Taifa Stars

Taifa Stars

Only home-based footballers are eligible, offering space on the international stage for many who would otherwise remain in the shadows. Rwanda officials will be in charge of the match on Saturday.

The Rwandese officials are central referee Hudu Munyemana, who will be assisted by countrymen Hakizimana Ambroise and Justine Karangwa. The fourth official is Issa Kagabo also from Rwanda and Kenyan Nicholaus Musonye will be the match commissioner.

And Taifa Stars, who are still reeling from a 3-0 away defeat to Egyptian ?Pharaohs? in the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifier last weekend, will have to put aside the defeat and shift their focus on today?s encounter.

Concentration is key for the Dutchman Mart Nooij?s side, if they are to deliver and register positive results in the first leg encounter. A convincing win against the Cranes today will put Stars in an advantageous position to sail through into the next round of the qualifiers.

It is definitely not going to be easy against high flying Uganda Cranes, who last weekend kicked off well their bid for the 2017 AFCON finals in Gabon after a 2-0 victory against Botswana in Uganda.

Stars delegation of 21 players and seven technical staff left Dar es Salaam early in the morning on Thursday and arrived in Zanzibar for the final fine tune ahead of the match that will be played under floodlights. Nooij, has named five new players to strengthen his toothless, striking force.

They are Atupele Green, Hassan Isihaka, Hassan Dilunga, Rashid Mandawa and Kelvin Friday. They replaced players who ply their trade outside the country including TP Mazembe duo of Mbwana Samatta and Thomas Ulimwengu, Juma Luizio of Zambia?s Zesco united, Mwinyi Kazimoto who features for Qatari Second Division side Al Markhiya and Mrisho Ngasa, who has just joined South African Premier League side, Free State Stars.

Other players in the squad are Deogratias Munish, Mwadini Ali, Shomary Kapombe, Oscar Joshua, Salum Mbonde, Aggrey Morris and Nadir Haroub.

The list also has Jonas Mkude, Erasto Nyoni, Mwinyi Haji, Abdi Banda, Frank Domayo, Amri Kiemba, Said Ndemla, Saimon Msuva, and John Bocco. For the past few days the Pharaohs defeat seems to overshadow Stars preparations for today?s match against Uganda Cranes and Nooij has been under intense pressure to step down.

Nooij has been given the ultimatum of qualifying for the 2016 CHAN finals to be held in Rwanda or he will be axed, making this home match against the Cranes an absolute must-win for him and Stars. On their side Uganda Cranes under the tutelage of Coach Milutin ?Micho? Sredojevic were due to arrive in Zanzibar confident to maintain their dominance against Stars.

The Serbian tactician is confident that his side will put up a stiff fight against Stars and win the game. The Cranes would want to repeat what they did in the previous qualifiers, when they eliminated Tanzania by an aggregate of 4-1 after winning 0-1 away and 3-1 at home.

The cranes have qualified for the 2011 and 2014 editions but failed to go past the first round. Cranes CHAN squads consist of Alitho, Brian Bwete, Hassan Wasswa (C), Denis Okoth, Brian Ochwo, Shafik Bakaki, Deus Bukenya, Derrick Tekkwo, Yassar Mugerwa, Keziron Kizito, Muzamir Mutyaba, Erisa Ssekisambu, Farouk Miya, Kizza, John Semazi, Frank Kalanda, Robert Ssentongo and Fahad Hassan.

Taifa Stars have had a disastrous campaign in the last two qualifying editions for CHAN. Tanzania appeared at the 2009 CHAN finals in Ivory Coast, exiting the tournament in the first round.

Stars then missed out in the 2011 and 2014 finals. They are optimistic they could feature in next year?s tournament that will be hosted in Rwanda in the cities of Kigali, Gisenyi and Butare.

The return leg of this preliminary round clash will be played in Uganda on the weekend of 3-5 July. The winners will face Sudan in the final qualifying playoff round in October, this year.

By BETRAM LENGAMA, Tanzania Daily News

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