KAMPALA – Uganda Cranes team returned silently into the country, hours after a failed mission to qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations – Afcon 2021for the third consecutive time.
The team, comprising 23 players and several ‘officials’ – including the technical team and multitudes of Fufa delegates flew back on Tuesday morning aboard a Uganda Airlines chartered plane – went silent as none could officially respond to various prompts.
Malawi on Monday stopped Uganda’s hopes of making the final for the Cameroon 2021, after 1-0 win at the Kamuzu Banda Stadium, thanks to soldier-footballer, Richard Mbulu’s header, 16 minutes into play.
Mbulu’s goal was all the southeastern African country needed to register their appearance at the Afcon finals for the first time since 2010.
Uganda’s flop on the day is the third big surprise in the qualifiers after that of DR Congo and South Africa. The situation however, followed ‘mind-games’ –which Malawians initiated, hours to kick-off, indicating that some players on the Uganda team had tested positive for Covid-19 and therefore ineligible to play.
It took the efforts of Fufa president Eng. Moses Magogo for Caf to clear Taddeo Lwanga but still the midfielder started from the bench – coming on later after recess and his impact unfelt.
Eng. Magogo, as well as other Fufa officials, who had earlier posted messages critical of Malawian conduct were quick, after the final whistle, to congratulate The Flames for a job well done.
“The best team on the pitch won…… We lost fairly after the authorities declared all our players Covid-19 negative and available for selection,” wrote Magogo on his facebook wall, adding: “The Mozambique referees were very fair to both teams at least in my view, congratulations to Malawi.”
Eng. Magogo noted that focus had to be turned onto the 2022 World Cup qualifiers, set to begin June 2021 with Uganda grouped alongside Mali, and neighbours Kenya and Rwanda.
But as Uganda hit a dead end Rwanda face Cameroon later on Tuesday in Kigali to battle for one of the remaining five slots. Cameroon has already qualified as host nation but top group F, as well.
Rwanda needs a win and nothing else tonight and will have to wait the result between Mozambique v Cape Verde. It is a showdown that could tip any of the three teams for qualification.
There matches that will be played for pride – including Kenya v Togo while Nigeria takes on Lesotho.
The results will have no impact on Kenya nor Nigeria’s qualification.
There are now five teams left to make up the 24 teams needed for the Africa’s top footballing tournament that will be held in Cameroon next year January and February.