FUFA Considers Egypt, Malawi to Bail Out Homeless Cranes

The Federation of Uganda Football Associations-FUFA is considering four countries to host the Uganda Cranes ahead of the 2023 TotalEnergies Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers. 

Decolas Kiiza, the FUFA Deputy CEO in charge of Football says that they are eying Egypt, Malawi, Zambia, and South Africa. Uganda is set to host Tanzania in a double fixture that will take place within eight days in March 2023.

It comes a few days after FUFA President Moses Magogo announced last week that St. Mary’s stadium Kitende had failed the CAF requirements to host the Uganda Cranes’ matches. St Mary’s has been Uganda Cranes’ home ground for two years since CAF blacklisted Mandela National stadium- Namboole.

In East Africa, only Tanzania has a CAF-approved stadium but Kiiza said they cannot risk playing two games in one stadium. “Tanzania is an option but that means we shall play two games from there, which is a disadvantage to us. I don’t think we can consider that, it is not advisable,” he said

Among the queries raised by Inspectors from the Continental Soccer governing body about St. Mary’s stadium, Kitende include issues of safety and security control. “Access control and exit, that is the biggest issue outstanding. If you have studied well the entrance is one for all categories, so what happens if there is an emergency for people to leave the stadium, would they still use the same entrance? Kiiza noted

“The other is the stadium setup itself, where the VVIP is. If you are to exit the stadium from the VVIP you still have to connect to other people. There is no way you say these are VVIPs let me evacuate them without interfering with others,” he added. Also, the access road to the stadium, which is marram has to be tarmacked as well as installing floodlights and failure to prove the main camera position.

This is however not the first time Uganda is pondering hosting international games away from home. In April 2021, Uganda nearly took Uganda Cranes World Cup qualifiers outside the country after Namboole had just been blacklisted. But fortunately, CAF gave St. Mary’s stadium provisional approval despite having a couple of queries that were supposed to be worked on, which was never done.

When asked whether there are plans to improve the stadium soon, Vipers CEO Simon Njuba who first said the stadium management is yet to receive any communication regarding the current development, said that they are aware of the stadium’s flaws and have plans to address them.

“Those areas are always there and you are always given time to improve. When you are asked to improve your facility, you definitely have to improve it, and we are committed to improving the stadium even without anything being stated by CAF first, we have always had that commitment that is why we are going to install floodlights,” Njuba said.

St Mary’s stadium became Uganda Crane’s home ground in 2021 after CAF and the Federation of International Football Association (FIFA) disqualified Namboole stadium from hosting the 2022 world cup qualifiers, saying the facility is substandard. 

The two bodies found the pitch, toilets, pavilion, and dressing rooms at the Mandela Stadium in an appalling state hence declaring it unfit to host any continental and international match and recommending an overhaul. 

They recommended the installation of new seats in the general public stands, a new green playing surface, decent changing rooms for both players and officials, a new running track (tartan) to replace the existing one which is outdated, installation of desks and air conditioners in the media and VIP sections, a modern LED scoreboard, upgrading of floodlights.

The renovation project, which is under the UPDF Engineering Brigade gave priority, to the construction of the 4.2km perimeter wall around the stadium and is expected to be accomplished in June 2023, according to Lt. Col Peter Kidemuka, the Project Engineer. 

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