Last weekend, chess master Garry Kasparov visited the country for the second time in less than 365 days.
A week prior, World and Olympic 3000m steeplechase champion Kenyan Ezekiel Kemboi was an invited guest at the Uspa Annual Awards Gala at Imperial Royale Hotel.
Kemboi’s time here may not be easily forgotten after his did his usual celebratory trademark dance with Stephen Kiprotich on the glamorous awards night.
A rich list of sporting greats have made their way to Uganda over the years for a host of varying activities.
Edson Arantes do Nascimento Pele
Former president Idi Amin hosted Brazilian soccer legend Pelé in Uganda for three days, at a time when the country was internationally considered a no-go area in 1976.
The retired footballer and three-time Fifa World Cup winner (1958, 1962 & 1970) is regarded by many experts, football critics, former and current players as well as football fans in general as the best player of all time. In 1999, he was voted Football Player of the Century by the International Federation of Football History & Statistics (IFFHS).
The former American professional boxer is considered the greatest heavyweight in the sport’s history. He visited Uganda in the 1970s during Amin’s reign. It is largely believed the boxing ace came to Kampala due to the then president’s love for sport.
He visited Uganda in the 70s. Ashe the won three Grand Slam titles. An African American, he was the first black player selected to the United States Davis Cup team and the only black man ever to win the singles title at Wimbledon.
The four-time Olympic gold medallist Michael Johnson visited Uganda on tour of the Community Based AIDS Program, an NGO located in Kampala that addresses HIV/AIDS awareness, illiteracy, and delinquency and health issues through the use of sports in 2006.
The retired American sprinter was in Uganda on behalf of Laureus World Sports Academy to see the work being done to help children that have suffered as a result of the AIDS pandemic. He won eight World Championships gold medals and formerly held the World and Olympic record in the 200m.
Russian chess Grand Master Garry Kasparov became the youngest ever undisputed World Chess Champion by defeating then-champion Anatoly Karpov in 1985 at just 22. Regarded as the world’s best player ever, the 50-year-old, under his Kasparov Chess Foundation, visited Uganda early this week with a purpose to help the Uganda Chess Federation raise awareness regarding the role that the board game can play as an educational tool within their local jurisdictions.
Kapsarov is now a famed political opponent of Vladmir Putin, the Russian President.
He turned down an air ticket offered by Uspa president Mark Namanya and offered to take a bus from Eldoret to Kampala for the Uspa Annual Awards gala.
The 31-year-old, who won gold at 2004 and 2012 Olympics and claimed three gold medals at the 2009, 2011 and 2013 World Championships, was the special international guest at the event. Kemboi had shared the podium with Kiprotich after Namanya’s speech and the pair lit up the night when they danced to a Kikuyu song in unison, the former’s trademark victory gig. Kemboi is no doubt among the finest steeplechasers in history.
On invitation by local body Uganda Cricket Association then led by Latimer Mukasa, former South Africa cricket star Makhaya Ntini was the first ever Test cricket star to visit Uganda in 2004.
The fast bowler was the first ethnically black player to play for the South Africa team and made his One Day International (ODI) debut against New Zealand in 1997.
The West Indian batting legend Lara became the second Test cricket star to visit Uganda after Ntini when he came here on ambassadorial duty in 2009. He imparted a few skills and offered words of wisdom to domestic cricket players as he toured the eastern and western regions of the country. The Trinidadian genius made his Test debut in 1990 and for the next 17 years established a reputation as the outstanding batsman on the planet.
American sprinter Allyson Felix was among four US Olympic gold medallists who toured children projects when she celebrated her 27th birthday at the Urunchinga refugee camp in Western Uganda.
Felix, Heather Petri (water polo), Clara Hughes (Speed skating) and Heather O’Reilly (cycling) were in Uganda on a four-day working visit as ambassadors of an international NGO Right To Play.
Her specialty is the 200 meter race, winning the 2012 Olympic gold, two Olympic silver medals, and three World Championships golds. Her three gold medals at the 2012 Summer Olympics are the most a female track athlete has won since 1988.
The Manchester United ace enjoyed a three-day tour of the country at the invitation of Proline Soccer Academy in the summer of 2007.
Former England defender Ferdinand pledged to assist Uganda unearth a new generation of African football stars after having a rare chance of meeting president Yoweri Museveni at the State House in Nakasero.
Abedi Ayew Pele
Three-time African Footballer of The Year Abedi Pele took a three-day Stanbic Bank-supported African Nations Cup (Afcon) working visit to Uganda in six years ago. Pele was Standard Bank’s official ambassador for the 2008 Ghana Afcon finals and admitted admiring the late Cranes player Phillip Omondi, arguably Uganda’s best footballer, as a part of the dream team that saw Uganda make it to Ghana 30 years ago.
Alan Shearer came in January 2008 to Africa for Sport Relief. The former Newcastle and England legend played a 30-minute game of football with the children of Aids victims and, true to form; he bagged a brace in the match played in the capital Kampala.
In a move to promote the Kampala Kids League (KKL), Cameroon striker Samuel Eto’o Fils visited Uganda courtesy of UNICEF in 2008. The Cameroon striker, a two-time Afcon winner (2000 & 2002) was once the world’s second highest earning athlete (second to Tiger Woods) and was highest paid footballer in the world.
Roberto Di Matteo
The former Chelsea coach visited the country last year. He is a double FA Cup winner and Champions League winner.
The former world boxing heavyweight champion visited Uganda in the late 90s.
Currently the head of the Zambia Football Association, Kalusha Bwalya, one of Africa’s top ten players, led his country’s contingent to Kampala for the second leg of the 2013 Afcon qualifier against the Cranes that ended in their favour.
Bwalya is the most capped all-time goal scorer with 50 goals and captain of the famous KK Eleven of the Zambian national side. He won the African Footballer of the Year award in 1988 and was the 12th best in the Fifa World Player of the Year 1996.
George Weah Oppong
The first time he was in Uganda he missed a crucial 1999 Afcon qualifier because of a traffic jam on the Entebbe-Kampala highway. Weah remains the only person to have won the FIFA World Player of the Year, European Footballer of the Year, and African Footballer of the Year awards.
The American professional basketball player is among a few celebrated sports personalities to visit Uganda to promote basketball development. Howard is a two-time NBA world champion. He retired but is part of the Miami Heat set up.