Ssekajja-less Cranes Invade Crocodiles Sanctuary
Obua will watch from the stands.

Ssekajja-less Cranes Invade Crocodiles Sanctuary

As Uganda cranes returns to action against Lesotho in Maseru.

By Ramathan Kasozi
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First published: June 17, 2007

Lesotho vs. Uganda

Time: Sunday June 17 at 4:00 Uganda time

Uganda Cranes will have to put their minds off of the 2-1 sweet victory over Nigeria a fortnight ago, when they return to action against Lesotho crocodiles in Setsoto stadium Maseru on Sunday 17th June in a group three African cup qualifier titanic battle.

The in- form Cranes will however, have to do without the team's play maker David Obua, midfield dynamo Noah Kasule Babadi and the team king pin Ibrahim Ssekajja. This is in addition to the extra cold temperatures in Maseru.

The patriotic Obua despite all his efforts has failed to shake off his thigh injury, Babadi is serving a match suspension after being shown marching orders in the game against Nigeria while skipper Ssekajja is doubtful for the encounter.

By press time, Ssekajja wasn't yet in camp claiming to be formalizing his transfer to Austrian giants Red Bulls Salzburg FC from Argentine outfits Arsenal Desalandi.

Under such circumstances where a team is missing its pivot players, the whole nation is in deep sorrow but the team tactician Laszlo Csaba is exclusive as he isn't bothered.

"It is true that in a decisive game like this one, any coach would like to be with his key players, but we shouldn't cry for lost milk. Uganda isn't Ssekajja or Obua. I have enough boys to accomplish the mission," Csaba was quoted by the local newspaper, The Daily Monitor, as having said, a day to the crucial tie.

Standing in Captain, Timothy Batabaire almost echoed his boss as he assured Ugandans not to worry about the absence of the trio, saying the rest of the squad is aware of why they are in Maseru.

"Precisely we shall miss their services, but we are aware of the task ahead of us and we are ready to give all what it requires to collect maximum points," discloses the former SC Villa towering non permeable centre back.

The team has been accorded with enough serious preparations, before jetting in Maseru on Friday having a four day camp in South Africa at Mamelod Sun downs home ground in a bid to acclimatize with Lesotho's cold temperatures.

The Federation of Uganda Football Association (FUFA) President, Lawrence Mulindwa had earlier on arrived in Maseru to judge the standard of hotel (Maseru Sun Hotel) where the Lesotho Football Association had booked for them. 

Mulindwa has, like in the crunch tie against Nigeria, promised the team a six figure reward for each member should they return Kampala with maximum points.

Lesotho's coach Mohap Motheo is already a worried man as he acknowledges that an up hill task is head of him "We really have hard work. Defeating a team that is motivated as the Cranes isn't simple," reveals Mohap who like his counterpart will be playing minus his injured inspirational captain, Seema Lehloholono.

URA FC's all rounder Johnson Bagoole is on standby to step in for Ssekajja for the midfield holding role alongside the gifted Congolese naturalized Ugandan, Assan Pitche Bajope with the country's new kid on block Dan Wagaluka dictating matters on the right side of the mid field as Alimansi Kadogo tries to fit in the over sized boots of Obua.

After starting the game against Nigeria from the bench, Hassan Mubiru regains his starting eleven status from Geoffrey Sserunkuma. The return of the former Express FC revives the 'MU-MA' attacking combination with 'assassin' Massa Geoffrey.

The Egyptian based goal poacher was the architect of the Super Eagles 2-1 fall in Kampala a fortnight ago, winning both the two hard fought penalties which Obua and Ssekajja converted.

Prior to the departure from Kampala, Massa sent a warning to the Lesotho Crocodiles.

"Away games are always difficult but I will try to give my all and return home victorious," sounded the 22-year-old striker who singled handedly tore the Lesotho's rearguard in first leg, scoring a brace and winning a penalty to earn the Cranes a 3-0 victory.

In the first leg, goalie Denis Onyango was like a spectator and could afford even to read Newspapers but this time round, playing from away and with a depleted side, a tall order seem to await the Super Sport FC player as he will need to pull one of his reflex heroics like the one that denied Yakubi Ayeigebin an equalizer in the game against Nigeria.

Hardman Andy Mwesigwa bounces back to the central defense after serving his one match suspension to partner Batabaire with Richard Malinga who had a shaky day against Nigeria paving way for attack minded Simeon Masaba on the right flank as Nestory Kizito mans the left full back.

The four man rearguard will however have to a keep a close eye at the hosts' attacks spearheaded by the Batabaire's club mate Lebaja Mphongoa.

The Cranes need maximum points from this fixture to brighten their qualification chances to the finals of the most prestigious tournament on the Black man's continent that has eluded them since 1978.

Uganda will before stepping on the Setsoto 20, 000 seater stadium, first negotiate with their gods that has haunted them for long whenever playing from away as books of records show their last away win dates way back in 2000 when they beat Malawi 2-1 in Blantyre courtesy of the late Majid Musisi and Willy Kyambadde's strikes.

Else where, smarting from 2-1 loss to Uganda, Begt Vogts' wounded Super Eagles of Nigeria fly to Niamey for a titanic clash against Niger well aware that any loss will be received with two hands by Uganda as it will mean that the western African giant surrender their table leadership, should the high flying Cranes reap maximum points in Maseru.

In other encounters, Sierra Leone is in Bamako to entertain Mali's Eagles, Libya host Ethiopia, Namibia is up against DR Congo, Chad visits Zambia's Chipolopolo while Mt Everest awaits Mauritius when the try their luck against Magrib region merciless giants Tunisia in Tunis.

The Amavubi (wasps) of Rwanda are in a lions den against the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon, Togo lines up against Benin, Sudan plays away to Seychelles, Guinea invades Algeria's desert warriors as Mauritania and Botswana sort out them selves.

Group three table

      P W D L F A Pt

Nigeria 4 3 0 1 5 2 9

Uganda 4 2 1 1 5 2 7

Niger 4 1 1 2 3 5 4

Lesotho 4 1 0 3 3 7 3

 Best runners up table

     P  W  D  L  F  A  Pt

Sudan 4  3  0  1  8  2   9

Zambia 4  2  1  1  5  1  7

Uganda 4  2  1  1  5  2  7

Mali 4  1  3  0  2  1  6

Namibia 4   2   0  2  5  5  6

NB: The best three runners up in the groups of four members qualify for the Finals in Ghana.

By Ramathan Kasozi
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First published: June 17, 2007
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Ramathan Kasozi is a member of Ultimate Media Consult (U) Ltd. . A graduate Journalist, Kasozi has more than 5 years experience reporting on sports in Uganda for different print and broadcast media houses.