Dar es Salaam. A contingent of 21 Taifa Stars players left the country on Tuesday September 09 evening for Praia, Cape Verde, ahead of their Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifying match against hosts Cape Verde.
The squad flew out on board a chartered flight. Earlier, the government announced that the team would have travelled to Cape Verde on board the ATCL Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner, but Information, Sports and Culture minister Harrison Mwakyembe said the plane could not land at Nelson Mandela International Airport, also known as Praia International Airport, whose runway is only 2.1 kilometres long. The Dreamliner needs at least three kilometres of runway.
“We were advised to land at Amílcar Cabral International Airport, also known as Sal International Airport, and then take a smaller plane to Praia. However, this would have inconvenienced the team, and we decided to send the squad to Cape Verde on a chartered flight,” said Mwakyembe.
Stars travelled to Cape Verde aboard an Embraer 190 jetliner, which is smaller than the Dreamliner.
The minister added that the players needed to have adequate rest ahead of Friday’s match.
Meanwhile, Taifa Stars head coach Emmanuel Amunike said they were not underestimating Cape Verde, adding that they would leave nothing to chance in the Group L match.
He said all players were in top shape and ready for what he expects to be a tough encounter for the visitors.
“It’s never easy playing away. You need to be keen all the time. Cape Verde are a good and strong team, Underrating them for any reason will be a big mistake. We need to play while being fully aware that it will be an away fixture for us,” said the former Nigerian international. Uganda currently top the group with four points followed by Lesotho and Taifa Stars, who are both on two points and are separated on goal difference.
In a related development, Young Africans defender Andrew Vincent and Simba SC midfielder Jonas Mkude are among six players who did not travel to Cape Verde due to injury. Others who did not make the trip are Frank Domayo (Azam FC), Salum Kihimbwa (Mtibwa Sugar), Kelvin Sabato (Mtibwa Sugar) and Abdulrahman Mohammed (JKT).