Jimmy Kirunda and Paul Ssali – Bukedde photo
Former Uganda Cranes goalkeeper Paul Ssali has said that Uganda will never replace Jimmy Kirunda as he paid tribute to his former captain.
Kirunda passed away on Monday when he collapsed while having a routine walk around Bwaise, a Kampala suburb.
Ssali was the goalkeeper as Kirunda captained the Cranes to the 1978 AFCON finals.
Ssali narrated to this website that he had talked with Kirunda about two days ago.
“He (Kirunda) called me two days back,” Ssali said. “He was consulting about the phones FUFA gave us and was wondering why he had not received his. I had to explain to him that he should wait for end of this lockdown and talk to FUFA and Airtel.”
It should be remembered that earlier this year, January 6, Airtel issued out 4G smart phones for all the living Uganda Cranes players class of 1978 as a token of appreciation.
On how he got to know the news of Kirunda’s death, Ssali said:
“A journalist friend of mine contacted me today consulting about the matter (death) but I was not aware. So I had to first park aside and call Kirunda myself. At the other end, its the lady who picked and said told me that the ‘owner of the phone has died.’ I couldn’t believe it.”
FUFA has confirmed that Kirunda will be laid to rest this Wednesday in Kyadondo.
“He is the best ever. We will never replace him,” Ssali said about the fallen legend. “He could play comfortably in all positions and scored goals as well. He had a strong heart, a leader and very aggressive.”
Kirunda scored a late late winner against Ethiopia as Uganda Cranes booked a place to the AFCON tournament.
Ssali, about Kirunda’s winner, says: “That is the moment I remember mostly about him. It was 1-1 at Nakivubo with few seconds on the clock. If the result ended that way, Ethiopia would qualify.”
“I remember him going forward in search for the goal, like he always did when things were not going our way. He jumped higher than the goalkeeper and powered in a header off Ssemwanga’s cross. And just like that, we qualified thanks to Kirunda.”
Uganda drew goalless with Ethiopia in the first leg before a return leg in Kampala. At Nakivubo, Dennis Obua put Uganda in front and Ssali kept out a penalty before Solomon leveled for Ethiopia. Then Kirunda happened. Uganda edged Ethiopia and qualified on 2-1 aggregate. In the tourney property, the Cranes were stopped at the finals by hosts Ghana.