DAVID ISABIRYE: The case for locally based players on Cranes AFCON final team

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Edrisa Lubega dribbles during a regional tour match

On Friday morning, the Uganda Cranes head coach, Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojevic announced the team traveling for the Tunisia and Dubai training camps.

Of the 26 players selected on the provisional squad, 9 of them ply their trade in the Uganda Premier League (AUPL).

Goalkeeper Benjamin Ochan from KCCA, defenders, Timothy Awany, Joseph Ochaya (KCCA) and Nicholas Wadada (Vipers), midfielders, Hassan Wasswa Mawanda (Vipers) and Muzamiru Mutyaba (KCCA) strikers Geoffrey Sserunkuma (KCCA), Onduparaka’s Muhammad Shaban and Proline’s Edirisa Lubega are the locally based players on the team dominated by foreign based legion.

Sredojevic insists the final team for the Gabon finals will be one selected purely on sporting merit and should the locally based players prove their worth, then they are guaranteed of slots on the national team at the biggest sporting fiesta – AFCON.

The final team to the AFCON finals will be selected purely on sporting merit.

All the players have gave their best abilities and we shall continue to monitor them in the three upcoming international matches against Tunisia, Slovakia and Cote D’Ivoire.

Ochan is the only goalkeeper playing at home vying for the three slots alongside Dennis Onyango, Robert Odongkara and Salim Jamal.

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Joseph Ochaya scrolls through his phone texts

Wadada, Ochaya and Awany are the defenders in contention alongside Iguma, Batambuze, Jjjuko and an unattached Isaac Isinde, who was recently released by St George in Ethiopia.

The highly competitive midfield department has two locally based players; Hassan Wasswa Mawanda and KCCA’s Muzamiru Mutyaba.

© Kawowo Sports | JOHN BATANUDDE
Vipers’ Hassan Wasswa challenges KCCA’s Muzamir Mutyaba during a league game at Nakivubo

The midfield department has a couple of several established foreign based players  as Portugese based winger William Luwagga Kizito who turns out at Rio Ave Football Club, Godfrey Walusimbi (Gor Mahia, Kenya), Tonny Mawejje (Thróttur, Iceland), Khalid Aucho (Baroka FC, South Africa ), Mike Azira (Colorado Rapids, USA), Moses Oloya (Hanoi T and T) and Geoffrey Kizito  (Than Quang Ninh, Vietnam).

Onduparaka captain Muhammed Shaban, Proline’s Edrisa Lubega and KCCA ageless striker Geofrey Sserunkuma make the strong case on the forward front line that also has Standard Liege’s Faruku Miya, FC Ilves’ Yunus Sentamu and the team captain Geofrey Massa.

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Shaban Muhammed jumps to head the ball as Benjamin Ochan reacts faster to the ball. Behind Ochan is defender Timothy Awany

With three more players still to be sent back home when the final is named team next week, the tension is still being felt amongst the players.

There is still a lot to play for in the remaining days. Virtually no player remains in the comfort zone since relaxation in terms of complacency can easily let anyone down at the 11th hour.

The desire to impress in the upcoming international build ups against Tunisia (4th January 2017), Slovakia (8th January) and the reigning African champions, Cote D’Ivoire on 11th January 2017 will give Micho the extra days to think about who to choose and leave out at the end of the day.

Uganda is in group A alongside Mali, Ghana and Egypt.

The traveling Uganda Cranes team to Tunisia and Dubai:

Goalkeepers: Dennis Onyango (Mamelodi Sundowns, South Africa), Robert Odongkara (St George, Ethiopia), Benjamin Ochan (KCCA, Uganda), Salim Jamal Magoola (El Merriekh, Sudan)

Defenders: Denis Iguma (Al Ahed, Lebanon), Nicholas Wadada (Vipers, Uganda), Joseph Ochaya (KCCA, Uganda), Shafiq Batambuze (Tusker, Kenya), Isaac Isinde (unattached), Timothy Awany (KCCA, Uganda), Murushid Jjuuko (Simba, Tanzania)

Midfielders: William Luwagga Kizito (Rio Ave, Portugal), Hassan Wasswa Mawanda (Vipers, Uganda), Muzamiru Mutyaba (KCCA, Uganda), Godfrey Walusimbi (Gor Mahia, Kenya), Tonny Mawejje (Thróttur, Iceland), Khalid Aucho (Baroka FC, South Africa ), Mike Azira (Colorado Rapids, USA), Moses Oloya (Hanoi T and T) and Geoffrey Kizito  (Than Quang Ninh, Vietnam).

Strikers: Geofrey Sserunkuma (KCCA, Uganda), Muhammed Shaban (Onduparaka, Uganda), Yunus Sentamu (Ilves, Finland), Edrisa Lubega (Proline, Uganda), Geoffrey Massa (Baroka, South Africa), Faruku Miya (Standard Liege, Belgium)