The Crested Cranes, Uganda’s national women’s football team, have arrived in Kigali ahead of their crucial qualifiers against Rwanda for the 2024 Paris Women’s Olympic Football Tournament. Assistant coach Ayub Khalifa Kiyingi finalized the squad over the weekend, but Denmark-based midfielder Phiona Nabumba has unfortunately missed out due to an injury.
The 23-player squad, led by head coach Ayub Khalifa Kiyingi, will be facing the She Amavubi in the first round of qualifiers. The first leg is scheduled to take place on July 12th at the Kigali Pele Stadium, with the return leg set to be played four days later.
The team departed from Cranes Paradise Hotel and received a warm welcome from Rwandan officials at the Katuna border before continuing their journey to Kigali. The Crested Cranes are determined to secure a positive result against Rwanda and progress in the qualifying tournament.
Joan Nabirye, who plays for FK Minsk in Belarus, will join the team in Kigali to strengthen the midfield. However, Phiona Nabumba, who currently represents Denmark’s B93, will be unable to make the trip due to her injury.
In a friendly match against Tanzania on Friday, Uganda displayed their potential, securing a convincing 3-1 victory at MTN-Omondi Stadium. The team’s recent success has boosted morale, and they aim to carry this momentum into the qualifiers.
The full traveling squad consists of talented individuals in every department. The goalkeepers include Ruth Aturo, Daisy Nakaziro, and Daphine Nyayenga, providing a solid last line of defense. The defensive line comprises Samalie Nakacwa, Sumaya Komuntale, Shadia Nankya, Asia Nakibuuka, Aisha Nantongo, Bridget Nabisaalu, and Jolly Kobusinge.
The midfielders, who will play a crucial role in dictating the game’s pace and controlling the midfield, feature Joan Nabirye, Shamirah Nalugya, Shakirah Nyinagahirwa, Hadijah Nandago, Hasifah Nassuna, and Rhoda Nanziri.
The attacking front is led by talented forwards Fauzia Najjemba, Sandra Nabweteme, Catherine Nagadya, Fazila Ikwaput, Joan Ainembabazi, Anitah Namata, and Margaret Kunihira. This diverse group of players is expected to provide the necessary firepower to challenge Rwanda’s defense.
The Crested Cranes’ delegation also includes various officials responsible for ensuring the team’s success. Chris Kalibbala leads the delegation, while Issa Magoola Kakaire serves as the Chairman of the International Olympic Committee (IMOC). Ayub Khalifa Kiyingi takes on the role of assistant coach, supported by goalkeeping coach Mubarak Kiberu and fitness coach Felix Ayobo.
The team’s medical staff includes team doctor Mable Kabatalindwa and physiotherapist Darlian Kyasiimire, ensuring the players’ health and fitness. Joan Namusisi acts as the team coordinator, while Paul Mukatabala serves as the National Teams Officer/Advance Party. Prossy Nalwadda manages the equipment, and Aminah Babirye handles media-related matters.
Representing the Federation of Uganda Football Associations (FUFA) are delegates Muzamil Bondo from West Nile and Zaitun Mutesi from the Eastern Region. Phoebe Kutamba and Abdul Salam Kigozi, along with Fred Ssewankambo, will cover the team’s journey for FUFA Events and FUFA TV, respectively.
With the Crested Cranes aiming for victory in their upcoming qualifiers, the team’s dedication and determination, along with the support of their fans, will be instrumental in their pursuit of a spot in the prestigious Paris Women’s Olympic Football Tournament.