The thought of Denis Onyango not being announced as Uganda’s best footballer at the auspicious occasion of the Fufa Airtel awards in Munyonyo on December 2 last year still sucks a year later.
It was a ridiculous joke, extrapolated further by CAF’s announcement of Onyango as the best player in Africa a few weeks later. It was a shame on us as a people. We remained with egg on our faces which under normal circumstances should have been a watershed.
Yet, with the third edition of these awards due this evening in Munyonyo at the Speke Resort, do not be surprised when the obvious choice for who has been the best player here is not the one that drives away. As a people, we are not afraid to defy logic and common sense. The wrong thing appears normal, and we embrace it. It is sad!
Anyway, I am not going to meander. Of the three players, Geoffrey Sserunkuma, Muzamir Mutyaba and Tadeo Lwanga, that made the final nomination shortlist, it is a no-brainer, who was the best player this year – Sserunkuma.
And if the powers that be are to ensure that these awards maintain their sanctity, they will make sure the man is handed his accolade without trying to short-change him, despite all the efforts he put in.
You see, one of the reasons Onyango did not win the 2016 award was apparently because he is already rich and has several cars. And because of that, some individuals at Fufa were hell-bent on ensuring that someone else, in this case Muhammed Shaban, who had no car, drove away instead.
It did not matter that Onyango had been the first player from Uganda to win the Caf Champions League and was in Africa’s best eleven. For us here, it was about egalitarianism, where everyone must share. It was about affirmative action.
In essence, we disregarded the true value of awards, which is that they go to the best. To be crowned the best is not a favour, but something you earn from your effort. This year, it is without question that the most vibrant and popular footballer was Sserunkuma.
Even when his former club KCCA FC were in hopeless situations, say, the Caf continental ties away at Primeiro D’Agosto and at Mamelodi Sundowns, Sserunkuma popped up with a priceless goal to keep their dream alive. No player in a Ugandan club, for the last 15 years, left an indelible mark with some consistency on the continent like Sserunkuma did.
In the 12 games KCCA played on the continent, they scored 13 goals. Sserunkuma scored six of them. On top of that, Sserunkuma was on the list of the 30 nominees for the Caf award. Unless our suggestion is that Caf’s nomination means nothing, then we can deny Sserunkuma his true honour.
Besides, for him to have come back from four bad years, where injuries affected him and he nearly called time on his career, points to the fact that whatever Sserunkuma did was no mean feat.
In addition, the reason Uganda is on top of its 2019 Africa Cup of Nations group L qualifiers, following their away win in Cape Verde, is because of Sserunkuma’s goal in the 1-0 win in June. On top of that, Sserunkuma inspired KCCA FC to its first league and cup double this year.
This was historical for everyone associated with the club. But above all, it is the reason Sserunkuma landed a more lucrative deal to play in Zambia. At 33, Sserunkuma was the 2016/2017 Uganda Premier League top-scorer with 21 goals. Add the five goals from the Uganda Cup, Sserunkuma was just two shy of the top goal-scorer there, Derrick Nsibambi.
In respect to Mutyaba and Lwanga, I would not downplay their contribution to the game this year, generally. They are good footballers. But the fact that Sserunkuma beat them to the Uganda Premier League (UPL) top players’ award earlier this year, it would be a huge contradiction if he loses this one.
And we do not want contradictions, especially when they are senseless. It endangers the credibility of the award. And once that happens, not only would it tarnish them, but kill them in their infancy. That is not good for the game.
There is a saying: Speak the truth even if your voice shakes. In this context, I will hope for one thing: Let us do the right thing. I have heard in the corridors that the organisers of the Fufa awards would not feel that it is fair if Sserunkuma won another car, yet he won one in July from the UPL.
That is to suggest it is a crime Sserunkuma excelled this year. In fact, I see a situation, just like last year, where, if Sserunkuma does not win, we are told it is the popular vote that counted. So convenient a defence it would be! But people can only be fooled for so long.