KCCA may have bowed out of the Caf Champions League in the first round at the hands of Zambia’s Nkana last weekend but one man’s expertise shone through.
Goalkeeper Salim Jamal saved three successive penalties in three games although his howler in their fourth match gifted Nkana their second goal as the Zambians claimed a 2-1 win and a 4-3 aggregate scoreline.
Actually, when you consider the two in a Mapinduzi Cup quarterfinal shootout victory over Kenya’s Tusker early in the year, the KCCA shot-stopper’s ball arresting craft simply bedazzles.
Jamal may leave your heart in your hands when faced with an aerial challenge; one by the way he has to extremely work on, but when the 2012 young goalkeeper of the year has you one-on-one, he is like a truck in the middle of a narrow road.
El Merreikh and Nkana strikers that had their penalties saved by the goalkeeper will attest.
The former Express shot-stopper ensured KCCA kept a clean sheet as he saved a penalty in the 2-0 win away to Merreikh in Sudan before repeating the feat in the return leg at Namboole, although the hosts eventually scored from a rebound.
Three weeks later and Jamal was at it again against Nkana, saving Ronald Kampamba’s spot-kick to ensure a 2-2 draw.
But just how does he do it? “Jamal is very good in one-on-one situations,” explains his KCCA coach George Nsimbe, “He studies the kicker very well. You can beat him from other situations but when he has your eye sight, it’s hard.”
To the actor himself, you cannot be taught how to stop penalty kicks. “It’s just within you,” says Jamal, who intimates that his goalkeeping traits could be traced from his uncle Abdu Salim Magoola, a former shot-stopper at Express and KCC. Abdu Salim now lives in Sweden.
“But what I normally do is I think for the striker,” adds the custodian, in his early 20s “I give him a hint and an option and get him thinking that I don’t know where he is going to kick it.” But how is that, Jamal? “You suggest where he is going to kick it, calculate him.
“You can give him a fake of a leg, and he will normally kick it in the opposite direction while within me, I have calculated that I will fake him but retain enough stamina to reflex and dive where he has actually kicked it. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t.”
But how does he read the striker’s mind? “I also play upfront and I also take penalties. So I have an idea what is going on in their mind before taking the penalty.”
Actually, on top of saving two spot kicks against Tusker in Mapinduzi Cup in Zanzibar, Jamal also converted one.
Jamal is just one case of the several Ugandan goalkeepers that made saving penalties their specialty.
Like his father Bright Dhaira did in the penalty saving expertise during his days, Abel is known for stopping takers from six yards.
Kakungulu Cup glory
His best showing, interestingly also his introduction to the Ugandan top game proper, came in the 2007 Kakungulu Cup with Express as he saved two spot-kicks to hand the Red Eagles their 11th crown. They beat KCC 4-2 after normal time ended goalless.
Sadiq Wassa, one of Uganda’s best ever goalkeepers, was also famous for saving crucial penalties in the league and Cups but his and the country’s best moment came at the 1989 Cecafa final against Malawi in Nairobi.
With normal time having ended 3-3, Paul Hasule, Ronald Vubya and Sula Kato scoring for Uganda (Navigator Dzikambane and brace hero Young Chimodzi netted for Malawi), it was Wassa left to salvage the country’s pride if the 12-year wait for the regional title was to end.
He never disappointed, keeping out the Malawians for Uganda to win the shootout 2-1. Denis Onyango also saved Christopher Katongo’s penalty in the 8-9 defeat to Zambia in the 2013 Nations Cup qualifiers but his most memorable came in March 2011 when he saved a spot kick in Guinea Bissau as Uganda recorded their first away qualifying victory (1-0) in close to a decade.
“I can’t point to anything special but all I can say is we generally have good goalkeepers. I think Uganda has the best goalkeepers in the region.”