Barcelona goalkeeping coach Jon Pascua has singled out Uganda Cranes and Mamelodi Sundowns goalkeeper Denis Onyango for his work ethic saying it’s what has brought him this far.
Pascua worked with the Tshwane giants for five years from 2010 to 2015 and it’s during that period that Onyango also joined the Masandawana back from loan at Mpumalanga Black Aces in 2011.
But two years later, the Ugandan shot-stopper was sent out on loan again to league rivals Bidvest Wits due to the competition in goal caused by the then first-choice Wayne Sandilands and Zambian Kennedy Mweene who had joined the club in 2013.
“In the early years of my five-year tenure at Mamelodi Sundowns, Onyango did not play because (Wayne) Sandilands had an advantage over him for the work he had been doing,” Pascua said in an interview with ESPN Africa.
Just like anyone destined for success, all the above didn’t stop Onyango from working hard patiently, eventually returning to Sundowns in 2014 and he became the first choice in the pecking order in 2015 taking over Mweene.
“After two years of work and on his return from loan, games were piling up and Denis (Onyango) started to compete, showcasing his potential, which I always knew he had.”
“By the time I left the club, Denis was at his peak and solidified his place at Mamelodi Sundowns.”
“The secret? All the work we did with him behind the scenes for more than two years when he was not playing.”
With Onyango being one of the biggest beneficiaries of Pascua’s coaching, the Spanish licenced goalkeeping coach, believes that the former would have made it in Europe on top of being one of the best custodians the African continent has ever witnessed.
“Undoubtedly, he would have had the potential to play in Europe if he was born here and his talent was nurtured from a very young age, the age of nine or 10 years, as is the norm here,” Pascua said.
Although Pascua is long gone back to his native country Spain, he’s still well represented in Africa with the likes of Onyango who’s continuously succeeding at both club and national level.
Since his breakthrough in the 2015/16 season at Sundowns, the Uganda Cranes captain has won four PSL titles, two Telcom Knockout Cups, the Nedbank Cup and the 2016 CAF Champions League trophy.
He has also helped his national team the Cranes to qualify for back-to-back Africa Cup of Nations tournaments.
In 2017 in Gabon ending the 38-year curse and in 2019 in Egypt where they played up to the round of 16 before they were eliminated by Sadio Mane’s Senegal.