If ever there was a positive that came along with the COVID-19 pandemic regards the Uganda Cranes is the growing belief and reliance on home-based talent.
Travel and quarantine restrictions have proven to be a huge stumble for Cranes, and current coach Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojevic has had to make do without some of the more established Cranes players.
But his headache has been sedated by the fact that the local breed have stepped up to the task and quite fittingly filled the void when called upon even in the most surprising of circumstances.
Of recent, Express FC defender Enock Walusimbi outstandingly took to his senior debut in a friendly against Ethiopia and the goalless draws against Kenya and Mali as Uganda got its 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign underway.
Bobosi Byaruhanga has earned the right to always feature in the midfield throughout the World Cup qualifying campaign. Steven Mukwala and Aziz Kayondo have also proved influential supporting casts.
Most recently, Livingstone Mulondo has also added his name to the options available for Micho at the heart of the ever-changing partnerships at the heart of the Cranes defence.
Long are the days when the Cranes were known to have a stable partnership in central defence with partnerships like Ibrahim Ssekagya and Timothy Batabaire or Andy Mwesigwa and Isaac Isinde.
The pool of choices has grown, and Micho should be more than happy to have such selection headache at his disposal every time the national team convenes and take on qualification campaigns.
Such is the confidence the performances of the players from the StarTimes Uganda Premier League have drawn towards Micho that they currently make the bulk of the recently summoned Cranes squad.
As Micho prepares his team for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers against rivals Kenya and what could be the decisive clash in group E against Mali, only 10 players out of the 28 in camp do not play in the domestic league.
Express FC goalkeeper Joel Mutakubwa will provide competition to St. George goalkeeper Charles Lukwago who played in the double header against Rwanda. Chippa United shot stopper Isma Watenga and Azam FC’s Mathias Kigonya are the other options in goal.
After 21 months out following a surgery to correct an ACL, John Revita returns to the Cranes fold and going by his performance in the exhibition game against a Northern Region select team, the defender could have a shout in both games.
Club teammates Geoffrey Wasswa and Denis Iguma are also part of the squad. Halid Lwaliwa, Mulondo, Kayondo and SC Villa duo Gavin Kizito and Kenneth Ssemakula retain their places.
They will be joined by Czech based Isaac Muleme who has made the left back position his throughout the World Cup qualification campaign, Timothy Awany and Motherwell defender Bevis Mugabi.
Paradou AC midfielder Allan Okello earns his first national team call up since June, and is among only three options in midfield based abroad. The others are captain Khalid Aucho, Moses Waiswa.
Byaruhanga, Shafik Kagimu, Julius Poloto and Mahad ‘Yaya’ Kakooza will complement the options provided by the foreign based contingent in the midfield.
Micho will rely hugely on the striking options from the domestic league with current SUPL topscorer Yunus Ssentamu, Steven Mukwala, Martin Kizza, Ibrahim Orit and Milton Karisa all called upon together with Ashdod FC’s Fahad Bayo.
Uganda Cranes provisional squad
Goalkeepers: Charles Lukwago (St George, Ethiopia), Mathias Kigonya (Azam, Tanzania), Isma Watenga (Chippa United, South Africa), Joel Mutakubwa (Express, Uganda)
Defenders: Isaac Muleme (Viktoria Žižkov, Czech Republic), Abdul-Aziiz Kayondo (Vipers, Uganda), Timothy Denis Awany (FC Ashdod, Israel), Bevis Kristofer Kizito Mugabi (Motherwell, Scotland), Denis Iguma (KCCA, Uganda), Gavin Kizito Mugweri (SC Villa, Uganda), Livingstone Mulondo (Vipers, Uganda), Halid Lwaliwa (Vipers, Uganda), Kenneth Ssemakula (SC Villa, Uganda), Geoffrey Wasswa (KCCA, Uganda)
Midfielders: Khalid Aucho (Young Africans, Tanzania), Allan Okello (AC Paradou, Algeria), Moses Waiswa (Super Sport United, South Africa), Shafik Kagimu (URA, Uganda), Julius Poloto (KCCA, Uganda), John Revita (KCCA, Uganda), Bobosi Byaruhanga (Vipers, Uganda), Mahad Kakooza (Express, Uganda)
Forwards: Fahad Bayo (FC Ashdod, Israel), Yunus Ssentamu (Vipers, Uganda), Steven Mukwala (URA, Uganda), Milton Karisa (Vipers, Uganda), Ibrahim Orit (Vipers, Uganda), Martin Kizza (Express, Uganda)