Goalkeeper Salim Jamal Returns to Cranes Squad for AFCON Qualifiers

Goalkeeper Salim Jamal Magoola has bounced back to the Uganda Cranes squad. He is part of the 30-man provisional squad summoned for the preparation for the Africa Cup of Nations Qualifiers, nearly two years since he last appeared for the national team.

Uganda and Tanzania are set to clash in a two-match series in the AFCON qualifiers. Uganda will host the first tie on March 24th, 2023, and will visit the Taifa stars four days later for a rematch. Magoola 27, was last called for Uganda Cranes in March 2021 among the substitutes for the Uganda Cranes game against Malawi in Blantyre.

Unfortunately, Uganda lost the crucial tie and consequently failed to qualify for the 2021 AFCON. After that game, a couple of experienced players including the team Captain Denis Onyango, Hassan Wasswa, Mike Azira, and Hassan Wasswa among others went on to retire as Magoola held on.

The retirement of Onyango was viewed by many as an opportunity for Magoola to take over as the primary goalkeeper, but this has not been the case as the technical bench has been opting for either Charles Lukwago or Ismail Watenga.  

But his recall to the national team can be easily attributed to his recent impressive form with South African Premier League side Richards Bay where he has kept at least 11 clean sheets in 22 league games. His return sets the stage for a fierce contest for the starting role with Charles Lukwago who plays for St. George in Ethiopia, URA FC’s Alionzi Nafian, and Gadaffi FC’s, Joel Mutakubwa.

Besides Salim Jamal, left-back Joseph Ochaya, who last played for Uganda Cranes in the World Cup qualifiers in September 2021 against Mali has also returned to the national team. He will compete with two young players Azizi Kayondo and Derrick Ndahiro for a starting berth in the team. 

According to a press release by FUFA, the team of local-based players will enter the residential camp on Wednesday, March 15th, 2023 at the Cranes Paradise Hotel, Kisaasi before traveling to Bundibugyo for a regional tour game against Kitara on March 17th, 2023. After the build-up game, the selected local-based players will travel to Egypt on Sunday while the foreign-based players will join the rest of the squad in Cairo direct from their respective clubs.

Uganda Cranes is currently languishing at the bottom of Group F having garnered one point from their two previous matches. They now face a crucial encounter against Tanzania, who are on equal footing with them.  Algeria currently holds the top spot in the group with six points, while Nigeria follows closely behind with two points.   

As Uganda plans to host Tanzania, they aim to secure a much-needed victory that would enhance their chances of qualifying for the AFCON tournament, which they missed in the last edition. Meanwhile, for the very first time, the national team will be deprived of the ardent support of tens of thousands of their fans, who occasionally flood Namboole or St. Mary’s stadium, to bolster the morale of the team as they confront Africa’s dominant football powerhouses on home ground.    

Uganda Cranes will host its home game against Tanzania at Suez Canal Authority stadium in Egypt because St. Mary’s stadium Kitende, which was Uganda Cranes’ home ground failed the CAF requirements to host the matches, leaving the National team homeless.

The provisional squad has goalkeepers including Jamal Salim Magoola, Alionzi Nafian, Charles Lukwago, and Joel Mutakubwa. Defenders include Gavin Kizito, James Begisa, Aziz Kayondo, Derrick Ndahiro, Livingston Mulondo, Geoffrey Wasswa, Timothy Awany, Halid Lwaliwa, Kenneth Ssemakula, and Rogers Torach. 

Midfielders include Siraje Sentam, Aucho Khalid, Bobosi Byaruhanga, Steven Sserwadda, Isma Mugulusi, Allan Okello, and Farouk Miya while forwards include Emmanuel Okwi, Rogers Mato, Joseph Ochaya, Travis Mutyaba, Steven Mukwala, Fahad Bayo, Richard Basangwa, Sadat Anaku, and Rogers Mugisha.

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