Onyango to retain Uganda captaincy under new coach McKinstry

Denis Onyango
Uganda goalkeeper Denis Onyango

Uganda's first choice goalkeeper, Denis Onyango, will retain the captaincy of the Cranes under new head coach Johnny McKinstry who described the player as "a huge asset to the team."

Onyango, 34, has been wearing the armband since April 2017 when former Cranes tactician Milutin 'Micho' Sredojevic named him as a replacement for retired striker Geoffrey Massa.

The Mamelodi Sundowns goalkeeper continued as Uganda skipper under previous national coach Sebastien Desabre.

"If I say experience first, people will say that he has no quality and if I say quality first, they might feel that I do not appreciate his experience but he comes with the full package," McKinstry told BBC Sport, as he revealed his first squad since being appointed as Uganda coach.

"Denis as a footballer, his career, he is second to none. He has had an excellent career and he has justly gotten his rewards for that in terms of trophies and personal acknowledgments.

"He has obviously been the captain for the Cranes for a while now and down at Mamelodi Sundowns. He is a leading light in the dressing room so I think that there is a lot more that Denis has to offer. I very much want him to be part of the success we achieve going forward."

Onyango played a key role in guiding Uganda to the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon, ending an absence of 39 years from the continental showpiece event, and was also part of their 2019 Nations Cup campaign in Egypt.

He also helped Mamelodi Sundowns win the African Champions League title in 2016 and was subsequently named as the Caf African Player of the Year based in Africa. He has been named as the best goalkeeper on the African continent three years in a row.

Onyango kept six clean sheets in the 2018 Fifa World Cup qualification campaign and conceded just two goals - one each against Egypt and Congo.

"A good friend of mine [Andrew Sparkes] who was the goalkeeping coach at Orlando Pirates last season told me immediately when I got this job that, "You've got a great goalkeeper" and now he is the goalkeeping coach at Southampton," said McKinstry.

"So there you have it. A Premier League goalkeeper texting me and saying, you have a great goalkeeper. He should be in Europe.

"I do not know Denis [at a personal level] yet but from the outside, he has not allowed that to get to his head. Some people get personal recognition and they become a celebrity, a superstar, whereas for him, he has always used it as motivation to go again, to work harder."

McKinstry's first assignment is an international friendly against Ethiopia on 13 October in Bahir Dar, almost 500km north of the capital Addis Ababa.

The Northern Irishman has summoned only foreign-based players because the locally-based contingent have a 2020 African Nations Championship (CHAN) qualifier against Burundi on 18 October.

"Being able to organise for our senior 'A' team to play against Ethiopia in this international window is a positive development with regards to our preparations for the Afcon qualifiers slated for November.

"I have been able to speak to almost all of our foreign-based players on the phone whilst I will be meeting with our leading local players face to face when we bring them together next week ahead of the Chan qualification game with Burundi."

McKinstry begins his reign with the task of qualifying Uganda to a third consecutive Africa Cup of Nations while also eyeing a first ever Fifa World Cup appearance preferably for Qatar 2022.

Uganda squad:

Goalkeepers: Denis Onyango (Mamelodi Sundowns, South Africa), Robert Odongkara (Horoya, Guinea)

Defenders: Bevis Mugabi (Motherwell, Scotland), Hassan Wasswa (Jeddah, Saudi Arabia), Isaac Muleme (Viktoria Zizkov, Czech Republic), Joseph Ochaya (TP Mazembe), Murushid Juuko (Wydad Casablanca, Morocco), Nico Wakiro Wadada (Azam), Ronald Mukiibi Ddungu (Ostesunds, Sweden), Timothy Awany (Ashdod, Israel)

Midfielders: Abdu Lumala (Pyramids, Egypt), Allan Kyambadde (El Gouna, Egypt), Michael Azira (Chicago Fire, USA), Khalid Aucho (Misr El Makkasa, Egypt), Milton Karisa (Oujda, Morocco), Moses Opondo (Odense, Denmark), Tadeo Lwanga (Tanta, Egypt), William Luwagga Kizito (Shakhter Karagandy, Kazakhstan)

Strikers: Emmanuel Okwi (Al Ittihad, Egypt), Derrick Nsibambi (Smouha, Egypt), Patrick Henry Kaddu (RS Berkane, Morocco)

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