Uganda Cranes captain Emmanuel Okwi is dauntless as he braces to lead the national team into a new dawn after a troubled period that followed their failed AFCON qualifying campaign.
In the midst of an ‘over achieving’ generation and a potential ‘golden generation’, Okwi has been handed the mantle, and will lead a fresh-looking Cranes when they take on South Africa in an international friendly on June 10.
The first outing for Uganda since suffering that horrific 1-0 defeat to Malawi – that ended their chase for a third consecutive AFCON qualification, and saw subsequent retirements of experienced players including Okwi’s predecessor Denis Onyango.
Okwi joined the Cranes camp for the first time as captain for Wednesday’s training session at the MTN Omondi Stadium.
Speaking to media after the team’s training, Okwi was positive that the current crop can achieve even more, stressing that the upcoming friendly will show crucial signals for what the future holds for the Cranes.
“I have been given a warm welcome to camp, and I can already feel the enthusiasm and optimism within the group, to learn, to develop and to achieve big things,” he said.
“Obviously, we want to give the best account of ourselves when we face South Africa because they are in a similar boat like us after failing to qualify for the AFCON.”
“I know they will give us a good game, and we also want to go there and show our best game,” he added.
“Regards the long-term possibilities of this group, I think we have to wait and see how we handle the game, because I am sure that will provide important signals about the journey we are headed,” he continued.
The Cranes under interim coach Abdallah Mubiru will want to use the friendly to prepare for their World Cup qualifiers that get underway in September 2021.
The rebuilding process hinges on building confidence, nurturing identity and also putting youth at the centre of it all.
Perhaps explaining why, the first squad summoned by Mubiru for the friendly includes up to 10 players that are uncapped, and also up to five players who were part of the Uganda U20 team that reached the finals of the AFCON early this year.
These include Kenneth Ssemakula, Ismail Mugulusi, Steven Sserwadda, Richard Basangwa and Derrick Kakooza.
They join teammates Gavin Kizito who had his senior debut against Malawi in March and Bobosi Byaruhanga who was part of the Cranes CHAN squad.