By Norman Isaac Mwambazi
A lot has happened in the Uganda Cranes camp in the last few weeks. From failing to qualify for the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) to the Federation of Uganda Football Association (FUFA) being accused of not paying players’ allowances to players like team captain Dennis Onyango and Mike Azira retiring from national duty, Uganda Cranes is once again facing another challenge.
News reaching us is that the team, and FUFA as a body currently don’t have an approved host stadium for the upcoming 2022 World Cup qualifiers that are kicking off in just less than two months.
Uganda Cranes find themselves in this kind of sticky situation because the world football governing body Federation of International Football Association (FIFA) disqualified Mandela National stadium in Namboole due to poor facilities after an inspection in March 2020. The stadium has since been turned into a COVID-19 make-shift hospital.
You’re probably wondering why the Cranes don’t opt for Vipers SC’s St Mary’s Stadium in Kitende just like they did during the AFCON qualifiers. Well, that stadium was also disqualified by FIFA for lacking some amenities like floodlights for night games and poor access roads. Nakivubo Stadium is not even an option because we all know the state it is in.
This leaves Uganda with no option but to look at our neighbours Tanzania to allow the Cranes to host the matches in their stadiums. Kenya and Rwanda are not options too in this scenario because first of all, we are drawn in the same qualification Group E, and secondly, there is ongoing political tension between Uganda and Rwanda.
The managing director of Mandela National stadium, Jamil Ssewanyana said the government promised to renovate it since it has been using it for close to a year now to treat COVID-19 patients.
“We received a press statement that Namboole would be renovated by the government soon but we are still waiting. Meanwhile, it is no longer in our hands but in the hands of the Ministry of Health,” Ssewanyana said.
It is estimated that if Uganda Cranes opt to use Tanzania as the host ground for their matches, it would cost FUFA Shs1 billion per match including transport and accommodation for the squad and officials.