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Magogo: Under-20 team, the Hippos, to play the 2027 AFCON

The Hippos’ Under-20 team secured a silver medal against Ghana in the 13th African Games

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The national Under-20 team, the Hippos, has injected fresh energy into Uganda’s preparations for the 2027 African Cup of Nations (AFCON) following their silver medal win in the recently concluded 13th edition of the African Games in Accra.

Under the guidance of Morley Byekwaso, the team put up a valiant fight but fell short against hosts Ghana in the final, settling for silver. This echoed their defeat to Ghana in the 2021 Under-20 final in Mauritania.  Now, while the gold medal eluded them, the silver medal served as a significant morale booster for the team as they returned home. This particular cohort’s performance holds immense importance for Uganda’s aspirations for the 2027 AFCON.

Previously, efforts by the Ugandan FA alongside its sister Football Federations; Kenya and Tanzania were concentrated on securing hosting rights for the Continental showpiece, and now that this goal has already been achieved, each country is focusing on preparing its competitive team that will vie for the continental silverware that will be hosted on home soil.

“We are all looking up to AFCON 2027, we are the hoists, we must compete, we are not going to hoist AFCON and participate, we want to compete, and competing means we want to win it. Are you guys ready to win AFCON, it’s not a question of desire, it’s a question of ability, and ability is built, and you still have the time to build the ability,” Magogo told the team

The ideal team for the 2027 AFCON would have been the 2021 AFCON Under-20 silver medalists, since at this particular time, many of them have attained the top competing age both in the senior team and also at their respective clubs. However, many of them failed to maintain their trajectory, with some disappearing from the national team radar altogether.

For starters, several key players from that cohort who luckily ventured abroad struggled to find their footing and completely lost their form for example Gavin Kizito and Derrick Kakooza, once a top scorer who is now inactive in any professional setting.  FUFA President Moses Magogo said that the FA had all hopes in that particular cohort, but to the surprise, it is vice versa.

Magogo pointed to Derrick Kakooza who has since fallen through the ranks.  “In the last AFCON, U-20 in Mauritania we had a top scorer, but today as we speak, he is not playing anywhere,” Magogo said

It is against this backdrop that Magogo urged the 2024 African Games silver medalists to seize the opportunity, aim for positions in the senior team, and assured them of the Federation’s support, including securing competitive tournaments.

It should be noted that a couple of these players are already playing for Uganda Premier League clubs including Usama Arafat who plays for KCCA FC, Jonah Kakande who plays for SC Villa, and Alpha Ssali who plays for Express among others.

Triumphant Juniors’ Struggle to Transition

For the last few years, what has remained a public secret is Uganda’s young talents have consistently shone in underage tournaments but often falter when transitioning to the senior team. While Uganda has dominated youth tournaments, producing remarkable talents, only a few successfully transition to the senior team.

For starters, Uganda has won at least five of the last Under 20 Council for East and Central Africa Football Associations- CECAFA tournaments, and one hope that such teams would feed the National team with crème de la crème players but few of them cut the cross.

Magogo believes that; this this has to stop, and it is the players who have to step up take action, become consistent, and transform their underage performance to the senior team.

In an earlier interview with URN, Bashir Mutyaba, the FUFA Youth Development Officer said that; in a bid to empower the young stars, FUFA has embarked on ensuring that at least the senior national team, the Uganda Cranes comprises some under 20 players as they rebuild the national team.

In the same development, Mutyaba said that FUFA made it mandatory for every premier league club to register at least seven players who are under 21 in their squads to keep them under competition.

Morley Byekwaso, the Under 20 team head coach, believes that these players have to be mentored well, shown direction, advised them to change their lifestyle, and have good personalities if they are to perform to the expectation.

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URN

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