World Cup Qualifiers: Profiling the 12 local-based players that travelled with the Cranes

Yunus Sentamu is among the locally based players in the Uganda Cranes camp|COURTESY

FOOTBALL World Cup Qualifiers: Profiling the 12 local-based players that travelled with the Cranes

Brian Aheebwa 15:35 - 13.11.2023

Twelve local players were on board as the Cranes departed from Entebbe Airport on Sunday at 10 pm, but who are they, and which clubs do they play for?

Head coach Paul Joseph Put confirmed a 27-man squad on Friday ahead of the Uganda Cranes' trip to Morocco to commence their 2026 FIFA World Cup qualification campaign.

Twelve local players were on board as the Cranes departed from Entebbe Airport on Sunday at 10 pm, but who are they, and which clubs do they play for?

Yunus Sentamu - Vipers SC

Yunus Sentamu controls the ball at St Mary's Stadium recently. Struggled on Sunday|Vipers media

He is one of the best strikers in the Uganda Premier League but was frozen from the Uganda Cranes team for most of former head coach Milutin 'Micho' Sredojevic's second stint.

The 29-year-old has been capped 31 times for the Uganda Cranes, scoring five goals after debuting in 2014.

He has managed one goal and three assists in seven games for the Venoms this Season.

Sentamu is poised for a starting berth in Put's team with MFK Vyskov's Fahad Bayo, who has recently been a mainstay on the national team and his only major threat.

Milton Karisa - Vipers SC

Winger Milton Karisa is in contention for the Cranes|FUFA IMAGE

He is a familiar name for the Uganda Cranes, and he is always one of the few local-based players who usually makes the final roster for international engagements.

The 27-year-old marked his debut for the Cranes in 2017, and he has gone on to make 45 appearances and scored six goals.

Karisa can be referred to as the best UPL player as far as last season is concerned. He was named the Player of the Season, the Player with the most assists, and the Coaches' Player of the Season, and he also made it to the Team of the Season.

Bright Anukani - Vipers SC

Vipers players a Bright Anukani goal against Wakiso Giants|VIPERS IMAGE

He has been in and out of the national team, but his talent and ability can never be disputed because he is currently one of the best number 10s in Uganda.

At 23, the former KCCA FC and Proline midfielder has played 15 games for the Uganda Cranes and netted three goals.

Anukani can only hope to impress the new Uganda head coach, Put, to become a regular on the national team.

Jack Komakech - Vipers SC

Jack Komakech (GREEN) has been brilliant this season|SPORTS IMAGES

Vipers' new head coach, Leonard Martin Leiva, has trusted this young goalkeeper and has satisfied the Brazilian.

Komakech has played in the Venoms' seven league games this season and has managed to keep four clean sheets.

He has grown in stature from under competitions, more so at the U-20 Africa Cup of Nations in Mauritania in 2021, where the Uganda Hippos reached the final before losing 2-0 to Ghana.

With South Africa-based goalkeepers Salim Jamal Magoola and Ismail Watenga available, Komakech won't start in the crucial World Cup qualifiers. Still, he will learn a lot from them as he awaits his time, which will eventually come shortly.

Rogers Torach - Vipers SC

Youngster Rogers Torach in action for Vipers /Vipers SC Image

He is a young defender with all it takes to become a top player, and his presence and command were felt throughout the 2023 U-20 AFCON in Egypt.

Alongside his compatriot Rogers Mugisha, Torach was named in the U-20 Best Team of the Group Stages. The former made it to the Best Team of the Tournament.

Torach has yet to debut for the senior national team, but he is one for the future.

Gavin Kizito - SC Villa

Gavin Kizito returned to SC Villa after a stint in Egypt /FUFA image

Since captaining the Uganda Hippos at the U-20 AFCON, Gavin has been promoted to the senior team and was a starter in a couple of games during the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers.

After debuting for the Uganda Cranes in 2021, Kizito has played 11 games in the national colours.

Following the termination of his contract with Egyptian side Al-Ittihad Club of Alexandria, he returned to his former club, Villa. He has since scored one goal during his side's 1-1 draw with the UPL defending champions Vipers at Kitende.

Kenneth Ssemakula - SC Villa

Uganda Cranes defender Kenneth Semakula during warm-ups /FUFA image

Ssemakula has been Gavin's partner in central defence for a while now, and they have been part of the Uganda Cranes set-up since their breakthrough on an excellent performance at the 2021 U-20 AFCON in Mauritania.

The 20-year-old's senior debut came in September 2022, and he has since featured nine times for the Uganda Cranes.

He is the current captain of Villa, and Gavin's return to the club at the start of the ongoing season ensured that they reunited and are trying to find their mojo again.

Umar Lutalo - SC Villa

Villa's Umar Lutalo (left) vies for the ball with Maroons FC's Walusimbi Solomon (right) | Photo Credit: Ismail Mulangwa

Since last season, Lutalo has been an integral part of the record UPL champions, and his performances have not slowed down.

He has managed three goals in the league so far this season, a tally only bettered by Fred Amaku, Muhammad Shaban, and Alex Kitata, and he has, therefore, earned his place in the Cranes' squad for the first time on merit.

Huud Mulikyi - URA FC

Hudu Mulikyi received his second Uganda Cranes summon|URA FC X

In October, the tricky tackling midfielder was part of the Uganda Cranes squad for the first time in the international friendlies against Mali and Zambia.

Mulikyi can also play in defence as a central defender and a right back position he has featured at his club URA.

His chance on the national team comes at the right time with his former head coach at URA, Sam Ssimbwa, now the assistant manager of the Cranes.

Fred Amaku - Maroons SC

Amaku celebrates one of his goals against KCCA FC.

He has never been shy in front of goal, and he had 10 UPL goals in the 2022/23 campaign, only three behind eventual top scorer Allan Kayiwa, then of Express FC.

Amaku began the 2023/24 term from where he left last season and is the joint leading goal scorer with four goals, level with KCCA FC's Shaban and Gaddafi FC's Kitata.

He will be hoping to make his first national team call-up count.

Denis Omedi - Kitara FC

Denis Omedi celebrates scoring this season|OMEDI X

Last season, he was the top scorer in the FUFA Big League before joining UPL's newly promoted side, Kitara, for the 2023/24 campaign.

Omedi carried his scoring boots from the second to the top tier and has managed three goals already, helping the Royal to the second-place position with 16 points after seven games.

In October, he was also with the Uganda Cranes for the international friendlies against Mali and Zambia, although he didn't debut for the black, yellow, and red.

Allan Oyirwoth - Amus College

Oyirwoth finished as the top scorer at Morocco's ISF World Football Schools' Championship with ten goals|COURTESY

The youngster is the only non-league Player on the team, showing his capability. Oyirwoth finished as the top scorer at Morocco's ISF World Football Schools' Championship with ten goals.

His dream is to make it to the professional ranks, and his maiden summon on the national team will provide a breakthrough for him.

Vipers, represented by five players, have the lion's share of the local-based players of the team, followed by Villa with three representatives. At the same time, URA, Maroons, Kitara, and Amus have one Player each.

Uganda is pooled in Group G of the qualifiers with Algeria, Botswana, Guinea, Mozambique, and Somalia.

The Cranes will kick off their campaign against Guinea on November 17th before facing Somalia on the 21st, with all games set to take place at Berkane Municipal Stadium in Morocco.

*The Uganda Cranes 27-man squad*

*Goalkeepers:* Salim Jamal Magoola (Richards Bay), Ismail Watenga (Golden Arrows), Jack Komakech (Vipers)

*Defenders:* Bevis Mugabi (Motherwell), Elvis Bwomono (IBV Vestamanyear), Timothy Awany (Ashdod), Halid Lwaliwa (Bregalnica), Aziz Kayondo (Apoel Tel Viv), Ibrahim Juma (Leganes B), Gavin Kizito (Villa), Kenneth Ssemakula (Villa), Rogers Torach (Vipers)

*Midfielders:* Khalid Aucho (Yanga), Bobosi Byaruhanga (Austin FC), Travis Mutyaba (Dinamo Tbilisi), Bright Anukani (Vipers), Huud Mulikyi (URA), Allan Oyirwoth (Amus College)

*Strikers:* Kizito Luwagga (Hapoel Rishon Lezyon), Rogers Mato (Sanliurfaspor), Fahad Bayo (MFK Vyskov), Richard Basangwa (Wadi Degla), Yunus Sentamu (Vipers), Milton Karisa (Vipers), Fred Amaku (Maroons), Denis Omedi (Kitara), Umar Lutalo (Villa)