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FIFA World Cup Qualifiers2026: Uganda Cranes return to Namboole with pomp

Uganda Cranes made a grand return to Mandela National Stadium after five years with a remarkable performance against Botswana on Friday.

The Cranes had last played at Uganda’s football Cathedral in November 2019 against Botswana and their return was anxiously awaited.

Ugandans turned up in big numbers to rally behind the team and the boys didn’t disappoint, collecting maximum points.

Deputy Speaker of Parliament of Uganda, Rt. Hon. Thomas Tayebwa, Vice President Emeritus H.E Edward Kiwanuka Ssekandi, Former Prime Minister Rt. Hon Amama Mbabazi, Archbishop of the Church of Uganda Stephen Kazimba Mugalu, Mufti of Uganda His Eminence Ramathan Mubajje and Minister of State for Sports Hon. Peter Ogwang were all present to support the team.

Other dignitaries included FUFA President Hon. Magogo Moses Hassim, Former FUFA President Dr. Lawrence Mulindwa and NCS Secretary General Dr. Bernard Patrick Ogwel among others.

The coach deployed a formidable starting XI handing Elio Capradossi his debut and he did not disappoint, putting up arguably a man of the match performance.

Midfielder Ronald Ssekiganda too got his first competitive match in national team colors while goalkeeper Isima Watenga was the captain of the day in the absence of injured Khalid Aucho.

Right from onset, Uganda Cranes looked dominant and indeed got the most scoring opportunities.

The first chance fell to Fahad Bayo in the 3rd minute but Botswana goalkeepe Goiiseone Phoko reached quickest to deny him.

Seven minutes later, Elvis Bwomono nearly fired Uganda into the lead but his close range effort was saved by Phoko.

Despite a good start, there was no breakthrough for either side at the interval.

Upon restart, coach Paul Put made changes, first bringing on Rogers Mato in place of Allan Okello.

In the 64th minute, Muhammad Shaban and Bobosi Byaruhanga replaced Steven Mukwala and Elvis Bwomono respectively. This meant Kenneth Semakula moved from midfield to right back.

Denis Omedi too came on for Bayo in the 70th minute to mark his senior team debut.

The decisive moment came in the 74th minute with Omedi setting up Shaban to tap home and send the fans into wild celebrations.

Omedi raced for a long ball from Byaruhanga and calmly slotted the ball at the near post for onrushing Shaban to tap home.

The team thereafter defended resiliently to claim all three points.

Uganda Cranes will return to action on Monday with another home fixture against Algeria.

Uganda Cranes Starting XI
Isima Watenga, Elvis Bwomono, Isaac Muleme, Elio Capradossi, Halidi Lwaliwa, Ronald Ssekiganda, Kenneth Semakula, Allan Okello, Travis Mutyaba, Fahad Bayo, Steven Mukwala

Nafian Alionzi, Chrispas Kusiima, Rogers Mato, Muhammad Shaban, Denis Omedi, Bobosi Byaruhanga, Timothy Awany, Ibrahim Kasule, Nicholas Mwere, Ronald Otti, Joel Sserunjogi, Umar Lutalo

Botswana Team

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