Absa Premiership

Onyango hails PSL for Uganda in Afcon

Denis Onyango believes his country will be remembered at the Afcon finals. Picture: Gallo Images
Denis Onyango believes his country will be remembered at the Afcon finals. Picture: Gallo Images

When the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations draw is made next month, two countries who have not been part of the tournament will be among the 16 nations chosen to take part.

While Uganda makes a return to the continental showpiece after 38 years, Guinea-Bissau will make its debut in the cup.

A few days after helping the Cranes return to the Afcon finals, goalkeeper Denis Onyango could still not believe what they had achieved. The Mamelodi Sundowns goalkeeper said he was hungry for more success.

“It was such a relief at the end of the day. Imagine, I was not even born the last time the country qualified for the final,” he said.

“It was amazing how everybody came to the party to make sure we qualified. It was not easy, but everyone pulled up their socks and made it happen.

“This is a big achievement for us, as we have been trying all the time but failed at the last hurdle. We could not have asked for more.”

He thanked the Ugandan government and the football federation for their support.

The 29-year-old goalkeeper said his team would now channel their efforts to the 2018 World Cup qualifiers, which begin next month.

Uganda have Ghana, Congo-Brazzaville and Egypt in their group. Only group winners will go to Russia.

“No one expects us to qualify, but this is a new chapter for Ugandan football. The mentality of our players played a huge part in the team’s success. We don’t have the same quality as other nations, but we played as a team.”

Onyango said he would ask his Sundowns team-mate Kennedy Mweene for tips – he won the 2012 Afcon championship with Zambia.

“Kennedy has achieved almost everything. I look up to him and will ask him for advice on what to expect and how to go about things in Gabon.”

Onyango reserved his special mention for the team’s coach, Milutin Sredojevic.

“He sacrificed his life for the team as he is always restless trying to do what is best for us. He has been amazing, and he is like a father to me. He has been there for me since I was young and I will cherish him for the rest of my life.”

He said Uganda was not going to Gabon to add to the numbers, but to compete.

“There will be no pressure on us and we will go there to enjoy ourselves. But we are determined to leave a mark and prove our worth.”

Onyango also gave credit to the PSL, saying the South African league has played a part in the team’s experience and qualification.

“Big ups to the PSL, because the experience we get here has helped us to qualify.

“Our captain [Geofrey Massa] is also playing here [in SA], and has contributed to the team’s success,” Onyango said.

He said he was determined to help Sundowns win the CAF Champions League so he could become the first Ugandan to play in the Fifa Club World Cup.

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