Following a long period of speculation, Uganda Cranes Coach Mulitin ‘Micho’ Sredojevic revealed his final squad for the forthcoming Africa Nations Cup.
We profile the 23-man squad chosen by the Serb, before the championship in Gabon.
Denis Masinde Onyango
D.O.B: May 15, 1987 (29) | Club: Mamelodi Sundowns (South Africa)
The Mamelodi Sundowns goalkeeper is undoubtedly the Cranes first-choice custodian and has been for the previous eight or so years.
Onyango featured in all the six games, conceding just twice in the qualifiers to cap a good 2016 in which he also won the CAF Champions League, PSL goalkeeper of the year and also nominated in the CAF Player of the Year (based in Africa) award.
Besides, he goes into Gabon as the best custodian on the continent after CAF named him on Africa’s finest XI of the year.
He is arguably Uganda star man at the AFCON and he is strong, authoritative and has a reassuring presence.
D.O.B: Sep 2, 1989 (27) | Club: St. George (Ethiopia)
Excellent for St. George in Ethiopia and featured in the FIFA 2018 World Cup qualifier against Congo Brazzaville with confidence keeping a clean sheet.
Like Onyango, Odongkara was signed by SC Villa from a lower division side and his remarkable outings for the Jogoos earned him a move to Ethiopia.
Coincidentally, he replaced Onyango at Villa Park and also did the same at St. George when the gigantic compatriot joined SuperSport United in South Africa.
He has proved reliable when called upon and no doubt, will do the job if called upon and his height, ball distribution and command have held him in good stead.
D.O.B: May 27, 1995 (21) | Club: El Merriekh (Sudan)
The El Merriekh goalkeeper has consistently been in Micho’s squad over the past 18 months. With just four caps on the national team at such a young age, he is one for the future and has been improving throughout his career.
Jamal is one of the fastest rising players in terms of goal-keeping and has been on the rise since his debut season in the Uganda Premier League in 2011/12.
At just 21, Jamal has won league titles as first choice custodian with Express FC, KCCA FC and El Merriekh. He has also consistently performed well in the CAF Champions League. His strength lies in good ball distribution and penalty saving.
D.O.B: April 16, 1991 (25) | Club: Unattached
What he lacks in size, he has in the brain. Currently unattached after parting ways with St. George, Isinde is a reliable centre back and became a mainstay of the back-line since the retirement of skipper Ibrahim Sekagya after the failed AFCON 2012 qualifiers campaign.
Though not the tallest, Isinde, who previously played for Victors FC in the Ugandan league, is good in the air and brilliant when launching attacks from the back.
D.O.B: April 14, 1994 (22) | Club: Simba SC (Tanzania)
It remains to be seen in which state he will be after the tragedy that hit his family – loss of triplets.
The Simba man goes to the tournament as a first choice centre back and is always a rugged performer at the heart of defence.
His biggest undoing is his decision-making at times and is prone to bookings but he’s always assured.
Sometimes, the ball gets past him, other times, the opponent does but rarely have both the opponent and ball gone past him. A colossus at the back and his performances in the back will be key determinants in Cranes’ results.
Timothy Denis Awany
D.O.B: August 6, 1996 (20) | Club: KCCA FC (Uganda)
Such a classy performer on the ball, though prone to over-elaboration in unwise positions at times. Micho has long earmarked him as the future of the national team at centre-half, though Awany’s appearances have usually been at defensive midfield.
The former Kibuli SS student is a hugely promising young centre-back. Adventurous with the ball but error-prone.
D.O.B: July 27, 1994 (22) | Club: Vipers SC (Uganda)
He has been Uganda’s most consistent natural right back over the years but ignored without reason.
He however proved his worth in the last qualification game against Comoros and has since made the position his own with the talented but versatile Denis Guma now relocated to central midfield. Diminutive, quick and attack-minded, his delivery is a considerable asset.
The dread-locked Vipers SC Captain must however improve to balance on when to prod forward and also when to stay put at the back.
D.O.B: February 10, 1994 (22) | Club: Al Ahed (Lebanon)
The Lebanon based star is arguably the most versatile player on the team with the ability to play as a centre half, right back and central midfielder.
He goes to Gabon unsure of where to play but one thing is that he will be instrumental wherever he will be played.
Micho played him as an attacking midfielder at the CHAN 2014 finals and excelled but has since been deployed as a right back since Simeon Masaba’s retirement.
Against Ghana in the FIFA 2018 World qualifiers, he was deployed as one of the two blocking midfielders and still did well.
Godfrey ‘Wazza’ Walusimbi
D.O.B: July 3, 1989 (27) | Club: Gor Mahia (Kenya)
The left-back has made regular appearances in the Cranes squads despite being dislodged from the left back position by Joseph Ochaya.
However, he has always earned a place on the team as a midfielder and it is no surprise that Micho named him among the midfielders and not defenders.
But wherever he has been played, Wazza as famously known has been efficient with his ability to read the game well and at 27 years, he is amongst the top five most capped players on the national team.
Joseph Benson Ochaya
D.O.B: December 14, 1993 (23) | Club: KCCA FC (Uganda)
Quick and aggressive down the flank, the KCCA FC player convinced Micho to the point that he is considered Uganda’s first-choice left-back. He can operate more offensively as a wingback if required, which adds to his attraction.
However, his first major tournament, after CHAN 206, will be a proper examination of his development after a testing initial period as a KCCA FC player.
Ochaya is a dead ball expert, good crosser of the ball, possess a fierce shot and has of late popped up with goals for his club. Can he transform his club form to the national team? That is a question that his Gabon performances will answer.
D.O.B: June 14, 1994 (22) | Club: Tusker FC (Kenya)
The young player earned his place on the team after a good season with Tusker as they lifted the Kenya Premier League.
A son to former Cranes winger Idd Batambuze, Bhachu, as nicknamed, is a good game reader and his technique on the ball makes him a darling to the fans.
He has only played twice for The Cranes and the tournament may be bigger but not scaring to the lad.
Batambuze is the most surprise inclusion on the team given the Uganda Cranes have two established natural left-backs already but no doubt, he has proved his worth.
D.O.B: August 3, 1993 (23) | Club: Baroka FC (South Africa)
The former Gor Mahia midfielder has been utilised by Micho at the base of midfield as a calm distributor of possession rather than a fierce tackler. He has thrived in the position and, when required, bursts forward to assist the attack — scoring a winner against Botswana in the qualifiers to confirm his potential.
From excelling at Gor Mahia till June 2016 to failure to earn a deal with Aberdeen in Scotland, then starting well at Baroka to lack of game time a month later, Aucho will be eager to impress in Gabon to prove his worth as one of the best central midfielders not only in Uganda but Africa as well.
D.O.B: December 15, 1987 (29) | Club: Thróttur (Iceland)
Uganda’s Mr Reliable over ten years. No player boasts more caps in this squad than Mawejje who made his debut in 2003 while still a high school student at Masaka SS.
The Thróttur player can operate across midfield, even as a deep-lying anchor, and behind the talisman.
He pops up with rare goals as seen in the FIFA 2014 World Cup qualifiers against Angola and Liberia but also has a knack for beautiful assists as the one to William Luwagga in the 2-1 away win to Botswana.
For all his talent and ability, Mawejje has never been at a club he should be playing for in terms of stature and AFCON seems his last major tournament for the Cranes.
Hassan Wasswa Mawanda
D.O.B: February 14, 1988 (28) | Club: Nejmeh SC (Lebanon)
One of the best performers in a stop-start Vipers’ season, Wasswa has switched from centre-half-cum-right-back to defensive midfielder and excelled.
He was impressive against Congo Brazzaville at Namboole when Jjuuko went off injured in November in the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers.
Solid, dependable and clever with his positioning and uses his big frame so well to defuse danger.
In January 2017, he joined Lebanes side Nijmeh FC just before joining the Uganda Cranes camp.
D.O.B: August 27, 1988 (27) | Club: Colorado Rapids (USA)
One of the many products of the defunct Jogoo Young Academy. The midfielder has a calming influence in the middle of the park as exhibited when he came off the bench for his long-awaited Cranes appearance against Congo Brazzaville.
Talking of versatility, Azira can play across the defence and all positions in the midfield and his inclusion will no doubt bring class to the Cranes side.
He is admired by Micho for his discipline, industry and versatility plus, he makes things easy.
Geoffrey ‘Baba’ Kizito
D.O.B: February 2, 1993 | Club: Than Quang Ninh (Vietnam)
The Vietnam based midfielder made his debut against Zambia away in the 2013 AFCON qualifiers.
Aucho’s revelation and Wasswa’s consistency, when called upon, have of recent hindered his appearances on the team but remains a big asset as regards to defensive midfield.
He is Comfortable in possession, has good passing vision and is energetic.
D.O.B: October 22, 1992 (24) | Club: Ha Noi T&T
A clever player who can operate wide in a front three, or tighter in a midfield diamond. He must start contributing regular goals for Uganda to justify regular inclusion. Micho has leaned on him as a reliable, selfless and industrious creator.
His decision-making has also improved and is arguably the most technically gifted player on the team.
William Luwagga Kizito
D.O.B: December 20, 1993 (23) | Club: Rio Ave (Portugal)
Criticised at times by fans for being selfish and surrendering possession in dangerous areas, Luwagga remains one of Uganda’s football great hopes. He is one of the team’s attacking inspirations, operating more successfully as a central play-maker. Strong, clever in his delivery and a goal threat as witnessed in the 2-1 win away over Botswana in the AFCON 2017 qualifiers.
D.O.B: November 25, 1995 (21) | Club: Standard Liege (Belgium)
Was promoted into the Uganda Cranes senior side as a teenager in 2014 and has not looked back, quickly establishing himself as a key, energetic member of Micho’s team. He can operate as a No. 10 or in one of the wide positions of a midfield three, and provides forward thrust and energy.
The Standard Liege man scored the goal that earned The Cranes a place at the finals and etched his name into the history of Ugandan football.
A difficult year at club level as he has failed to break into the first team, he is the first name on Micho’s list and will use the stage to show what he can bring to the table for the Belgian side.
Geoffrey Massa [Captain]
D.O.B: February 19, 1986 (30) | Club: Baroka FC (South Africa)
Uganda’s captain and record goal scorer in qualifiers (World Cup and AFCON), with 13, burst on to the international scene with a brace against Lesotho at Namboole in 2006 but has endured a frustrating 2016 with dismal form and a lack of fitness. This may be his best opportunity to excel and zip critics’ lips if he can end his goal drought that dates as far back as November 2015.
D.O.B: June 7, 1983 (33) | Club: KCCA FC (Uganda)
His form with KCCA FC where he leads the goal scoring charts in the Uganda Premier League in the 2016/17 season, makes him an obvious selection.
Without doubt, he is not only the most experienced player among the centre forwards but also the most prolific. A fox in the box that needs half a chance to strike home.
This is arguably his last major tournament as a Uganda Cranes player and will be itching to leave a mark.
D.O.B: January 1, 1998 (19) | Club: Onduparaka FC (Uganda)
Micho was impressed with Shaban’s raw ability, energy and industry, through Onduparaka’s promotional fight in 2015-16 and offered the striker a chance in the regional Cranes tours dubbed ‘Cranes Na Mutiima’.
He made his official debut in the 1-0 loss to Zambia in a friendly last year but has always popped with goals in the local friendlies.
This will be a bigger stage for the boy but he has proved over and again that he can be ready for the bigger occasion.
Date of Birth: August 19, 1994 (22) | Club: Ilves FC (Finland)
He is most famous for the 2014 Africa Nations Championships (CHAN) in South Africa where he was named among the players of the tournament despite the Uganda Cranes failing to go past their group.
Another goal poacher on the team but he has never been the same player that he was a couple of years ago.