By Fred Kaweesi
World Cup qualifier
Senegal v Uganda
CRANES’ make-or-break World Cup qualifier against Senegal will be played at a neutral venue in Morocco’s fourth largest city Marrakesh.
That is already known, and should not present concerns over any sort of foul play considering that the Lions of Teranga will be playing away too.
But soccer governing body FUFA are still not leaving anything to chance ahead of Saturday’s fixture at the 45,000-capacity Marrakesh Stadium in Morocco.
Apart from organising a three-day training camp in Istanbul (Turkey), an advance team will be dispatched to the beautiful city of Marrakesh this morning to identify and book a decent hotel, preferably close the match-day stadium.
The Cranes will set foot in Marrakesh on Thursday evening but will, according to FUFA Chief Executive Officer Edgar Watson, also find all logistics sorted.
“Mujib Kasule was sent with the team for the camp in Istanbul but will leave on Wednesday (today) in advance to prepare all the necessary groundwork,” Watson revealed yesterday.
“We also have officials in Morocco that we have been communicating with to guide us through the processes there,” he added.
No excuses this time Ugandan teams have in the past accused their various hosts of foul play. Local clubs have also on previous occasions complained of something similar besides being given food with plenty of pepper, and being kept at the airport lobby for long. However, that should be history at least marching into this weekend’s game.
The match was initially scheduled to take place in the Guinean capital, Conakry but FIFA alongside CAF decided to move it to Marrakesh.
Senegal are currently serving a home-ban imposed on them last year by FIFA after crowd trouble followed their failure to beat Ivory Coast and qualify for the 2013 Orange Africa Cup of Nations finals.
Cranes at home
If history is anything to go by, then Cranes faithful should be pleased with Marrakesh —a venue Cranes are familiar with following their impressive run in the LG Cup in November 2011.
Then, the Cranes shocked the hosts in a 1-0 win before finishing second to eventual champions Cameroon. South African referee Daniel Bennett has been assigned with the responsibility of ensuring that this game does not boil out of control.
Bennett will be assisted by fellow countryman Zakhele Siwela and Kenyan Marwa Range.
South Africa’s 2013 Absa Premiership referee of the season, Victor Gomes will sit in as the fourth official.
Bennet must be tolerant
A lot is expected in regards to the passion and intense emotions that will go into the game and Bennet will be advised not to be card-happy due to the tackles that will be flying in from both sides during the course of the 90 minutes.
Cranes coach Micho Sredojevic will also have to ask his charges to keep cool heads as the 37-year-old, English-born South African referee, who has been an international referee since 2003, will not hesitate assuming his disciplinary approach.
Last Saturday, Cranes provided compelling evidence that a win —and comprehensive one at that —away from home is possible after humiliating hosts Botswana with a 3-1 win.
But the odds are firmly placed in favour of the starstudded Senegalese who despite the absence of first team stars Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse, need just a draw to progress to the play-offs.
Massa rift a concern
Cranes match-winning prospects on Saturday have also not been helped by the disturbing circumstances surrounding the exclusion of striker Geoffrey Massa from the team.
Micho has preferred to rely on Emmanuel Okwi, who will be supported by either Frank Kalanda or Hamis Kiiza.
Pint-sized striker Robert Ssentongo (5ft3) is the other striker, who could also be considered to challenge Senegal’s 6ft plus tall defenders.
Team in Turkey
Onyango, Odongkara, Muwonge, Kasagga, Kabugo, Iguma, Walusimbi, Aziira, Wasswa, Kayizzi, Oloya, Kizito, Wadada, Isinde, Kalungi, Ssentongo, Mutumba, Mawejje, Kizito, Kalanda, Okwi, Kiiza, Majwega, Ochaya.