The debate on who makes Uganda’s greatest team will go on and on. The-SportsNation talked with one of the respected figures in the game, a former player and respected coach, Sam Ssimbwa to break down the matter – And when Stars speak, we sit and listen.
Ssimbwa’s football career was outstanding and the same can be said of his managerial tactics and it will come with no surprise to many after he named himself in the right wing.
He won three CECAFA championships with the Uganda Cranes in 1989, 1990 and 1992. As a coach, is the last manager to win a league for Express FC.
His dream team will come a with big debate but his explanations on his selections shades a better picture.
But before, we asked the gaffer on who he thinks is the greatest Uganda player of all time – He said without hesitation – Philip Omondi.
Nicknamed Omo (which rhymes with his name as well) after washing away Express in one of the games with KCC, Omondi was spotted by then Uganda coach Bukhard Pape in 1969 and later became an household name for the Cranes and KCC FC, the later named their stadium after him. He passed away in 1999.
Ssimbwa’s second best is Jimmy Kirunda, another KCC legend who played for Villa and Express as well.
“Kirunda was a defender but was once a league top scorer. Leave alone the likes of Fimbo (Mukasa Andrew) who you guys always write about, but deep down you know that their goals were just bought by then!”
“I am the one who ever tried that achievement; I was a defender for Kibuli SS and went on to become the top scorer for Kampala Schools.”
That’s Ssimbwa for you.
Let’s see who makes his eleven, shall we?
Goalkeeper – Sadiq Wassa
Coach Ssimbwa ranks Wassa ahead of legendary Paul Ssali and current Uganda Cranes captain Denis Onyango.
“We played during tough conditions and he won many trophies for Uganda Cranes compared to Onyango. I know many will say that we have qualified to AFCON but I will then ask what have we got there?” says Ssimbwa.
“Sadiq won the Peace Cup in Kuwait, four East and Central titles. Someone should remind me how many golds Onyango has won for the National team. Its the same for Ssali, he was goalkeeper until around 1978 but he didn’t win many accolades for Uganda in comparison with Sadiq.”
Sadiq saved two penalties against Malawi in the final as Uganda won the CECAFA championship in 1989.
Right Back – Eddie Ssemwanga
Ssemwanga was a good free-kick and penalty specialist. He was recruited from Masaka Union to play for Prisons FC.
“He was very good and committed ahead of Paul Hasule and may be Simeon Masaba,” says Ssimbwa. “He had speed, and had a powerful shot.”
Ssemwanga played for the National team in the Africa Cup of Nations of 1974, 1976 and 1978, and also won the 1973, 1976 and 1977 Cecafa trophies.
Left Back – Ashe Mukasa
Mukasa played for six clubs including Express and KCC and featured in three AFCON tourneys (1974, 1976 and 1978) for the Cranes.
“He could also play in the midfield as well, one of those who inspired me to play football,” Ssimbwa credits. “He was very intelligent player.”
Mukasa also went on to become the Uganda Cranes assistant Manager.
Central Defender – Tom Lwanga
He is remembered for having scored that decisive penalty as KCC beat Tanzania’s Simba to win the Cecafa Club championship.
Ssimbwa says: “No one come close to Lwanga and (Jimmy) Kirunda. Arguably the best ever.”
He was converted from the wing because he had no pace, but won three league titles with KCC (1976, 1977 & 1985) as a player and went on two win two more as KCC coach (1991 & 1997).
Central Defender – Jimmy Kirunda
The iconic talisman who captained Uganda Cranes for 10 years, he recently passed away after collapsing on a road side in Mulago. His playing career saw him play for the big three – KCC, Villa and Express.
“Like I said, there is no debate here. Him and Lwanga cannot be matched in central defence. There have been great defenders like Nkaada, Ssimwogerere and Ssekajja but none come close,” Ssimbwa says.
“Look at his height and that well built body. Him and Lwanga were very intelligent.”
Kirunda won the CECAFA Cup with Uganda in 1969, 1970, 1973, 1976 and 1977.
Central Midfielder – Paul Nkata
Nkata was outstanding as Uganda defended the CECAFA Cup in 1990 before hanging his boots for the national team in 1991.
“Nkata was very intelligent,” Ssimbwa remembers. “Unlike many players who play in that position, Nkata was not physical and hard tacklers but his best attribute was the way he used to intercept play and rob opponents of possession. And he was a good passer of the ball.”
Referred to as “latest”, he captained Express FC and later won two league titles with SC Villa.
Right Winger – Sam Ssimbwa
As a player, Ssimbwa won won part of KCC team that won the 1991 league title (1991) and Three CECAFA Cup titles with The Cranes (1989, 1990 & 1992).
“I don’t want to talk much about my self, I know that there were good right wingers like Obadiah Ssemakula, Batambuze and Mubiru Tanker though I didn’t watch him for a long while.”
“But journalists like Badru Zziwa and Fred Musisi when they chose the best team of the decade, I was there unopposed. And I was once the best player east and central.”
Ssimbwa played for three clubs – KK Cosmos, KCC and Mbale Heroes.
Attacking Midfielder – Steven Bogere
“Yali musazi nyooo…”
Ssimbwa says that Bogere could get opponents off his way with ease.
“And he was the best passer of the ball, I think Farouk Miya also has some of his attributes among the players of this generation.”
Bogere is regarded to be the best skilled players Uganda has ever produced. His creativity, agility and quick feet made him standout.
He played for Tobacco FC in 1983 before joining SC Villa in 1988 where he won a double in 1988 and 1989, and won CECAFA in 1989
Striker – Majidu Musisi
Majidu is cherished by Villa fans after his successful spell with the club before later moving to Stade Rennes in France in 1992. He also played for Bursaspor and Daranelspor in the Turkish League.
“He is still the most outstanding from all the striker we have ever had,” Ssimbwa.
Majidu was the league top scorer four times in 1987, 1989, 1990 and 1992.
Striker – Philip Omondi
Omondi was born to Kenyan parents, and he later formed one of the deadly partnerships ever seen with Polly Ouma.
“He is the greatest ever,” says Ssimbwa who was out of superlatives.
“However, Jackson Mayanja was also good and I can play him in that position as well.”
Omondi, a legend at KCCA, also played for Naguru youth FC, Fiat FC and Sharjah FC in United Arab Emirates. He won two league titles with KCC FC (1983 & 1985) and a 1978 Cecafa title with KCC FC and the Cranes (1983).
Left Winger – Godfrey Kateregga
Kateregga played for Tobacco FC, KCC, Villa and Express and also played for the Cranes until 1988.
Ssimbwa says: “Kateregga had everything. He was fast, a good dribbler and had an eye for a goal as well. He was well built. If we had scouts to take players abroad during that time, he was going to be the first to be spotted.”
He was a very controversial figure, but won two league titles with KCCA (1981 and 1983) and SC Villa (1986 and 1987). He also won the Cecafa club cup in 1987 for Villa.
Paul Ssali, Denis Onyango, Paul Hasule, John Latigo, Sam Mugambe, Sula Kato, Jackson Mayanja, Hakim Magumba, Ibrahim Ssekajja.