Uganda Cranes head coach Jonathan McKinstry

Archaeologists have always portrayed Africa as the cradle of mankind. However, it still remains a virgin territory full of natural resources that have not yet been exploited fully.  It is one of the reasons why many people from the rest of the other continents come to invest in Africa.

In football, a number of coaches especially from Europe and South America have come to Africa with the majority trying to build their CVs.

Jonathan McKinstry, coach of the Uganda Cranes is one of those that have had quite a journey in Africa and has been in charge of three national teams since 2013, the others being Sierra Leone and Rwanda.

In an exclusive interview with Kawowo Sports, the Northern Irishman narrates his journey and how he fell in love with African football.

Uganda Cranes head coach Jonathan McKinstry (L) greeting Kawowo Sports writer Ismael Kiyonga
Jonathan McKinstry stresses a point in an interview with Ismael Kiyonga

“My first sort of engagement with African football came when I was very young, I was only 19 0r 20. I spent some time in Ghana for about six weeks with the Right to Dream Academy and I was still a university student at the time.”

“It almost caught me like a fire, seeing not just the talent of the players but the pure determination that they would make it, that nothing was going to stop them and no barrier whatsoever. This was a bit different from the European context that I was used to. We have got young players in Europe but they are spoilt maybe because everything is given to them unlike here where you have to begin from scratch.”

McKinstry first arrived in Africa in 2005, working with Right to Dream Academy in Ghana.

“For me that alone struck me. The work ethic, inner desire and determination to be the best is centred around everything I do as a coach. So when I meet players regardless of how good they are but with the same drive, it really attracts me to such an environment.”

After his stint in Ghana, McKinstry moved to New York, USA where he worked before the chance to return to Africa, this time in Sierra Leone came.

“From the experience I had in Ghana, I always told myself I will come back and work in Africa if I get another opportunity. I Moved to America, working in New York and a phone call came, with an opportunity presented to me to work in Sierra Leone.

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“Tom Vernom, the owner of FC Nordsjælland in Denmark and the Right to Dream Academy asked me If I would like to come and take charge of an academy in Sierra Leone but as time went on, I was given the task of controlling the entire set up for some years. Therefore, I can say, that is how my journey in Africa began.”

Football culture in Sierra Leone, Rwanda and Uganda

Tasked to give the difference of the three African teams he has managed, McKinstry indicates they all have unique identities and qualities.

“I should say they are all different. What you find in Sierra Leone was remarkably a colourful country, in love with music, the vibrancy of life and energy was significant but also massively chaotic. Then come to Rwanda, very organised but maybe the energy was not the same and the level of football talent. In Sierra Leone, I worked with players who were featuring for big teams like AC Milan and teams in the Major League Soccer. Then Uganda is a bit of a mix. The energy levels of Uganda are much similar to the West African setting. But there is also organisation here better than West Africa and there is also talent.”

Jonathan McKinstry talking to Kawowo Sports’ Ismael Kiyonga at FUFA House.

Jonathan McKinstry’s Profile

Date of Birth: 16th July 1985

Place of Birth: Lisburn, Northern Ireland

Teams managed

2013-2014 – Sierra Leone

2015-2016 – Rwanda

2017-2018 – Kauno Zalgiriis

2018- 2019 – Saif SC

2019 – To date – Uganda

Joel Muyita is a senior staff writer at Kawowo Sports.

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