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Uganda Cranes’ head coach Johnathan McKinstry on anticipated return of international football, progress of foreign based legion

Uganda Cranes head coach Johnathan McKinstry has reaffirmed the readiness for the team when football eventually returns after the Coronavirus pandemic scourge that caused a forced break in March 2020.

In the latest interview with www.fufa.co.ug, McKinstry elucidates about the readiness of his technical team and the players upon the return of international football this November, the preparatory campaign strategy and the performance of the foreign based Ugandans with the return of football leagues in most countries.

Q1- Greetings coach and how is continued work behind the scenes during the lockdown.

Obviously, like everybody, it has been a challenge. I am not so naïve to think that my lockdown was the same as the rest of everyone’s. We had to get used to a lot of new things, new ways of doing work. We have used the time wisely. We have not been sitting on our hands. We have actively been involved with programmes, constant contact with players.

As we come back, we are going to be as well prepared like the rest of other countries in Africa. We are good to go.

Uganda Cranes head coach Johnathan McKinstry during the interview

Q2- Finally there is a reschedule of the international fixtures this year. You were meant to have 4 Nations cup qualifiers this year but that has been reduced to two matches in November. How has this affected your plans in 2020?

Everything is delayed. Everything is pushed back. Originally, the plan was to have the final tournament in Cameroon for the finals tournament in January 2021. We now know it was pushed ahead to 2022. We have to be very patient.

Concerning the match days three and four preparations of the AFCON 2021 that will be in November 2020. We already had preparations but there will be a complete review. We shall go back to review because the squad we named in March is not the same squad we shall name in November. For example, in March, Farouk Miya was injured and not considered. But now, he is well  and fit. For Abdul Lumala, in March, he had come back and was playing well for Pyramids but he is now recovering and will be reviewed.

Farouk Miya celebrates a goal in the Turkish league

Q3- It looks like it will be a busy period from November 2020 to the end of 2021. The AFCON Qualifiers, CHAN Finals, world cup campaign and then the AFCON Finals in 2022. What kind of campaign should we expect from you and the entire team?

First and foremost, from the coach’s perspective I think everyone appreciates that one of the frustrations of international football coaching is that you a lot of contact time with your players, of your club environment. You are there every day, every week. Whereas at the international environment, it is periodic. 2021 will be a very busy period with the CHAN finals, AFCON qualifiers, FIFA World Cup qualifiers and the CECAFA. It will be good for us. The more the players are together, the better for us to plan.

We shall advance our playing time even further because we shall have a lot of time with the players. The players are hungry to be back in action.

The Uganda Cranes players are hungry for action

Q4-The impatient fans can’t wait to see you and the boys play at home. Do you have a picture in mind of what kind of life they are going through?

There is no doubt in my mind that the COVID-19 pandemic has placed huge stress and pressures on people in all over the world but especially here in Uganda. The majority of the people work on a daily salary and so for a period of time, they were  not able to go to work, it was really a challenging situation. But, the people abided by the regulations in order to keep themselves, their friends, families and the country safe.

Hopefully now, we are over the worst of the pandemic and hopefully, we can now start edging towards normalcy. And the people can get back to not just what they used to, but also enjoy their social time like they used to and part of that is coming to back to the sporting arenas, stadia whether supporting the Uganda Premier League or the national team (Uganda Cranes).

We look forward to be able to step to Namboole again and we really hope that sports is gonna be the opportunity to celebrate and come together after difficult time. We are looking forward November not just a celebration but ensuring that Uganda Cranes qualifies for the AFCON for the third time in a row.

Q5 – Football is back in most countries where most Ugandans play like Tanzania, Sweden, Estonia, South Africa, Israel, Egypt, Denmark and elsewhere. How do you rate the progress of the players?

Most of our players have come back well from the Coronavirus pandemic.

Fahad Bayo’s move to Israel is a positive move for him. He joins other players as Timothy Awany and William Luwagga Kizito. Another player who has been top notch is Edrisa Lubega in Estonia. Faruku Miya came back from injury and has performed well. Alexis Bbakka in Sweden has been scoring the goals, Denis Onyango in South Africa and a couple of players in the Egyptian Premier League. This is very good news for the Ugandan team.

Uche Mubiru with his new manager at Wycombe Wanderers, Gareth Ainsworth

Q6 – Uche Mubiru signed for Wycombe Wanderers. How much faith do you have in him and the new deal?

For Mubiru, it was really interesting. His former club Heart of Midlothian appointed a new manager who is my good friend so we had some very discussions and thought there would be a very good feat between the club, head coach and the player. Before his announcement on Monday this week, we kept in close contact with Mubiru informing me and getting my opinion of the development. Interestingly, the current head coach at Wycombe Wanderers (Gareth Ainsworth) is my other good friend having done the coaching badges together. He has a real vision that Mubiru can be a real key component at Wycombe Wanderers. Mubiru is stepping up to a higher league having played in the Scottish league last year. The Championship is regarded globally as one of the most competitive leagues and this will help him develop further as a player.

Johnathan McKinstry during the interview at his office in Mengo, Kampala
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