KAMPALA – Theories that Uganda was likely to host its home fixtures of the upcoming World Cup 2022 qualifiers outside the country due to the poor state of national stadia facilities have vanished in thin air, after global soccer governing body – Fifa, through continental partners – Caf approved St. Mary’s Stadium – Kitende.
Kitende stadium is a privately owned with an artificial turf pitch – and currently the only facility in Uganda that can host Fifa sanctioned matches after a ban was slapped on Mandela National stadium – Namboole as well as the almost non-existing Nakivubo War Memorial stadium in the heart of Kampala.
Earlier, Fifa and Caf inspectors had indicated, during a visit to Kampala that Kitende, which lack floodlights as well as proper road infrastructures was unfit to host highly profiled matches but these particular requirements were relaxed for Uganda to ‘feel the home atmosphere.’
Caf on Monday issued a circular to member associations listing the approved stadia for the first two rounds of group matches as Kitende was the venue indicated for Uganda.
A total of at least 10 nations of the 40 taking part in the qualifying campaign face the prospect of ‘hosting’ matches next month outside their borders.
Those affected include Senegal, who competed at the last World Cup in Russia in 2018, and Mali, who were among the top seeded teams for the preliminaries.
Burkina Faso, the Central African Republic, Liberia, Malawi, Mali, Namibia, Niger and Sierra Leone have all not had their home stadia approved as Caf cracks down on poor infrastructure around the continent.
The affected countries now face a tight deadline to upgrade venues before the first set of matches begin on June 5 or they will have to host them elsewhere.
Uganda, DR Congo and Libya had their main stadia rejected but will still be able to play at home at smaller, alternate venues.
The group phase of Africa’s World Cup preliminaries has the 40 countries divided into 10 groups of four. They will play six matches each through until October.
In November, the group winners will pair off into five playoff ties with the aggregate victors qualifying for the finals in Qatar next year.
Uganda is pooled in group E for the 2022 World Cup qualifiers, alongside neighbours Kenya and Rwanda, and West African giant Mali.
Uganda’s quest to appear at the global showpiece will begin with a trip to Nairobi to face Harambe Stars between June 5-8, 2021; before hosting Mali between June 11-14.
Kitende stadium authorities were quick to call on government to improve on access roads to the facility.
“Waking up to the news that St Mary’s Stadium has been approved by Caf to host World Cup Games. It was going to be an embarrassment to the Nation for (The) Cranes to host games away. Government can now help work on the access road to the stadia,” Abdu Wasike – the communications at Vipers SC is quoted as saying.