Never mind Canada for a moment, there’s a bigger game going on today for one of CF Montreal’s international brethren.
Mustafa Kizza, yet to make an appearance in Africa’s premier Continental championship is in the frame for the left-back spot as Uganda travel to Blantyre to take on Malawi.
The Uganda Cranes need a point to ensure qualification for a third successive finals, a remarkable turnaround in the country’s footballing fortunes after going 39 years without an appearance.
Another well known to Montreal fans is also in the squad, Michael Azira, now of New Mexico United.
Today’s game takes on epic proportions. Should Malawi win, it will be they who qualify for the AFCON finals for only the third time in their history and the first since 2010.
Kamuzu Stadium’s artificial turf in the city of Blantyre will host the big game, with Ugandan coach, Abdallah Mubiru saying, “Ugandans will need every player tasked with defending national colours, today, to leave everything on the pitch.”
The coach has a few problems with injuries and the unavailability of key players. Israeli club Ashdod has withdrawn their players, Awany and Bayo from travelling to Malawi, a country which they consider a high risk Covid region. Both were involved in last week’s qualifier in Kitende (Uganda) against Burkina Faso.
Kizza may have to wait a little longer for his chance though. Uganda’s back four is expected remain unchanged, although a report in today’s Daily Monitor suggests Kizza could be in line to replace his idol and former team-mate at KCCA, Joseph Ochaya. In the last two training sessions Kizza assumed the role on the left side of defence, not Ochaya.
“I grew up seeing him. He is my role model,” intimated Kizza, “So, I learn a lot from him and for me it’s brotherly competition, healthy competition.”
While a point is enough, Cranes’ skipper and goalkeeper Denis Onyango of Mamelodi Sundowns in South Africa, has warned against setting low standards.
“We need to go to Malawi with a positive mindset,” said Onyango, “We need to play total football, not sitting back because it might cause more problems if we sit back.
“But those are the tactics for the coaches. What is certain is that we do not need any favours from anyone, so we need to do ourselves a favour and get results.”
Certainly if he gets the nod, Kizza will find himself in a much higher intensity situation than any of his CF Montreal colleagues discover this evening in Bradenton, Florida.
This little corner of Canada will be wishing him well.
Footnote: There’s an interesting underlying narrative going on with the Ugandan national team and their Northern Irish coach, Johnny McKinstry currently.
McKinstry was put on gardening leave for almost the whole month of March. It seems the Association had lost faith in the 35-year-old’s ability to get the expected AFCON qualification done and dusted. His assistant Abdallah Mubiru is placed in temporary charge for today’s game in Malawi and was also in charge for the previous 0-0 draw with Burkina Faso last week.
Check out the latest, The Ball Is Round Podcast (Episode 21). Recorded Wednesday (24 March), the TBIR team discuss the National Team’s Road to Qatar, the U23s in Mexico, a return for Jason Di Tullio and Florida pre-season plans... Plus all the usual favourite features... including, Eve’s Time Machine... Don’t miss it!
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