Hardly a week passes without a football fan or journalist asking for my rating of legendary figures in Ugandan football.
Whereas I became accustomed to such questions, often taking time to answer in detail, I have reached a point where by the only logical conclusion is to openly give my verdict on local club football.
In this first of seven series involving former league champions, I have opted to start with KCCA FC. From my experience, I have never seen an all-time best XI that is ‘true reflection’; there is no such line-up because all this is entirely subjective.
Comparing players across different positions and different generations is bound to be the subject of heated debate. Nonetheless, I have decided to have a go at it. As a disclaimer, mine is based on players I watched from 1973 to-date.
Goal: SADIQ WASSA
He joined from Nile in 1989 at a time when the club was struggling to fill the void left by veteran custodians Paul Ssali and John Tebusweke. Ssali had retired while Tebusweke had moved to Express two years before.
In no time, the youthful Wassa dislodged Bright Dhaira and Ibrahim Kongo to become the club’s first-choice keeper. In the eight years he spent at Lugogo, Wassa was the undisputed number one and won two league titles and two Uganda Cup crowns.
It is in the field of consistency that he beats the legendary figures of Ssali, Hussein Matovu and George Mukasa, who were rotated at times.
Right full back: JOHN LATIGO
KCCA has had many elegant defenders but few can match Latigo. He could play anywhere on the field but he mastered the right back and centre half. He was confident on the ball, physically imposing although temperamental at times.
Latigo also scored quite a number of important goals in his ten years at KCCA but his best was the diving header against DR Congo’s Kalamu FC in the 1988 Africa Cup Winners Cup..
Latigo transferred his influence in KCC to Uganda Cranes where he was named the country’s skipper from 1984 to 1988 when he left the country and relocated to Europe. In this regard, Latigo eclipses Ibrahim Magala, William Mindrea, Hannington Semazzi, Patrick Kabuye, Moses Senkubuge and Godfrey Sekweyama for the position.
Left full back: CHARLES MASIKO
This is perhaps the most polarizing position and it was difficult to choose between Masiko and Sam Musenze because both achieved a lot with the club and served as skippers for years.
Masiko, however, holds the edge on the diversity front due to his overlaps and crosses from the wing. Having been elevated from City Cubs, the club’s feeder side, in 1981, he forced his way into the starting XI within a year and earned the club’s armband in 1984 till 1995 when he retired.
Centre back: TOM LWANGA
This is an automatic choice. Lwanga was a classy defender, cool-headed and excellent game reader. His defending left many strikers dazed and few wanted to face him. To date, no team has ever matched his defensive pairing with Jimmy Kirunda.
Lwanga joined KCCA in 1972 from American Insurance and was straightaway drafted into the first team. He was part of the KCC golden era of the 1970s that won all there is in the Cecafa region. He also coached the club on three different occasions. Honorable mentions to Peter Wandyete, Gerald Kabeireho, Rashid Mudin, Charles Katumba and Derrick Muyanja. Centre back: JIMMY KIRUNDA
Kirunda’s feats overshadow his KCCA career and he is one of the few footballers in the ‘greatest of all time’ debate. Kirunda was towering defender who bulldozed nearly every opposition player he came across. When it required elegance, he was the man and so were times of grit.
He could put his head where others feared for their legs and was a master of overlapping, often scoring for fun. In fact, Kirunda’s 1978 league tally of 32 goals stood for 21 years. Even when he briefly moved to SC Villa in 1982, KCC fans wept but embraced him when he made a U-turn in 1984.
Kirunda joined KCC in 1971 from Express and also served as Uganda Cranes skipper for 10-years.
Central Midfield: MOSES NSEREKO
One of the few one-club footballers in Uganda, fans tagged him Mr KCC due to his 15-year dedication. Also known as the ‘master planner,’ he was the midfield enforcer for both club and the national team and his absence was always felt.
Nsereko (Right)was stoutly built and he was the most influential player for a long time. He is also the club’s most decorated player having won all there is as a player and later as coach.
Timothy Ayiekoh, William Kityo, and Jackson Mayanja all played in this position but none compares to Nsereko.
Central midfield: FRED MUGISHA
There was nothing special about Mugisha but he went about his role in a way no other KCCA player has ever come close to.
He was simply a workaholic whose stamina mesmerized even his teammates. Mugisha was always present when the club needed him and did exactly what was expected of. He flourished in the club’s outdated 4-2-4 format, which required an energetic two-man midfield alongside Moses Nsereko.
Due to his consistency, I rank him ahead of Angelolo Dotte, George Nsimbe, Lawrence Musoke and Charles Senyange.
Right midfield: SAM SSIMBWA
Ssimbwa’s choice might ruffle a few feathers, especially those who saw Peter Mazinga and Moses Sentamu. However, Ssimbwa gets my nod on the wing simply because his style best suits the club’s traditional 4-4-2 system.
He joined KCCA in 1987 from KK Cosmos and left in 1995. Since then, he has thrice returned to Lugogo as club coach and currently serves as the assistant manager.
Left Midfield: GODFFREY KATEREGGA
KCC has had some great left wingers such as Billy Kizito, Fred Musisi Kiyingi, Henry Bwire and Adam Semugabi but Kateregga was unique.
Kateregga brought presence to the team like no other player and somehow always found a way to make himself the centre of attraction. Aside from his questionable discipline, Kateregga was the most complete player in Ugandan football during his peak and could do anything with the ball. A natural dribbler, dead-ball specialist and precise passer, he singlehandedly won several games for KCCA.
Since his departure from the club in 1985, KCCA has never had a player who brings star power and flair. He joined KCC from Tobacco in 1979 after a stint with KCC’s feeder side City Cubs but defected to SC Villa in 1985.
Centre forward: JACKSON MAYANJA
He blossomed in an era when the club’s veterans were retiring and was viewed as the next Omondi, not only because of his skill but the influence he had for the team.
Mayanja scored many vital goals and his loyalty was never questioned. He turned down several big money moves to Villa and Express and even after a professional stint in Egypt and Tunisia, he returned to lead the club to the memorable 1997 league title. Some could argue that Sam Mugambe was equally good but he was injury-prone.
Centre forward: PHILLIP OMONDI
There are quite a number of KCCA strikers who were more prolific than Omondi such as Frank Kyazze, Davis Kamoga and Christopher Ddungu. However, Omondi is Omondi.
Interestingly, he started out as a defensive midfielder in 1972 having joined KCCA from Fiat FC. But when the club struggled to find the back of the net, Omondi was switched upfront where instantly impressed.
Widely regarded as the most complete player in Ugandan football, he was also the ultimate team player and always ensured his teammates left the pitch happy. Even if it required him to pass the ball two yards from goal, Omondi always obliged.
Omondi’s superb touch and movement always drew defenders on him and made his teammates look world beaters.
Coach: BIDANDI SSALI
‘Mister,’ as he is known in football circles, built KCCA from scratch in the early 1970s until the late 1980s when he finally quit.
He was the coach during the club’s golden era and is responsible for nurturing the entire eleven I have selected.