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.