KAMPALA – The football world has been massively hit by the on going Covid-19 pandemic.
All FIFA and CAF organized tournaments have been postponed or canceled as a consequence.
That has left all football national teams in a difficult situation as preparations for the upcoming windows have been hampered massively.
Before the halt, 16 African nations were preparing to take part in the 2020 CHAN in Cameroon, however, they were forced to abandon all efforts as the tournament was postponed.
There is also the upcoming World Cup qualifiers later this year but all that is now in uncertain mode.
Uganda Cranes coach Johnathan McKinstry has been left with no option but to hope the situation normalizes soon so and fixture schedules can be re-designed.
“Obviously everyone is waiting for guidance from FIFA and CAF in terms of how we are going to proceed. McKinstry noted in an interview with FUFA media.
“We have international windows in September, October and November and then hopefully the AFCON in January.”
“I know there is a lot of discussion going on regarding whether it should be postponed or be played on time.
“But at the moment, if we can start playing again in September then we have four games and six game days over those three windows so there is time to get the games played.
“But no one knows how the Pandemic is going to unfold because it is not about how it progresses here in Uganda but how it does in the whole of Africa because if one of our opponents is still affected by it, then it is impossible to play that particular fixture. We have to look at it and see how we move forward.”
The North Irishman has also come out to note that there are no plans for what is ahead but assures that when the storm, clears, things will definitely go back to normal.
“The other thing that alot of people are not aware of is that in football, when you are making plans, you plan backwards from the moment you are due to play.
“So if you do not know when you are going to play, it makes it challenging to plan effectively because you work backwards so that you are ready for that match. That also adds complications to our planning process that otherwise we wouldn’t have.
“All we can do is be patient because everybody is in the same situation and when we get that information, we will be able to put in place effective plans and make sure we are ready to play.”
With social distancing rules in play, clubs world wide took on a trend of training on-line and it is something the Uganda Cranes have also embraced.
With several players scattered across different countries, McKinstry says they communicate with everyone consistently.
“We are working in the back ground and we are in constant communication with the players.
“We have an online learning platform where every week we are engaging not just our foreign based but also local players, in tactical discussions and scenario-based coaching where we watch a small video and ask them to communicate and discuss what is going on or what they think good option might be.
“We are actively engaging the guys so that when they come back into our Uganda Cranes training environment, they will have improved their tactical understanding of the game.”
The fact that Uganda’s foreign-based players are on similar programs with their respective club sides takes some load off the Cranes technical team.
Those that are on special programs with their clubs are however not entirely off the Cranes’ support as McKinstry says that whoever needs extra help, is also accommodated.
“All players are quite individual. You have to remember that our foreign based players will all be given programs by their club sides so we are acting as a supplementary support in that aspect.
“Some players have asked for additional exercises, some are well catered for by their clubs so we are meeting the needs of individual players.
“Even for the home based players, we have some sending me videos or photographs of their compounds and showing the space they have available and asking to be advised on which training they can undertake.
“So as well as the staff that is sent to the group as a whole, we are also offering individual support to the players who ask for it.”
With the situation starting to ease-up in some countries, a few players have resumed playing competitive football with their clubs.
Other leagues are expected to resume in the coming weeks and it is a welcome boost to the Cranes technical team who will be able to monitor players better.
“Like i said before about the online program and in that sense, we are in weekly contact with all of players because they are being sent out information to review, to comment on, to discuss and that has been very good.
“We also then socially make calls, send whatsapp massages to check on people and see how they are doing and also know if their is anything we can do to support them.
“Now we are getting to the stage where the leagues are starting to resume.
“This past weekend, we have three of our players in action Kizito (Luwagga) and Awanyi (Timothy) played in Israel because their league kicked off again. Robert Kakeeto played the full 90 minutes in the Danish top division so we are starting to get our players get back on the field of play and in the coming weeks, that will become more an more because i understand Sweden is going to come back, South Africa is due to come back as well.
“As the weeks go by, we will start getting more and more of our players back in competitive action where we are able to watch their games and review their progress.”
About the players who missed the last call up to the National team due to injuries, McKinstry claims this is a blessing in disguise for them.
“All the players who missed out on the latest call up due to injury are now doing well.
“The break was not welcomed in football but to those players, it has given them time to recover.
“Miya (Farouk) in Turkey is doing very well and he will be ready to play when the Turkish League resumes this weekend. Luwagga was injured in March but played 65 minutes this past weekend. So those guys who had some injuries have been able to recover.
“The big challenge for them is match fitness because when you have been training at home for so long and you are coming back to competitive football after just a couple of weeks of team training, it is tiring and so physically demanding. It is where they need to improve on but that is the same with other footballers around the world.”
The Covid-19 situation is something new to Uganda and the world over but this is not the first time McKinstry is facing such a challenge as he was forced to step aside from football in 2014 due to Ebola.
However, he is hopefully it will soon be overcame as it was the case back then.
“It is a new situation for the entire world and I don’t think anyone has experienced something like this before.
“Naturally I had the experience in 2014 in Seirra Leon when the Ebola outbreak happened in West Africa which posed very unique challenges, some of which are similar in terms of the precautions we have to take with Covid-19 but obviously, it is no where near this wide spread because, that in 2014 was something very isolated to West Africa and to certain countries unlike this which is global. All we have to do is figure out how we negotiate past it.”
McKinstry has been the Uganda Cranes head coach for barely a year after replacing Sebastian Desabre in 2019.
The CHAN tournament was to be his first major competition at the helm of the team.
However, he led Uganda to the CECAFA 2019 title in Kampala last year and he hope for similar success in the future.