Uganda had been absent from the CAF Africa Cup of Nations for 39 years when Milutin Sredojevic steered them back to the competition in 2017. That was in the Serbian coach’s first coming as the Cranes coach, a post he has now returned to with the aim of guiding them through the qualifying competition for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™.

“This is actually the third time that I’ve coached in Uganda,” he told “The first was with Villa Sport Club. We did really well, with some players earning moves abroad. Then I came back to coach the national team in 2013. We developed the side and reaped our rewards in 2017, when we reached the Africa Cup of Nations. It was a historic achievement for the country.

“My recent appointment to the job is the biggest challenge of my whole career, especially with the national team going through a transitional phase and the captain, Denis Onyango, having announced his retirement. The team needs time in these World Cup qualifiers to gain experience. Hopefully, we can get some positive results and rebuild.”

Major test

Uganda have been drawn with Mali, Kenya and Ethiopia in Group E of the preliminaries for Qatar 2022.

“You have to go into every qualifiers or competition with big objectives,” said Sredojevic.

“We’re in a tough group. We might be in a transitional phase, but we’ve got to play with a lot of ambition and show the full potential of our players to achieve positive results. We have to show that we’re a competitive team. We want to be in the fight to win the group. We know it’s going to be tough and that the little details will make all the difference. We have to acquit ourselves well and pick up points to get to where we want to go.”

Uganda kicked off their campaign with a goalless draw in Kenya, a game in which the odds were against them, as Sredojevic explained: “The players gave their all despite being up against a team that’s just finished their season. Most of our players have been resting, so it’s a positive result for us.

“It was hard to get the players fit for such an important game. Kenya kept hitting long balls for [Michael] Olunga, but we managed to keep them out.”

Another challenge

Uganda can expect a tough test in their second outing in the group, at home to Mali, one of the strongest sides in Africa right now. Win this game and Uganda will give their chances of topping the group a massive boost.

“After Kenya away, we’ve got Mali at home,” said the Serbian coach. “It’s going to be hard, especially as our players have had a lack of game time. That’s why we’ve had to work hard to reach the right level in terms of competitiveness, mental attitude, fitness, and tactics. Our performance against Mali will show if we’ve got our preparations right.

“I believe in the work we’ve done and the players we’ve got to reach the level we need and get the results our fans expect.”

Extensive experience

Few coaches have as much experience of African football as Sredojevic, who has also worked in Ethiopia, Egypt, South Africa, Sudan, Rwanda, Zambia, and Tanzania. During the course of his club and national team coaching career, he has spent time in 24 countries on the continent, accumulating a vast amount of expertise in the process.

So how does he plan to put it to use for Uganda? “I’ve got a lot of experience of coaching in Africa and I can anticipate what might happen on the pitch. I think I can help these young players to mature and push them to perform at their very best in aid of the team. I’ll do everything I can to help Uganda do well.”

Source: FIFA