As the entire world is aggressively battling the effects of COVID-19, sports on general has been adversely affected. There has been no football action for over three months in most countries of the world, including Uganda. This situation has forced players to train at the confines of their respective home steads, coaches are offering tips and monitoring the players online whilst the administrators have used this period to lay strategies before football resumes.
Uganda Cranes head coach Johnathan Mckinstry, in a special interview with www.fufa.co.ug shares how the pandemic has affected him, the behind the scenes planning process and how he closely monitors the players.
QUESTION: This seems to be an awkward period in your coaching career. The world is on its knees due to Covid-19. Has this ever happened to you before?
MCKINSTRY: This is a new situation for the entire world. I do not think anyone has experienced this situation in the entire world. I faced a similar situation in 2014 unfortunately in Sirrea Leone during the Ebola pandemic. It posed very unique challenges and some of which are quite similar. We have not figured out the best way forward. The current epidemic is something new to everybody in the entire world.
QUESTION: CAF and FIFA are yet to communicate on the latest developments in regard to the international fixtures. How are you anxiously waiting for this communication?
MCKINSTRY: Obviously, everyone is waiting for guidance from FIFA and CAF in terms of how we are going to proceed. We have international windows in September, October and November and hopefully the Africa Cup of Nations tournament in January 2021. I know there are lots of discussions going on if we shall go on or postponed. At the moment, if we can start to play in September. We have four games in that window. But nobody knows how this pandemic is going to unfold. Progress is being monitored not only here in Uganda but across the African continent because If one of our opponents is still struggling with the pandemic, then we can not play. We patiently waiting. The other thing most of the people are not aware about is that in football, when you are making plans, you plan backwards from the moment you are due to play. So, if you do not know when you are going to play, it makes the planning process difficult. That also puts us in a difficult situation Everybody is in the same scenario.
QUESTION: When you broke off the CHAN Cranes camp, you shared some fitness videos for the players. Are they still using the same programme?
MCKINSTRY: We are actively working in the background. We are in constant communication with the players and discussions with them everyday. We have an online learning platform for all our players where every week we are engaging not just our foreign based players but also the home based players. Aware that some players have robust training programmes by their respective clubs, we are acting as a supplementary for them and many of them have sent pictures to show the amount of space they have as we advise according on what kind of drills they can do.
QUESTION: How often are you in touch with the foreign based players during this Covid-19 era even when their football seasons have been off?
MCKINSTRY: Like said, before, we have an online platform for all the players. are actively working in the Socially, It can be a case of phone calls and whats app. Also, we are getting into the situation when football is returning. For example, Luwagga Kizito (Hapoel Kfar Saba) and Timothy Denis Awany (F.C. Ashdod) played in Isreal last weekend as well as Robert Kakeeto (AaB) who played the full 90 minutes in the Danish top flight division. We are starting to have our players get back to the field of play. In the coming weeks, we are getting more and more players coming into action. The Swedish league is coming back soon, the South African league.
QUESTION: When you named the Cranes Squad for AFCON 2021 Qualifiers against South Sudan, there were some players who were recovering from injuries and missed out on the call ups. What’s the latest on these players?
MCKINSTRY: All these players are doing well. With the forced break in football, nobody welcomed it. But it has been a period for most players to fully recover from their ailments.In March for instance Faruku Miya was injured but he is now doing well and will be ready to play when the Turkish league resumes. Kizito Luwaga in Isreal is back and played 65 minutes last Saturday for his club Hapoel Kfar Saba. The biggest challenge is now match fitness. When you have not played for so long, it is tiring and physically demanding. That is where they need to improve but it is the same situation for all footballers everywhere in the world.