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Uganda’s sporting authorities have confirmed rumours that six of the Under-19 side which participated in the World Cup Qualifier in Toronto are unaccounted for. The players were due to return home with the rest of the squad on Tuesday but it has emerged they have been missing for more than 72 hours.
Latimer Mukasa, speaking on behalf of the Ugandan board, said the six - Ahmed Yakub, the captain, Emmanuel Nakaana, Geoffrey Nyero, Moses Okwera, Andrew Ochan and Ahmad Sangau - were reported missing by the team’s manager on Saturday.
“We were informed that these players had run away,” Mukasa told Uganda’s New Vision newspaper. “[The manager] said the last he had seen them was on Friday night, around 11.30pm. When he woke up the following morning, the players were gone. At this moment, we don’t want to speculate about why they left. It could be all sorts of things - it is possible they (players) were up to some mischief and they’ll be found.”
However, despite Mukasa stating they “could turn up at any minute”, the revelation will draw parallels with the situation two years ago when two members of the Uganda side which had been competing in the World Cricket League in Australia absconded and subsequently claimed asylum. The pair have never returned home.
The Canadian authorities were criticised in some quarters after Sierra Leone were unable to participate in the Qualifers as a result of their team’s visa applications not being able to be processed in time. With hindsight, their caution appears to have been justified.
If it does turn out the six Uganda players have disappeared with the aim of avoiding returning home, they will have dealt a major blow to the dream of many young cricketers from developing countries to play abroad. Their actions can only increase the difficulties facing players from Associate and Affiliate countries in obtaining the necessary visas to enable them to participate in ICC events.
Martin Williamson is executive editor of ESPNcricinfo and managing editor of ESPN Digital Media in Europe, the Middle East and AfricaFeeds: Martin Williamson
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Executive editor Martin Williamson joined the Wisden website in its planning stages in 2001 after failing to make his millions in the internet boom when managing editor of Sportal. Before that he was in charge of Sky Sports Online and helped launch and run Sky News Online. With a preference for all things old (except his wife and children), he has recently confounded colleagues by displaying an uncharacteristic fondness for Twenty20 cricket. His enthusiasm for the game is sadly not matched by his ability, but he remains convinced that he might be a late developer and perseveres in the hope of an England call-up with his middle-order batting and non-spinning offbreaks. He is now managing editor of ESPN EMEA Digital Group as well as his Cricinfo responsibilities.