How Realistic is Uganda’s Vision to Qualify for FIFA World Cup 2026?

In 2018, after qualifying for a second consecutive edition of the Tota lEnergies Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), the President of the Federation of Uganda Football Associations, Moses Hassim Magogo said it was time for Uganda to start setting sights higher. 

Magogo revealed that FUFA was ready to punch above its weight and see Uganda Cranes participate in the FIFA World Cup 2026, a tournament Uganda has never come close to qualifying for.  

However, the vision was dashed two years later when Uganda Cranes failed to qualify for the TotalEnergies Africa Cup of Nations 2021, which perhaps made football stakeholders and supporters doubt the possibility of appearing on a World stage if they had failed to clinch routine qualification for the continental showpiece.  

But, the vision gained momentum last month when FUFA patterned with Nile Breweries Ltd through its flagship brand Nile Special and launched a drive for mobilising funds that will facilitate the National Football team in its bid to qualify for the FIFA World Cup 2026.  

While launching the campaign at FUFA Complex in Mengo, former Uganda Cranes captain Denis Onyango who was named the brand ambassador of the campaign; said that this campaign will help to boost the team with what it takes to qualify for the world cup.  

This comes at a time when Africa has registered a record increment in the number of slots for the FIFA World Cup 2026 from five to nine slots which might make the qualifiers a little easier than they have been for the past editions.  

For many years, the inability of Uganda, just like many other African teams to overcome the tough hurdle to qualify for the FIFA World Cup is linked to Africa’s limited number of World Cup slots. For a continent with 54 member countries, it was only getting five slots and this started in 1998. 

In contrast, South America, which has only 10 qualifying nations, has been receiving between four and five, and Europe, which has 55 eligible nations, receives 13. Therefore, from a purely statistical perspective, this significantly lowers Africa’s chances of impressing at the world cup.    

But how realistic is this vision for Uganda to make it to the FIFA World Cup 2026? Uganda Radio Network talked to football experts to give their views on the  possibility of having Uganda Cranes in the world’s largest football event for the first time in 2026.  

Former Uganda Cranes captain Andy Mwesigwa rubbished the move saying that there are many things the local soccer governing must consider before aspiring to play on the biggest football stage. He argues that at such a time like this, the country would have been with an already established team that is waiting for the qualifiers. 

“For Uganda to qualify for the World Cup 2026 and this is now 2022, for me I think it is late. And to be honest with you, miracles can happen, but the way am seeing how things have been made, I don’t think we can make it,” he briefly said

“Why am I saying so? I will give examples of the Under 20 that reached finals of Afcon. If am to ask, how many players of that team are are we having now in the senior national team from that setup?  If you talking of four years from now, it means you need to have a team already in place now, which means those players would be the ones playing for the national team. If we are to really qualify for 2026, unless maybe miracles happen, I would say we plan for 2030, but for the next world cup, believe me, it would just be a miracle, because we have not put things the right way,” he reasoned.

He believes that the only thing FUFA can do is strategise for the World Cup 2030. “I would give an example of the Moroccan team, as you see, that team was assembled eight years, all those players were in their youth structure, and they have been coming playing, that’s why you see they made it, so if we are to copy a leaf we should copy from morocco and that means it can’t be the coming world cup but 2030,” added Mwesigwa.

Former URA FC Head Coach Sam Simbwa reads from the same book as Mwesigwa, he told URN that FUFA should rather focus on getting back Cranes to the African Cup of Nations than dreaming of the World Cup.

“About 2026, where are we now? Are we in AFCON? So if you didn’t qualify for the last AFCON, first fight to get back to AFCON, but there is no way you can fail to qualify for AFCON and you dream of the World Cup, may be if you are the host which is impossible. I see many wrongs but whenever you talk to become an enemy, but, what I can tell you is that we can’t qualify for 2026,” he said  

“Do you know how many teams from Africa have qualified for the world cup, they are few even when many countries want to go there, they have failed.” added the former national team winger.

On the contrary, former Uganda Cranes Coach, Mike Mutebi believes that there are a few errors that need to be sorted for Uganda to parade a team in the World Cup and if done so, he says Uganda can be in the 2026 world cup.

He argues that if the country had a competitive domestic league whose clubs can participate in continental championships, that would be a strong pillar in Uganda’s Course for the FIFA World Cup 2026.

“FUFA is trying to do everything right, the only challenge we have is with the clubs, the clubs must be competitive, we do have players that can develop, the more we go into championships, like Chan, these players play their mate, they have the ability, however, it will take patience, the more these players together on the national team, the more they face challenges on the continent and gain confidence, we can do it,”

“But we need to strengthen our clubs, our clubs must be able to play on the continent, the more confidence they gather and they rub shoulders with players who they may meet in these championships. You see what morocco has done, they had that project, it worked, their clubs were champions in Africa, so we can do it here, as long as we are patience we can groom players in that period, with the support of the government. Of course, FUFA has done all really, but they need to be also funded by the government,” added Mutebi.

He made reference to the Under 20 National team that played AFCON 2021 final which he says should be taking over the senior National team now. “They showed that they were winners in that championship, which shows that they have grown so it’s high time they are given responsibility, of course, there are players on the team that I think are a little bit useful on the team, but we can mix them, the sky will be the limit,” he said

Meanwhile, if Uganda is to break the jinx and qualify for the world, the Uganda Cranes will have to rub shoulders with the continent’s heavyweights that have dominated the African slots since the tournament was started.

To be more specific, only 13 of Africa’s 54 countries have ever qualified for the world’s biggest football extravaganza, leaving a total of 41 countries dreaming of the event. In East Africa, only Dr. Congo has ever qualified for the world cup.

The other countries that have played at the world cup are Egypt, Morocco, Senegal, Cameroon, Tunisia, South Africa, Algeria, Ghana, Togo, Nigeria, Côte d’Ivoire, and Angola

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