Home Sports Uganda’s Onyango 10th best goalkeeper in the world

Uganda’s Onyango 10th best goalkeeper in the world


The English Premier League is the top football fascination of every little boy and sporting man in Uganda today. Just over two decades ago, Football Made in Germany held that place. However, the local Ugandan league was as fascinating as Football Made in Germany for a 12-year-old and the adult fan as well.

Today, very few people know who the SC Villa goalkeeper is or who the coach for Uganda Premier League reigning champions KCCA is. And the reason for that is that our society has less appreciation for the local league now than it did back in the 1970s’ and 80s’.

Instead of a father taking his son to Nakivubo or Namboole for a UPL match ona random Tuesday or Friday, they would rather settle down in their living room, grab a remote and watch the world of Chelsea’s Diego Costa, Liverpool’s Sadio Mane or the expensive Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba.

So the little lad will fancy Arsenal, Barcelona and may never know that KCCA forward Geoffrey Sserunkuma can delivera beautiful header at Wankuluku Stadium just like Arsenal’s Olivier Girouddoes at the Emirates Stadium in London.

Or even, it will take them time to know what kind of potent striker Onduparaka captain Mohammed Shaban is yet, the young teenager will master all Bacary Sagna’s hairstyles.

But with the successes of 2016 like Uganda Cranes qualifying for the Africa Cup of Nations due Gabon next month for the first time in 39 years, we hope local football will get more popularity and recognition both in and outside the country.

Underneath Cranes’ success, there have been some other interesting stories. They’ve been particularly headlined by the side’s first-choice goal keeper Denis Onyango.

Currently at Mamelodi Sundowns in South Africa, Onyango has had a year to remember. In his early 30s’, Onyango attributes all his success to hard work and patience. And he says he is very grateful for the amazing year he has had.

During the AFCON qualifiers, Onyango, one of the six mainstays for Coach Micho Srejoevic, managed a total four clean sheets in six encounters against Botswana, Comoros and Burkina Faso as Cranes returned to dine with the continental football giants.

At club level, it is where Onyango’s star shined brightest. He not only clinched the Premier Soccer League (PSL) title but, his 14 clean sheets helped him take the Goal keeper of the Year gong during the PSL Awards held at the Emperor’s Palace in Kempton Park in May.

The story did not stop there. A starter in goal ahead of home boy Wayne Sandilands and 2013 AFCON champion Zambian Kennedy Mweene, Onyango was a huge pillar as Sundowns went on to lift their maiden CAF Champions League title.

Sundowns would have actually not won the competition because they had been eliminated by DR Congo side AS Vita on away goals’ rule following a 2-2 aggregate score at the second round.

But on May 24, Sundowns won on walkover after it was found out that Vita had fielded an ineligible player in their preliminary round tie against Mafunzo. Sundowns had played in the Confederation Cup play-off round before they were reinstated to the Champions League.

Sundowns went on to beat Zamalek 3-1 on aggregate in the final in October, making Onyango the first Ugandan player to win the continental title.

Striker Yunus Ssentamu lost with Vita in the 2014 final while SC Villa and Simba all fell short in the 1972 and 1991 finals.

By then, Onyango had become the talk of town in the football corridors, WhatsApp groups, Facebook and Twitter for his achievement. His success briefly altered the attention for the Premier League, Lionel Messi and Ronaldos of this world.

After skipping that hurdle, Onyango made the three-man shortlist for the CAF Africa Player of the Year – Based in Africa gong at the Glo-CAF Awards due January 5, 2017 in Abuja. His Sundowns’ teammate Khama Billiat and TP Mazembe’s Zambian Rainford Kalaba are the other contenders.

With this nomination, Onyango became the third Ugandan player after Geoffrey Massa and Ssentamu to earn a nomination at these Awards.

But winning the Caf Champions League also meant Onyango would become the first Ugandan player to feature at the Fifa Club World Cup.

He did travel to Japan earlier this month but his side was beaten by home league champions Kashima Antlers 2-1 and Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors 4-1. Sundowns finished sixth overall as star-studded Real Madrid were crowned champions.

At the end of it all, Onyango was ranked the 10th best goal keeper in the world in 2016 by International Federation of Football History & Statistics (IFFHS).

IFFHS placed Onyango, the only African custodian on the list, above familiar figures Arsenal’s Peter Cech, Inter Milan’s Samir Handanovic and Barcelona’s Marc André TerStegen. Germany and Bayern Munich’s Manuel Neuer tops the list.

On Thursday, Onyango will don his suit and dine with the likes of Borussia Dortmund Gabonese Pierre Aubameyang, Mane, Leicester’s Riyad Mahrez at the same hall in Abuja.

It will take time to have another Ugandan player with better sweet notes than those in Onyango’s 2016 diary. And if that comes soon, then most assuredly the mind of that little boy who now fancies the Premier League will gradually give more focus to fellow countrymen.


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