East African guest nation Uganda have seen a recent upswing in their beach soccer fortunes and will enter the HOLLYWOODBETS COSAFA Beach Soccer Championship to be staged in Durban from September 25-October 1 believing they are among the favourites.
The Sand Cranes qualified for a first ever Beach Soccer Africa Cup of Nations in Senegal last year, and have repeated that feat by reaching the 2022 finals in Mozambique that will be played from October 21-30.
Those back-to-back qualifications show the side is on the up and able to compete with the best on the continent, which they showed in Senegal, where they finished fourth.
They defeated Tanzania 4-3 in their pool, which followed a 5-1 defeat to their hosts. It was still enough to advance to the semifinals in the three-team group.
They lost 6-3 to Mozambique in the knockout stage, and were then edged 5-3 by Morocco in the battle for the bronze medal.
The team will be led in Durban by newly-appointed Swiss coach Angelo Schirinzi, who is thrilled for the challenge.
“I am exceedingly excited to be here and work with the Uganda Sand Cranes. I believe this is an opportunity for me to extend my knowledge to Uganda and help the game of Beach Soccer grow in the country,” Schirinzi said.
“I have been in the game for several years and I believe Uganda is moving in the right direction. Playing at Beach Soccer Africa Cup of Nations for the first time and reaching the semifinals means there is potential here.”
Uganda began to put more focus on beach soccer in 2019 and so their improvement in the last three years – not helped by COVID-19 – has been rapid.
“The game has made huge strides since its inception in 2019. From just being a mere recreation sport, we were able to form the association and create a league that helped us to get a formidable team,” Uganda Beach Soccer Assassination chairman Deo Mutabazi said.
“At the start, the Sand Cranes competed in regional tournaments but we then decided to participate in the AFCON Qualifiers and in our first attempt, we did not qualify. There was an improvement in the second attempt, we qualified and played all the way to the semifinals.
“It is now time to take another step. The new coach has vast experience having played and coached the game at the highest level. He is a FIFA Instructor and we believe we will improve our team.”
Uganda have been drawn in Group B at the HOLLYWOODBETS COSAFA Beach Soccer Championship and will take on regional rivals Tanzania in their opener on Sunday.
That will be followed by clashes against Mauritius and Egypt. The top two teams in each pool advance to the semifinals.
The matches will be played at Durban’s South Beach Arena and will be streamed on COSAFA.TV.
UGANDA AT THE 2021 COSAFA BEACH SOCCER CHAMPIONSHIP
Did not participate
UGANDA AT THE BEACH AFCON
APP MP W L GF GA
1 4 1 3 11 19
2021 – Fourth