By Swalley Kenyi
Confederation of African Football (CAF) has appointed Ugandan assistant FIFA referee Mark Ssonko to handle matches at the forthcoming Africa Nations Championship finals in South Africa next month.
The 35-year-old Ssonko, has landed the assignment for the first time since 2010 when he acquired the FIFA badge.
Ssonko has handled Nations Championships qualifiers, Nations and World Cup qualifier matches involving Botswana, Ethiopia, DR Congo, Congo Brazzaville, Seychelles, Kenya and CAF club events around Africa before.
But his appointment for the CHAN finals is the biggest in his career so far and besides intensive training, the assistant referee is full of prayers for God’s mercy for him to perform even beyond expectations.
“I have been performing and so I deserve this appointment. But it is a big stage that I will be stepping on. I will be officiating with experienced referees so the expectations will be very high. I pray to God for me to perform,” Ssonko said.
“My target is a bigger stage than this,” he added.
Ugandan referees, who have been CAF and FIFA targets more than their colleagues in the region, have not landed any international assignments at that level since premature retirement of Mohammed Segonga in 2010.
FUFA president Moses Magogo attributes this to the remaining FIFA referees deteriorating form and even failure at fitness tests.
Magogo has blamed it on lack of fitness of FIFA referees in the country. Magogo said recently that because of the deteriorating form of Ugandan referees lately, CAF has found it hard to deploy them.
"When Segonga retired, he created a gap that has never been filled. Unfortunately our referees have instead deteriorated in their form making it difficult for us to defend our status and earn appointments," Magogo said.
Segonga's last assignment was at the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations finals where he officiated only match and felt underutilised. Since his retirement no Ugandan referee replaced him and the Fredrick Mufta, who was ranked next to Segonga has gone underground.
Uganda has Brian Nsubuga Denis Batte, Ronnie Kalema, Ali Kalyango and Fredrick Ngobi Mfuta as male and Irene Namubiru and Ssemambo Nabikko as female centre referees.
The male assistant referees include Hussein Bugembe, Khilifan Kanakulya, Samuel Kayondo, Yahaya Kitti, Musa Ngobi, Patabali Okello and Mark Sonko while Rehmah Kizito, Diana Mukasa and Marrex Nakitto Nkumbi are the three female assistants.