The national women’s team, the Crested Cranes, will host their rivals Rwanda in the 2024 Paris Olympic qualifiers at Kigali Pele Stadium in Kigali, the Federation of Uganda Football Associations (FUFA) has confirmed. This comes two weeks before the first leg of the qualifiers, which Uganda will host, followed by Rwanda hosting the return leg at the same venue.
FUFA stated that they have received confirmation from the Federation of Rwanda Football Association (FERWAFA) regarding the availability of the stadium, and the Confederation of African Football (CAF) has already approved their request. Uganda is currently in intense preparations for the qualifiers and will face Rwanda in the first qualification phase, with the first leg scheduled for July 12th, to be hosted by Uganda. The return leg will take place a week later.
The winner on aggregate will advance to the next round and face Cameroon, which received a bye in the first round. It is worth noting that this is not the first time a Ugandan national team has hosted home games outside their home soil. The Uganda Cranes team faced a similar situation when they hosted their two home AFCON qualifying games against Tanzania and Algeria in Egypt and Cameroon, respectively.
The decision to host the games in Rwanda contrasts with FUFA’s approach in March when they chose not to host Tanzania at Benjamin Mkapa Stadium to avoid giving the Taifa Stars an advantage through the support of their home crowd. Ahmed Hussein, the FUFA Communications Director, explained that due to the unavailability of CAF-standard stadiums in Uganda, their option is to use venues outside the country until the Mandela National Stadium is completed.
St. Mary’s Stadium Kitende, another option, is currently undergoing renovation work and is unavailable for use. Uganda’s national football teams have been without a home stadium for nearly three years. Namboole Stadium was disqualified by CAF and FIFA from hosting the 2022 World Cup qualifiers due to its substandard facilities. The Mandela Stadium also failed to meet the required standards, leading to recommendations for a complete overhaul.
While St. Mary’s Stadium was provisionally approved to host continental games, pending issues were not resolved, and CAF retracted the approval earlier this year.
The renovation project at Namboole, undertaken by the UPDF Engineering Brigade, was initially expected to be completed by June. The State Minister for Sports, Peter Ogwang, had assured Ugandan soccer fans that the AFCON qualifiers against Algeria would be hosted in Namboole, but the contractors failed to meet the deadline, leading to apologies from the Minister to the public.
According to a recent statement from Minister of Sports and Education, Janet Museveni, the completion date for the renovation works, which includes the construction of a 4.2km perimeter wall around the stadium, has been shifted to November 30th, 2023.
“In light of these significant undertakings, I have approved an extension for these intervention efforts, shifting the initial completion date from August 1st, 2023, to November 30th, 2023. This extension was granted upon request by the project’s main contractor, the UPDF Engineering Brigade. As we eagerly anticipate our next visit in November, we look forward to witnessing the fully revitalized stadium,” Janet Museveni posted on her Twitter handle on Tuesday.”