Emmanuel Okwi has expressed his gratitude for being given the chance to lead Uganda as captain for their upcoming friendly against South Africa.

The Cranes will enter a new era under coach Abdallah Mubiru following their failure to qualify for next year’s Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), which includes a change of guard in player terms as well – particularly Okwi replacing goalkeeper legend Denis Onyango as team captain following the latter’s retirement from international football.

Okwi, who plays his club football in Egypt with Al Ittihad, will wear the captain’s armband for the first time when the Cranes face Bafana Bafana in a friendly in Soweto on Thursday 10 June.

“It is a great honour to lead the team as new captain and I thank the Almighty God. I have spoken to the players and welcomed the new ones into the team,” Okwi is quoted by the Uganda FA website.

“As a captain, I have reminded them that we all respect each other regardless of age.

“The previous captain Denis Onyango congratulated me and wished me the very best.

“Onyango besides being my captain is also my good friend. He served us well and he is still with the team spiritually.”

Okwi added that playing against South Africa will help Uganda’s preparations for the start of the group stage qualifiers for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in three months’ time.

“I believe that the friendly against South Africa will push us. South Africa is a good side and like us, rebuilding the team,” explained the 28-year-old.

“This match will help us to plan for the upcoming FIFA World Cup qualifiers.”

Uganda will open their WCQ Group E campaign with matches against Kenya where they will visit and Mali who they will host, in September. Rwanda is the other team in the group that they will be facing at a later date.