper, is eager to lead the Sand Cranes this month in Senegal - even when it means leaving his club at the frontline. "Coach Kaziba (Edward) created a situation where no one is irreplaceable at Villa.
For the time when I will be away, Saidi Keni and Martin Ssenkooto will hold forte," said Kibirige. The StarTimes Uganda Premier League (SUPL) ends next month and Kibirige will miss Villa's trip to Ababet Green Light Stadium where the Jogoos face Onduparaka today.
On Sunday, Sand Cranes coach Salim Muwonge conducted the first residential training with the provisional squad at the Fufa Technical Center in Njeru that is expected to end on May 18 when the team flies out for the showpiece. Of the 16 players summoned, only 12 will board the plane to Dakar which has bred an instant jostle for slots.
Kibirige, who has just won the shortened version of the league trophy with St Lawrence University, will be joined out of Villa set-up by club skipper Emmanuel Wasswa. Express reportedly refused to release Godfrey Lwesibawa as did league leaders URA with Brian Nkuubi.
Ray of hope
"Our emphasis is player fitness and endurance since many players have been inactive," said Muwonge.
Kibirige remains enthusiastic that the team will defy the odds and come through a seemingly complex Group A that has hosts; Senegal, DR Congo and neighbours Tanzania.
"We know Tanzania players by name and if they bring the same team at a neutral venue they are finished," said Kibirige.
"Our team has been together for over five years and we have the quality to emerge from the the group."
For Muwonge, the threat in Group B that comprises Egypt, Morocco, Mozambique and Seychelles is also enormous. Uganda opens its quest against Tanzania on May 23 before taking on Senegal and Congo.
BEACH SOCCER AFCON
Dates: May 23-29
Venue: Saly City, Senegal
A: Uganda, Senegal, Tanzania, DR Congo
B: Mozambique, Egypt, Morocco, Seychelles
Sand Cranes Group Fixtures
Uganda vs. Tanzania
Senegal vs. Uganda
Uganda vs. DR Congo