Azira and Cranes looking to advance at AFCON

It’s the midfielder’s second appearance at the continental tournament

As the Impact prepares to return from a three-week break with a home game against the Portland Timbers next Wednesday (TICKETS – TVA Sports, 98.5, TSN 690), midfielder Micheal Azira is thousands of kilometres away, across the Atlantic Ocean, in Egypt, where the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations is about to begin.

Born in Uganda, it’s been 11 years since Azira left his home country in pursuit of a college degree and a career in North America – and he’s done quite well so far, cementing himself in the Impact’s midfield and earning a starting role in 2019. It’s caught the attention of the Ugandan national team, who called up the midfielder as part of the 23-man squad that will take part in the tournament.

Still, it won’t be the first time Azira represents the Cranes at the continental tournament, having played two games in the 2017 edition, although he only has four caps with his country since the beginning of his professional career.

“It's such a great honour to be called to serve on the national team,” said Azira, speaking to Impact Media from Cairo. “It also sets a good platform to play with some of the best players in Africa. So, I look forward to making good memories and experiences with my countrymen.”

It won’t be an easy route for the Ugandans, who find themselves in the same group as the tournament’s hosts, Egypt, who have reached the final four times since 2006, winning three times. But the Cranes, on their end, remain positive at the prospect of getting out of the group stage for the first time since 1978, when they finished as the runners-up.

“Getting out of the group is our top priority,” added Azira. “Our approach will be to attack fast and defend well as a team. Winning the first game will set the tone of the group for us.”

Uganda will kick off their tournament this Saturday, at 10:30am, against DR Congo. You can also get updates on all Impact players currently with their national sides by clicking here.