The Group F match day three Africa Cup of Nations Qualifier between East African neighbours Uganda and Tanzania will be hosted by Uganda at the Suez Canal Authority Stadium in Egypt.
Uganda and Tanzania's upcoming Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifier match is set to take place not in either country, but in Egypt.
Quite peculiar as it is, this unusual situation to play the latest chapter of this classic East African rivalry, 4,000 kilometres away from home is a result of various factors including issues with stadium licensing, a lack of suitable options and politics.
Uganda’s long-standing home ground for international matches; the Mandela National Stadium at Namboole has been closed since 2020, where it has been used as a national COVID-19 treatment centre, before it underwent a prolonged re-development process that will run until at least June 2023.
St. Mary’s Stadium in Kitende, which had served the purpose of make-do home stadium had been used under a provisional license, which was not renewed after African football governing body, CAF, upgraded its minimum requirements for games of this magnitude.
The conundrum for Uganda’s football association, FUFA was to find a suitable option in the neighbourhood. Logically, they could not play the game in Tanzania because it would give their rivals absolute advantage.
"We zeroed in Egypt because of four parameters; being convenient for professional players to connect from across the globe, needing one flight connection from Uganda.”
The Egyptian FA was welcoming and friendly, and had a variety of certified stadiums available made it inevitable.”
The decision to host the match in Egypt is not without its challenges, however. FUFA will bear the costs of hosting the Tanzanian team, which include security and accommodation.
An insider at the organization estimates that the total cost of the fixture could be as much as Shs700m. Moreover, hosting a home match away from their fans is not ideal for FUFA and the Cranes who will miss the driving support for their fans
Watson is however banking on hope that the Ugandan government will have completed renovations at Namboole Stadium by June, when the team is set to host Algeria.
Despite these difficulties, Uganda and Tanzania will face off at the Suez Canal Authority Stadium in Egypt, a newly-built 21,000-capacity venue that was reconstructed from scratch in just three years.
The construction cost which stands at $26 million (approx. UGX 98B) is almost the same amount of money that the Ugandan government is injecting into refurbishing Namboole stadium fuelling discontent amongst citizens.
For Uganda, the match is a must-win, as they currently sit at the bottom of Group F with only one point. Algeria leads with six, Niger with two, and Tanzania with one.
As Watson put it, "It's not the ideal situation, but it's the situation we find ourselves in."
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