He did not just ghost past opponents. He danced past and over them, faking a drop of a shoulder here, turn of a head there, and a pass to a completely contrasting direction.
Even a trip to Villa Park, SC Villa’s traditional home, you can hardly miss those qualities as the FSL side’s coach conducts training on a rather dusty pitch and gentle midday sun.
Steven Bogere, the think tank of Villa and Uganda Cranes in the late 80s and early 90s, demonstrated if it called for a chest control technique, or committing opponents.
“I’m an attacking midfielder and each one has his strength,” says the 48-year-old, “Mine was in dribbling. I envied Omondi (Philip, the former KCC and Uganda Cranes great).” The late Omondi is widely believed to be the country’s greatest ever player.
“I think here (locally), there is no one who comes close to him; even in Africa, I don’t think there was anyone who was better than Omondi.
“He was a great, talented midfielder. Philip had everything... Only that he was not fast. You could not equal Omondi. Now me, I picked on speed. I had to add what he didn’t do. “So in Walukuba (Jinja – Bogere’s home area), there is a hill. Every day I would wake up at 5.45am and sprint up and down for about an hour and go home, take a bath, get a taxi and come to Villa Park (Kampala) for training.” To those who watched him, Bogere was so confident and comfortable on the ball he guarded it like a mother does her baby.
Goal against Zaire
“His (Bogere’s) philosophy was the ball had to move on the ground,” shares former KCC winger Fredrick Musisi Kiyingi, “He was calm under pressure, would draw opponents and create several options for his teammates to score.”
To Tom Damulira, a regular football analyst on KFM, “Bogere was the most exciting and most technically gifted player of his generation. Never selfish, passed the ball with ease in small spaces, always forward thinking and a match winner.”
Indeed his selflessness during the 1989 Cecafa final against Malawi in Nairobi could have cost Cranes the title. “I beat my men, drifted in and beat the remaining defenders and just laid on the ball for Magid Musisi to tap in. “But Magid thought I had done enough to deserve scoring that goal. So he also left the ball waiting for me to score, as I also asked him to score… the ball went out begging.” Uganda won it on penalties after normal time had ended 3-3.
Actually, it is said Bogere created over 60 per cent of the Ugandan legend, Musisi’s goals both on the national team and Villa, an understanding that effortlessly transformed from club to Cranes.
That understanding was well manifested in the 2-1 1992 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying win over Zaire (DRC) at Nakivubo.
With the game tied 1-1 after Umar Ssenoga’s early lead was cancelled, Bogere, as he always did, took matters into his head, hands and feet – picking the ball from just inside his half. He crossed the centre circle dancing past opponents and released Musisi, the striker sending in a pile driver of a shot with ultimate venom. The moment was earth-shattering in the word as the small Kirussia caved in to fans celebratory pandemonium.
It happened too fast for even the chief orchestrator to reminisce it justly. “The goal against Zaire, of course like I told you, I beat my men but speed was the difference. We (with Musisi) scored many of such goals at Villa.”
Can’t have enough of Omondi
Yet Bogere was more engrossed in relaying tales of his idol, Omondi, than his own. “Like I told you, Omondi would beat his men but they had a chance of recovering because he didn’t have speed. But he would still beat them again; just like Fred Tamale. “But for me, since dribbling and speed were my strong points, when I beat you, you would not get me. But Omondi was just in his own class.
“He is still my idol and when I once told him that, he loved me the more. Even in the national team, I would clean his training kit even though we were all players. One day we were on the national team he asked me ‘what is that one thing that I do but you struggle to do?’ “I told him that I admired his chest control but couldn’t do it. Omondi could do anything with his chest.”
Bogere signaled to my photographer to throw him the ball. He folded his hands as if readying to set play in a volleyball game; controlled the ball on his chest before turning with it and sprinting away… “Omondi taught me that if you wanted to turn with the ball on your chest and peel away from your marker, you had to chest it while on your toes. But you just had to be grounded if you wanted to control it still.
“He set for me such a goal when we beat Cameroon 3-1 at Nakivubo (1988 Afcon qualifiers). He jumped as if to head in but instead controlled it with his chest and I scored.” Sande Mokili and Omondi scored the others. “The chest does many things and I learnt that from him. I also used the chest technique as I passed the ball or beat my men. Actually I never scored a goal with my head in Uganda. I only scored one in Oman as I was retiring.”
Benched for Kakungulu final
Like most exceptional players, Bogere had one ‘big head’ (forget his actual small one). While he insists discipline was key in their days and that he aspired to live by it, he had his misdemeanors, one of those seeing him benched for Villa’s most important game of the double-winning season yet. To date, few know the story behind Bogere’s being left on the bench for their 1989 Kakungulu Cup final against Express.
Ladies and gentlemen…
“Kawooya gave me a house here in Kampala with Sula Kato, Sande Mokili and Magid but I didn’t sleep in it that night and I went back home in Jinja after training.” Mzee Patrick Kawooya (RIP) was Villa’s trusted chairman at the time. “Magid was my very good friend, so he later came that night but when he was told I had traveled back to Jinja, he also didn’t sleep there.
“So when Hasule (Paul, the club captain) came to the house, he saw I wasn’t in but the lights were on. He reported me and Musisi to Mzee Kawooya and I got pissed.
“We were annoyed because as the captain Hasule was given everything, from the car to fuel but he kept following us. But on the pitch he was the best. We were one.
“So anyway, we had that final coming up and for those last two days after Hasule (RIP) reported us, I lazily came to training and did my own things without caring.
“I think the coaches (Geoff Hudson, Polly Ouma and Timothy Ayiekoh) saw that my attitude wasn’t good, so they put me on the bench.” But with Express having taken a first half lead, Ronald Vubya got injured shortly after half time and Bogere was summoned to rescue the Blues.
“I entered and I wanted to prove a point. Plus, we had our thing with Express. We always wanted to beat each other. “Immediately, I went and picked the ball from Hasule, I committed a good number of Express players, placed for Majid and he scored. I did the same and scored and set up Magid for his second and we won the match 3-1.”
Spear Motors move
Bogere and Musisi were not done. Then came the transfer talk that created more headache to SC Villa than Barcelona’s possession did Manchester City. Villa’s most potent force were on their way to Gordon Wavamunno’s Spear Motors. “Actually, it is Magid who connected me to Spear Motors,” shares Bogere, “He went and talked to Wava and they agreed that they were going to make him captain and give him several other privileges.
“Then he took me there, I was convinced and me and Magid went and picked forms from Nakivubo.
“We were to fill them at Spear and return them immediately but some guy called Rajab (former referee, who was also in charge of player transfers then) called Kawooya and told him Bogere and Magid had picked forms and were headed to Spear Motors.
“So Mzee Kawooya went to Magid’s house in Najjanankumbi and talked him out of the move. Magid never returned the forms.
“They tried looking for me but I had returned to Jinja and when I came back, I went straight to Spear and Wava handed me over to the manager and we returned the forms together. So I moved and Magid stayed.”
Continent… why do we fail today?
But Bogere was to fare just one season at Spear and half at Nile before he returned in 1991 to continue the bond with Musisi, the two and their teammates embarking on a run that saw them reach the final of Caf Champions League, where they lost 7-3 on aggregate to Tunisia’s Club Africain. Villa beat Egypt’s Al Ahly and Nigeria’s Iwuanyanwu Nationale en route to the final.
But somehow, such memorable runs are a story of old times today, with Ugandan clubs fluctuating between preliminaries and at most second round.
Not when you have most of them going several months without pay or when football administrators are absorbed in wrangles.
“The truth is we were very much facilitated in our time,” says Bogere, “You can’t believe it but Kawooya paid us in dollars. He was a rich businessman and he had other friends that ensured everything was okay with us. Clubs like Express had Bbaale Mugera (club patron today), KCC had Bidandi Ssali, a very good administrator, then you had Airlines, Coffee, Lint Spear, Tobacco, who you were assured they would put you on a payroll.”
“But today the fans control us, there is no money. Fans bring a player and they want commission… we need to build our own.
Some money was coming in when sponsors were around but wrangles chased them away. So overtime standards have fallen and people are no longer interested in watching games.”
The midfielder adds: “Then football had leadership, now we have politics. But I call upon government to interest companies/factories like it was before with some tax holidays and they will be back in the game.”
Bogere looks back on...
On 1991 CL final (SC Villa 1-1 Club Africain in Kla)
“Like I told you, we had everything. Welfare in camp was perfect and the upkeep top.”
Club Africain 6-2 SC Villa in Tunisia
“Arabs will always use home advantage; treat everyone involved in the game with the best hospitality. But that said, they prepare better and truth be told, they were better than us in all aspects.”
Toughest opponent in the region
“(Thinks deep, then drops an honest smile, then laughter) Honestly, I don’t see any. There were really good players and defenders at the time but to be honest I didn’t see any.
On Fred Tamale having him as his idol
“It really makes me feel good because Tamale was one guy who maintained the game’s standards after the likes of Omondi, me, Mayanja and the rest left.”
“It was very tough. The encouraging thing for me is I found Omondi finishing, but there was Moses Nsereko, Frank Lukoma, Mike Kiganda… so we had stiff competition and when you got into the team, you had to be consistent to retain your place.
“I think they do not give it their all. You first work, and then the rest like money come later. It comes back to you as an individual, just like no one told me to work individually on my speed in Jinja. Today, it would be a surprise to meet a footballer doing roadwork.
Final career days
After helping Villa to the Champions League final, Bogere quit playing; then just under 27 years. But after sitting out one a half years in which he resorted to soda selling business, his colleague Ibrahim Buwembo told him he had quit football early and took him to Oman, where he played one season before ending his playing career proper.
Name: Steven Bogere
Bayern (Walukuba, played there with Bright Dhaira)
Garments (2nd Div, one season)
Steel Rolling Mill (topflight, one season)
1987–1990: SC Villa
1990: Spear Motors
1991: Nile (half season)
1991: SC Villa (half season)