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Cranes captain Onyango announces retirement from international football

By Shafic Kiyaga
Uganda's goalkeeper Denis Onyango during the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) football match between DR Congo and Uganda at Cairo International Stadium | Photo by JAVIER SORIANO/AFP via Getty Images

Uganda Cranes captain Denis Onyango has announced his retirement from international football.

The 35-year-old’s retirement comes days after another long serving player Hassan Wasswa also announced his retirement and amidst a storm following ridiculous criticism from FUFA president Moses Magogo of Cranes CHAN team performance.

Onyango who purported audio linked to media said he would not return for national duty, before taking to Twitter to give a hint of his imminent retirement in his farewell message to Wasswa.

Onyango said in a statement that ‘it was an honour to represent Uganda and will always appreciate the experience’.

“This letter represents my official notice of retirement from the Uganda National Football Team, The Cranes, effective April 12, 2021,” Onyango said in a statement.

“It has been a great pleasure and honour to represent my country and I will always appreciate the experience and knowledge that I have gained while playing for the Cranes,” the statement added.

The goalkeeper known for his all-around play, consistency, and calm personality has earned 83 international caps for the national team since 2005.

Onyango made his international debut for Uganda on June 18, 2005, during the 2006 World Cup qualifying match against Cape Verde, going on to keep a clean sheet in the 1-0 victory.

He was named Cranes captain in April 2019 by former coach Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojevic, following the retirement of Geoffrey Massa.

Onyango captained the Cranes to the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Egypt.

Onyango and the Cranes would again make history by qualifying for a second consecutive AFCON finals in 2019, this time going one better by reaching the knock out rounds of the tournament for the first time since 1978.

There would not be a third consecutive appearance at the AFCON and the Cranes after coming short in their 2020 qualifying group finishing third, a point behind Malawi and Burkina Faso.

Onyango’s full statement

I sit here with tears rolling down my eyes because after a lengthy consideration I have come to the decision of retiring from international football with immediate effect.

It is a sad day in my life knowing that I will never wear the jersey of my beloved Cranes in front of passionate fans again.

I will now become the number one supporter who wears the jersey watching from the stands or from home. It is through the Ugandan national team that I have grown from a boy into the man and father that I am now.

For all the success that I have enjoyed in my career I owe so much of it to the national team. It was because of my national team that I got to play against all the best players from across the continents that play in top leagues all over the world.

I played at the AFCON finals because of the Cranes. The joy of being at the AFCON finals after so many years was sweet. To sing my national anthem was the greatest joy that I will ever have being the ‘proud boy’ from Uganda that I am.

I didn’t want to retire but I felt it is better to leave good memories and allow for the younger goalkeepers to compete for that jersey which I have worn with pride for 16 years.

Everyone who has worked with me knows how much I enjoyed playing for the national team. My commitment and hard work were never in question.

To everyone that I worked with especially coach Micho (Milutin Sredojevic) thank you for the patience, understanding and wisdom that you brought to me.

To my friends, management of the Federation of Uganda Football Associations, Nsambya FC and SC Villa, teammates, managers, coaches, I say thank you.

My biggest appreciation is to the fans and all the people of Uganda. I love you all. Football can never be as beautiful as it is without fans. Nothing can ever be better than captaining your national team. It was real.

Salute to every Ugandan

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