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Onyango speaks on Afcon target

Cranes goalkeeper Denis Onyango visited Villa Park in Nsambya on Monday to make some donations to his former side SC Villa amid euphoria, reports JOHN VIANNEY NSIMBE.

Just like he arrived at Villa Park from first division side Nsambya FC (the oldest football club in Uganda) after the 2002 season, as an unknown entity, Dennis Onyango had wanted his visit to his former side on Monday January 2, 2017, to be low-key and under the radar. He is not your showy kind taken up by fanfare.

But that was an occasion so hard for the media not to get wind of, let alone give the kind of fitting coverage. Following the kind of success Onyango got in 2016, anything or anyone he associates with from then onwards will be considered a big deal.

This includes his gesture to donate balls and sets of goalkeeping gloves to SC Villa, which he did. However, as much as Onyango’s visit to Villa Park was greeted with so much praise, applause and ululations from the fans in attendance, (they kept gloating that he is better than Arsenal’s Petr Cech even as others sought his autograph and selfie), the underlying question was whether he will represent Uganda at the Afcon in Gabon.

Denis Onyango (sixth right) poses for a group photo with SC Villa players after donating footballs and gloves to the club on Monday

“Most definitely,” said Onyango, to reassure Ugandans, who feel that his absence from The Cranes camp in Tunisia now, presents a bigger untold problem.

Before Onyango arrived in the country from his South African club Mamelodi Sundowns on Christmas day, it had been reported he was carrying a hamstring injury.

This had kept him out of Sundowns’ first team in the league from the time they returned from Japan, where they competed at the Fifa World Club Championship. But Onyango allayed any fears that some Ugandans may have, that their team’s best player will be unavailable at the country’s biggest football showpiece in 39 years.

Onyango said: “I have been on some strict and sophisticated medical and training programme to ensure that my hamstring heals quickly enough. That is why the doctors advised me not to make the trip to Dubai and Tunisia. I will join the team later this week.”

Even with the apprehension that some fans have had about Onyango’s prospects of being at Afcon to defend Uganda’s pride, he keeps his smile to confirm his optimism while quelling any possible fears too. It is the same kind of attitude he has towards the Caf awards on tonight in Lagos, Nigeria, his first stop en route joining his Cranes teammates.

It will be an extraordinary achievement, if Onyango is read out as Africa’s best footballer based on the continent in 2016, he admitted. But he was quick to add that if he is not the one picked, he will duly applaud whoever is, because he feels everyone on the shortlist is deserving of the award.

SC Villa technical director Yusuf ‘Chuni’ Kyeyune (2nd left) receives footballs from Denis Onyango

Onyango noted that all the individuals he is vying with for the accolade won in 2016 and are incredible footballers. He stressed that they are the true embodiment of hard work. Hard work was the message Onyango preached to the current crop of Villa players, whom he urged to blow away KCCA FC’s one-point advantage over them and win the 2016/2017 league title.

Not only did he sound a bit cocky, when he emphasized that the one point difference was small not to cover, if they are truly Villa, but that it is success that proves a game changer.

Onyango quickly recalled how his goalkeeping feat in the 2005 Cecafa club championship which Villa won, got him where he is now. Because Villa did not concede a goal throughout that tournament, doors were opened for Onyango to go professional.

Yet, the fans and club alike, who handed him a white replica jersey upon his return, and offered him a life membership card to buy and support the club, are proof of how his journey was fundamentally- strategized at SC Villa but is now known all over the world.

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