By Asaph Mwebaze
Uganda is the quintessential footballing country in the East African region. And rightly so, the country has reached the Africa Cup of Nations finals in 1978 and has won a record 14 regional CECAFA championships.
The great football story of Uganda has been littered with stars left, right and centre. Uganda has been blessed with so much talent that it is as hard to name the greatest player.
Picking the greatest XI ever is equally daunting even for a person who has watched football for the last 40 years and watched generations and generations of talent.
But not one I can fail to give a go, below is my greatest Ugandan XI. For the millennials I have gone for a 4-3-3 formation.
GK: Onyango Denis
The thing I remember most about Onyango was letting a harmless back pass slip past him into the goal in a game against South African U20 team at Nakivubo.
At that point, I almost thought his career was over before it started. He had had such a decent game until that point with a few minutes left on the clock. But as the saying goes the rest is history. He has gone on to play for St George in Ethiopia, SuperSport and Mamelodi Sundowns in South Africa.
He has captained Uganda at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations finals and was also voted African player of the year based in Africa in 2016.
I have seen great Ugandan goalkeepers like Paul Ssali, John Tebusweke, and Sadiq Wassa but Onyango has been head and shoulders above the rest.
RB: Simeone Masaba
At right-back I will pick Masaba. I have watched football for forty years and believe me I have seen full-backs, right-backs and wing-backs but none has been as elegant as Masaba.
His calculated movement on the right side of the field was a joy to behold. Masaba got himself in positions and was most times unmarked. His delivery of the cross was inch-perfect and wreaked havoc in opponents back lines.
I pick him over Paul Hasule and John Ross Latigo who were sublime moving forward in the same position. Uganda has failed to replace him since his retirement. He futured for Police FC, SC Villa and URA FC.
LB: Adam Semugabi
The left-back position I will go with Adam Semugabi. He was a well-built player with a deft left foot. He had a shot that most goalkeepers wouldn’t want to face.
Semugabi scored penalties until he missed one that defined his career. I was in Namasagali College when Uganda Cranes had the penultimate game of qualification against Nigeria’s Super Eagles at Nakivubo stadium 1993.
I left school without permission with 10 other students and we were later known in school as the famous 11.
Uganda got a penalty with seven minutes to full time – scoring that would guarantee that Cranes were to qualify for AFCON 1994.
There were wild celebrations because that was a given; Uganda was going to score. The team had Magid Musisi, Jackson Mayanja and Semugabi. The joke was that the ball is still on its way out of the stadium.
CB: Paul Hasule (captain)
In the central defensive position, my pick is Hasule; One of the most composed and assuring players to have graced the Ugandan game.
Hasule started his career at Mbale Heroes and crowned it with the all-conquering SC Villa of the 90s. He was versatile and could play in all the four positions in defence.
When he played at right-back, he looked natural in that position. His command of his fellow players was exemplary and his ability on ground and in the air complemented it. I would also pick him as my captain.
CB: Ibrahim Ssekagya
Ibrahim Ssekagya is one of Uganda’s finest football exports in the last 40 years.
Ssekagya played for the famous KCCA FC of 1997 and departed for Argentina, playing for Arsenal De Sarandí before going on to feature for Redbull Salzburg in Austria and finally to New York Redbull in the Major League Soccer in the USA.
The great Italian manager Geovanni Trappatoni once said Ssekagya reminded him of the legendary Kaiser Franz Beckenbauer of Germany. He was such an organizer that average players looked good playing with him.
What he lacked in speed he compensated with flamboyance, superb game reading and sublime skill. His control and composure in defence even under pressure is one aspect that would easily cause a heart attack.
MID: Paul Nkata
The anchorman of my team is Paul Nkata. He famously played for the biggest rivals in Ugandan football SC Villa and Express FC.
He was nicknamed ‘Latest’ as his style was something new on the Ugandan scene. His positioning was superb and ball distribution was next to none. He pickpocketed most players off the ball because of his quick and nimble feet.
He shielded the back four and was always the unsung hero for SC Villa and the Uganda Cranes. I pick him over Dan Mubiru who I would have on the bench.
RW: Obadiah Ssemakula
Played most of his career with Coffee Marketing Board FC and later KCCA FC. Ssemakula played in the same Coffee squad alongside Richard Mugalu, another player who I find quite uneasy to leave out.
Ssemakula was famously referred to as ‘Musanvu W’eggwanga’ loosely translated as ‘The country’s right-winger’ an indication of why great he was down the right. His delivery of the crosses was pinpoint and positioning to the point.
I picked him a head of other players like Sam Ssimbwa and Ronald Vvubya. This position has lacked good players in the last 20 years.
MID: Steven Bogere
This middle field position I would not have sleepless nights over who to field. This player covered every inch of the blade grass while on the field.
Bogere would pick players with his passing range at any distance. He famously had a pass to himself called ‘Bogie to Bogie’.
It might be debatable but I think Bogere is the best ever in that position in modern Ugandan football. It’s the one position I didn’t think twice in naming.
FW: Majidu Musisi
No team would be complete without the goal machine ‘Magic’ Majid Musisi. Putting the ball in the net wasn’t rocket science to him but second nature.
Having grown up supporting KCCA FC it was us at the receiving end of this terror of a striker.
Musisi was the first Uganda player to play in a top European league at Stade de Rennes in France. He is still the most expensive Ugandan player in terms of transfer fees.
The other player to have come close to that stature was Hassan Mubiru but he flattered to deceive.
FW: Phillip Omondi
Phillip Omondi was the football wizard of Uganda. He would do with an orange what others would struggle to do with a ball.
He was the Maradona of Uganda and played for KCC FC my favourite club most of his career. Omondi was top scorer at the AFCON 78 and best player.
He was fondly known as ‘Omo’ to the yellow brigade in Lugogo. The stadium in Lugogo is also named after him. Unfortunately, he edges out another KCC great Jackson Mayanja in my team.
FW: Godfrey Kateregga
Godfrey Kateregga, is the best player I have seen grace the Ugandan game, He was nicknamed ‘Superstar’.
Kateregga was an amazing athlete, incredible footballer and with an imposing personality. His left foot was comparable to Maradona and Messi’s but he was faster than the Argentine pair.
His shot was vicious and taking on players one on one was his favourite pass time.
David Obua was almost a copy of Godfrey but much slower and scored less.
I would gladly coach this team myself.
Coach: Asaph Mwebaze Jr
The author is a CAF B licensed coach, he also holds a Bachelor’s of Commerce in Accounting and Finance Degree and a Master of Arts in Public Administration.