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EXCLUSIVE | Onyango reveals Uganda aspirations heading into AFCON

Denis Onyango
Africa-based Player of the Year Denis Onyango reflects on Uganda’s aspirations heading into the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon.

The Uganda national team returns to Africa’s top competition, the Africa Cup of Nations, after a long absence of 39 years but Denis Onyango remains optimistic over his side’s chances in the competition.

“Yes it has been long since we last played at the nation’s cup but it was not that we didn’t have good players, we had great players but the difference between the past players and this generation is that we work together as a team.

“We are helping each other and we want to give our Ugandan supporters something because the have been very faithful to the team even when we were not qualifying,” Onyango expressed.

DOWNLOAD NOW: Your complete guide to all AFCON 16 teams

Cranes coach Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojević has formed a very solid side. Despite going without pay for months, the Serbian boss kept his job and as well as qualifying to Gabon, the team is in second position after two rounds in the World Cup Qualifying group, two points behind Egypt and three more than Ghana.

“Working with coach Micho teaches you as a player to work hard and have passion for the game because he is a hard working man and very passionate about his job, so for a coach to have all those things, you should be motivated to do better as a player,” revealed the 31-year-old.

Onyango enjoyed a highly successful season, becoming the first-ever Ugandan to win the CAF Champions League and thus the first to play at the FIFA Club World Cup.

“Playing for both Sundowns and Uganda Cranes for me… The difference is just the jerseys but the passion to win and motivation all the time is the same. The same applies to Micho and Pitso, they are both very passionate and hard working because they don’t give you space to relax as a player and it keeps the players focused.

READ: Denis Onyango reflects of GloCAF best-locally based player award

Uganda find themselves with World Cup Qualifying opponents Egypt and Ghana in the same Africa Cup of Nations group, something which Onyango had mixed feelings about.

“Yes, it’s a very difficult group with very good teams but football has changed. Small teams can make it difficult for bigger sides but honestly we are lowest ranked team in the group and we know it will be very difficult for us but we shall do our best.

Just a few months back, Uganda managed to hold Ghana to a draw away from home at Tamale and will kick-off their AFCON campaign again against the Black Stars on the 17th of January.

“Playing Ghana before doesn’t make it easy because they know that we are a very difficult team to break down and we have always given them problems when we play them, but they have more experience than us at that level so we shall play our normal football and hopefully we get the results,” Onyango confirmed.

Also read | Micho: Uganda’s good results ‘not by accident’

The Cranes are yet to face the Egyptian national team for some time even though they have drawn the Pharaohs three times from five appearances but have never overcome them at the continental showpiece.

“The Egyptian team is a very experienced team and they know how to win games because they have quality players and for me they are the most dangerous team in the group but it will be very interesting to see them playing Ghana again after winning in Egypt.”

Reports have been flying around that this may be the last international cameo for Denis Onyango, but the keeper confirmed that he’s got some gas left in the tank.

“Not now, I think I still have some things to offer to the team maybe take them to the World Cup. You never know but if I look at the Egyptian goalkeeper [Essam El-Hadary] at probably 43 and he is very strong it keeps me motivated,” Onyango concluded.

PREVIEW | The ages of AFCON youngsters when El-Hadary made his Egypt debut in 1996!

Operations and Business Development Manager of KingFut. Degree in Pharmacy and Biotechnology from the German University in Cairo. Manchester United fan.

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