It has been a dark past three months in Ugandan football as action has but put on halt due to COVID-19.
The situation has been so severe that it has affected football globally and as a consquence, all senior and junior national team engagements have also been cancelled.
Before this unfortunate wave surfaced, the Uganda Cranes team of locally based players were preparing to take part in the 2020 CHAN tournament in Cameroon but unfortunately, all preparations were halted after the championships were postponed.
However, following the latest CAF Executive Committee, new dates have been set for CHAN and the next AFCON edition, among the key decisions that were taken.
Following the announcements, Uganda Cranes head coach Johnathan McKinstry spoke to FUFA.com.
Regarding the developments, the Irishman noted that it was relief for all players that were initially gearing up for CHAN.
“The confirmation by CAF of the CHAN Tournament for January 2021 is a relief to the players. Said McKinstry.
“The players were more concerned and worried that this tournament could be called off because if you looked at the schedule, it was a challenge to see where it could be fixed. Now the tournament is only six months away.
“This is really close. Everyone is refocused, re-energized and hungry to go. The Star Times Uganda Premier League kicks off in October 2020 and the players are really ready.
“We as the technical team are also looking forward and putting together some plans. Hopefully, CECAFA 2020 will be happening and this will help in the preparations. The players are staff are now motivated with more energy.”
Uganda was undertaking residential training before the Pandemic struck and preparations looked to be in full gear.
Despite the new dates, there is concern that the players may still not be ready come January when CHAN is slatted to start.
However, McKinstry has noted that the players have been undertaking personal training and he is optimistic his lads will be in fine tune come next year.
“The players have been given special pre-season training scheduled. The programs have been sent to them, quite different from the ones in the COVID-19 period because anytime we expected football to return soon.
“We hope to have six weeks of competitive football before the training camp will be summoned for the CHAN 2021 finals.”
McKinstry has however noted that it has been a challenging period as they wait to know the tournament’s fate.
“It has been really challenging but as a coach, there has been hope and planning never stops.
“Everyone was frustrated with no football but it is two-sided; the supporter, player, or coach. Everyone was frustrated that football was not happening.
“I am a little bit jealous that my colleagues in Europe are involved in what they love to do best but hopefully, this frustration will be converted to energy when football returns.”
With the AFCON and World Cup qualifiers also slatted for later this year, it is set to be a busy period for the North Irishman and his staff as they try to prepare a winning side.
However, he is optimistic that the frustration of spending long minus football can be turned into positive energy and they will try to ensure they have the most competitive side on the pitch.
“The Uganda Cranes players are hungry to get back to AFCON and play at the FIFA World Cup. We are all hungry for football to resume.
“Selection will purely be down to it will be down to player performance. There is a wide pool of players to think about and select; these are players in the domestic league, in the diaspora league, and those of Ugandan heritage playing elsewhere.
“If u want to put on the treasured Uganda Cranes shirt, you have to be on top of your game. There is need for continuous assessment of the players, monitoring all and they must maintain that high performance.
“The wider the pool of players, the more competition it brings to the team, the more competition, the better the 11 we shall have to produce.
“Uganda is a football-loving country. Fine, the supporters have been frustrated with no football action but let us turn this frustration into positive energy. Remember the fans are part of this beautiful journey.”