KAMPALA, Uganda, Dec 19 – The last time Uganda hosted the CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup, they ended up winners, beating Kenya by a solitary goal at the Namboole Stadium in 2012 to clinch their 13th title infront of their adoring fans.
Seven years on, the Cranes find themselves in the final again and as they prepare to take on Eritrea at the Lugogo Complex in Kampala on Thursday evening, their eyes are set on the trophy and a morale boosting triumph on home soil.
Interestingly, four years ago, current Uganda Cranes head coach Jonathan McKinstry was in a final with his former employers Rwanda, against Uganda in Ethiopia.
The Cranes ran out 1-0 winners against McKinstry’s Rwanda for title number 14 and this time round, the Irish coach finds himself in another final, this time with the side that caused him pain just four years back.
“I don’t think it is just about me wanting to win the trophy. It is about these players who most of them are donning the national team jersey for the first time ever. Until two weeks ago, most of them had not played for the national team,” McKinstry says.
“All of them do not know how it feels to win the title, apart from Mutyaba (Muzamiru) who has won it before. It is this collective hunger that drives us to go out there and win this title,” the tactician further stated.
Mutyaba was part of the 2015 title winning outfit in Ethiopia. He has started the last two matches under McKinstry in this year’s tournament and if his performance is to go by, he might be preferred again in the final against the Eritreans.
The Red Sea Boys earned their first ever slot in the final after a shock 4-1win over defending champions Kenya in the semis and McKinstry is not taking them lightly despite beating them 2-0 in the group stages.
“I knew that this Eritrea team would cause others problems because of how they play and set up their team. Credit to their coaching staff because they play very structured football and we saw how they played against Kenya,” he says.
“We won yes, but it was difficult and I expect it to be even more difficult when we play them in the final. Everyone wants it and I expect them to come out tough,” the coach noted.
His sentiments are shared by defender John Revita who has asked his teammates not to underrate the boys from Asmara.
“They are a good team because if you see at how they have been playing, it tells you they are serious with what they are doing. We cannot go to them lightly and we have to be at our best,” the defender noted.
Eritrea meanwhile are hoping to pull another shock against the home side and head coach Efrem Haile says he is not afraid of taking on anyone.
“We have a good team and the way we play is so good. We will plan for Uganda because we know them after playing them in the group stages. It will be tough, but we will do our best,” Haile stated.
The winner of the final will walk home with Sh3mn with the losing finalist banking a cool Sh2mn.