Uganda Cranes head coach Johnathan McKinstry is confident Uganda will perform better than the previous Total CHAN tournaments participated in.
In an exclusive interview with www.fufa.co.ug moments after the draw held in Cameroon, McKinstry hinted on the exceptional pool of talent in Uganda, the work ethics and belief of the players.
Uganda Cranes was drawn in group C alongside defending champions Morocco, neighbors Rwanda and debutants Togo.
Here is the detailed interview:
FUFA Media: What is your general assessment of group C at Total Chan 2020?
Johnathan McKinstry: Overall, it is an interesting group to be drawn in. There is a lot of different types of football that we to play. It is a proper Pan- African group that has a West African opponent, North African opponent and an East African opponent. The styles of football for all the opponents are obviously different. We know on our preparations that we have to be ready for those different types of football on every given match day. Overall, we feel that we have all it takes to progress. Togo will be making their debut, it will be something new to them as they are slightly inexperienced but equally they have an experienced coach in Claude Le Roy. The players might be inexperienced but a coach who has spent more than 20 years on the African continent, he can build up the team. I know Rwanda very well and a lot of the players I gave the debut are still part of the team. We look forward to that. For Morocco, it will be a different test all together.
FUFA Media: What is your general assessment of all the groups at the Total Chan Tournament?
Johnathan McKinstry: The good thing about the Chan tournament is that it changes in every competition. The nature of Chan is that if a team is successful, like Morocco a number of players are seek greener pastures in foreign leagues and therefore had to predict. Well, you might add a few pieces to the puzzle. It is all about preparation and planning.We believe that we can qualify. All teams start the tournament believing that they will reach the knock out stage.
FUFA Media: How do you rate the chances of Morocco as defending champions?
Johnathan McKinstry: Morocco is good with a strong domestic league. We have a few Ugandan players playing in that league. They are a very competitive team and we know what Moroccoan players bring to the field. Nonetheless, We are ready for them. We all know Uganda versus North Africa in recent years. Morocco is the final group game, we need to first win the first two games for a good positive start against Rwanda and Togo before facing Morocco in the final game.
FUFA Media: How far do you think Uganda will go in the tournament?
Johnathan McKinstry: We go to the tournament very confident. We believe we can qualify for the quarter finals and make it beyond.
FUFA Media: The team lost some important players like Joel Madondo and Allan Okello who left for professional football. How are you copying with that?
Johnathan McKinstry: Both Allan and Joel are talented players and that is why they have ultimately been given an opportunity to move on. In line with the purpose of CHAN, the players were to be given expose to play professional football. We have a lot of talent in Uganda, I have said that before. Look at how we rotated the team at the CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup. Yes, there is no another Allan Okello or Joel Madondo in the league but equally there are other players ready to step up and take the chance.
FUFA Media: Uganda has a derby with Rwanda. How prepared are you for this contest?
Johnathan McKinstry: There is no team in Africa that I know better than Rwanda. Many players (in senior team or CHAN team) not not played for me but I gave them their senior debuts. There is some old friendship, but for 90 minutes, there will be rivalry. I believe we have enough quality and all it takes to take maximum points not only against Rwanda but also against Morocco.
FUFA Media: Who is the biggest threat in the group?
Johnathan McKinstry: Surely, I think our biggest threat to us is ourselves. We have got to make sure that we perform. There is more than enough talent in Uganda, the team ethic and work rate and we have shown that already is that that level that we can progress. We need to go out and put a 10 out of 10 performance not only in matches but during training sessions.
FUFA Media: How are you preparing the team for the Total CHAN 2020 Championship?
Johnathan McKinstry: When you look at Uganda’s performance at Chan over the years, this has been one of the disappointments for Uganda’s football because the StarTimes Uganda Premier League is very competitive league. Every year, there are close to 7 to 9 players get the opportunity to move outside Uganda. This alone shows you that the clubs in the UPL are doing something right to produce and develop the good talented players. But, this has not been reflected in the Chan performances. One of the reasons might be that in previous years, the players who qualified the team for Chan leave before the main finals. This time, we have prepared well. One of the reasons we played CECAFA was to prepare the Chan team. When we played CECAFA in December 2018, we have lost Joel and Allan but the rest of the team remains intact. One of our concerns in the transfer window was that what happens when we lose 5 to 6 players. We have lost two. We have the talent deep as we go to the tournament, we just need to perform when we get into the matches. We are into a good position to advance to the quarter finals.
FUFA Media: What is that special synergy between the Chan players and the fans?
Johnathan McKinstry: Chan is a great tournament but sometimes when it comes to AFCON when players are playing in Europe or America, the supporters may don’t not get to see them so often. But with the Chan players, the fans get to see them so often every week whether you are a fan of SC Villa, URA, Vipers, URA. These are the guys you see when you turn up at Namboole, Lugogo or Kitende when they play for your home town team. When they put on the colours of the Uganda Cranes, it really is your player, your brother, your neighbor, your cousin playing for Uganda.
We gonna be playing a couple of friendly matches here in Kampala (full programme will be released) late in March. Come out and support the team. Send them to Cameroon with that positive energy. Come and support the team. Show them that they are not playing for themselves, but for the country at large, their friends and families.
FUFA Media: When is the team being summoned and any hint about the preparations?
Johnathan Mckinstry: A group of 45 players are under close supervision. All of them are aware of that and given personal training for stamina, power and endurance on top of their club training regime. In the final week of February 2020, we shall be announcing the provisional group of 32 players. We shall start the camp on March 2nd 2020.