By Allan Damba
Born 35 years ago to Gabriel Onyango (RIP) and Nakato Olive Musoke, growing up as a little boy in the Kampala suburbs of Nsambya, Dennis Masinde Onyango could never have in his wildest dreams dreamt of a career, late alone a footballing journey as glittering.
To paint and pepper it better, the dream to don the cranes jersey, the imaginations to captain the national team, the thought at ever playing in the Africa Cup of Nations; all these at no point ever passed Onyango’s way as he started to kick about in his parents’ back yard.
But by the end of his era, he had racked up 81 caps between the Uganda Cranes sticks. In the 16 year journey he has proven himself at the highest level as the best the nation has ever produced in his position.
To highlight how highly rated he’s always been, at only 19, the Mamelodi Sundowns stopper made his international debut in a world cup qualifying match against Cape Verde in 2005.
He has not looked back since then and has established himself as a regular for 16 years, he has only kept getting stronger until his retirement.
In 2017, the 2016 best African player of the year based in Africa took over the Captain’s office replacing Geoffrey Massa.
The same year, the former Sharing Nsambya and Villa custodian led Uganda to their first ever Africa Cup of Nations in over 40 years in Gabon, though then deputy to Massa.
Onyango went on to play his first Nations Cup matches in the tournament, making history with the rest of the park.
He went ahead to lead his nation to the last 16 of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt, a tournament that was largely considered a success.
In 2021 however, in what was his last bow, he was part of the team that failed to qualify for the 2022 AFCON finals in Cameroon after being edged out by Malawi in the final group match.
At club level, the goalkeeper is one of the most decorated players in the South African Premier League and in Africa.
After moving to SuperSport United in 2006, he went ahead to win three league trophies; 2008, 2009, 2010.
He has also won the PSL thrice with his current Sundowns team; 2016, 2018 and 2019. He has as well won the Nedbank and the Telekom trophies once.
To sum up his club honours and glory, Mr. Safe hands (because we all love to call him that) won the CAF Champions league trophy with the Brazilians in 2016, going on to appear at the FIFA Club World Cup with Sundowns.
He as well won the CAF Super Cup in 2017 in what was his best ever season at club and international level by all standards.
At the individual level, in 2016 he was voted the best goalkeeper in Africa. The same year, he won the prize for the best African player based in Africa.
The International Federation of Football History and Statistics put him 10th among the best goalkeepers in the world in 2016 beating the likes of then Arsenal goalkeeper, Petr Cech.
He has raised the Ugandan flag as high every time he stepped on a football pitch. Onyango has been a huge export, he has laid an example to the rest, especially the younger footballers.
Regarded as arguably the best ever to wear the national football team jersey, Onyango has written history in the cleanest pages of Uganda.