There were tears of joy and excitement when more than 500 former football players and more than 3,000 football fans turned up at Old Kampala SS grounds for a grand reunion.
The former footballers were responding to an invitation extended to them by the Former Footballers Initiative (FFI), a body that brings together all categories of ex-players.
Last Saturday’s event was a big success because it brought together stars from as way back as the 1950s up to the 2000s. The highlight was the launch of FFI’s Multipurpose Cooperative Society Limited. The cooperative coffers were boasted with more than Shs 17 million, with the chief guest and Lands state minister, Sam Mayanja, contributing Shs 5 million in his private capacity.
On a personal level, it was a nostalgic moment after catching up with many lost stars from the past. It was great watching them feature for their respective former clubs, where they displayed some football techniques that used to endear them to fans. For example, the Express team had Isa Sekatawa, Fred ‘Gaso’ Mukasa, George Ssimwogerere, Edward Kalungi, Fred Tamale and Isaac Nkaada, among others.
UCB also lined up Charles Ogwang, Fred Habineza, Richard Amatre, Anthony Kimuli and Moses Lumala. SC Villa lined up Idi Batambuze, Robert Mukiibi, Ali Kayongo, Phillip Obwin, Robert Semakula and Issa Kawooya.
Coffee had Meddie Matovu, Mathias Kaweesa, Edward Nakibinge and Ibrahim Buwembo, while KCCA was led by Charles Baker Masiko, George Nsimbe, George Serunjogi, Sam Mugambe, Obedi Lutale and Charles Senyange.
And Nsambya fielded Edward Kibalama, Edward Nsubuga, Fred Ntambi, James Sekandi, Mohammad Kateregga, Francis Luggya and Rogers Lukande. Meanwhile, Uganda Airlines had Godfrey Sekagya, Jimmy Kayemba, George Kayizzi, Fred Lugaba and Eriya Kalema.
What further made this event unique was its allure to attract ‘forgotten’ former stars such as Baker Kasigwa (90 years), Polly Ouma (82 years), Sam Munyenye (87 years), Francis Kulabigwo, Hussein Matovu, Davis Kamoga, Ashe Mukasa, Paul Ssali, Patrick Lukalu, Christopher Ddungu, Jamil Kasirye, Emmanuel Kaunde, Ali Sendegeya and Mawejje Birungi.
I have always appealed to Fufa to create a hall of fame for Ugandan players and administrators in vain but I was impressed to see that one of FFI’s first initiatives was to recognise national teams and individuals who have excelled in one way or another. The 10 awards on display honoured the 1956 barefooted Cranes team for being the first team in the Cecafa region to tour England, where they played 10 friendly games. Kasigwa is the only surviving member of that team.
The 1962 Afcon squad was recognised for being the first national squad to qualify for Afcon. The squad has only five survivors. These are
Kasigwa, John Agard, Ben Omoding, George Kakaire and Sam Bukenya. On the other hand, the famous 1978 Uganda Cranes team, widely considered the greatest, was awarded for reaching the Afcon final.
The team has only nine survivors: Paul Ssali, Jamil Kasirye, Hussein Matovu, Ashe Mukasa, Mike Diku, Tom Lwanga, Moses Sentamu, Polly Ouma and Abbey Nasur. The other 13 squad members have since passed on. On the individual front, FFI honoured Jaberi Bidandi Ssali for his dedication to football.
He molded KCCA, administered and coached Uganda Cranes and served as sports minister on several occasions. Meanwhile, Denis Onyango, the former Cranes custodian, was recognised for his outstanding career that saw him guide his Mamelodi Sundowns to the 2016 Africa Champions League title on top of being Africa’s best player that year.
Moses Magogo was awarded for the development at Fufa and for spearheading the success of the Pamoja bid. What’s more, Charles Masembe’s excellence as a referee did not go unnoticed, having officiated in three Afcon tournaments, including the 1996 Afcon final.
As for Dr Lawrence Mulindwa, he was appreciated for being at the forefront of promoting Ugandan football. Meanwhile, record breaker Andrew Mukasa was recognized for his 45 goals in the 1999 season while with SC Villa in 1999.
Fittingly, the event posthumously paid tribute to Paul Hasule, SC Villa’s most decorated skipper and coach. He guided the club to eight league and three Uganda cups before winning six major titles with the Jogoos as coach.
In all, the Saturday event should work as a springboard for FFI. The body should work hand in hand with the Ex-Internationals Football Association (EXIFA), with the possibility of merging both bodies into one. If this is done, things will be better in terms of development and management.