It took a few months to tie down ex-Cranes midfielder Friday Ssenyonjo Sserubiri for a chat. Reason? He had unfinished business with journalists.
“I cannot give you my story because in the past a newspaper wrote falsely about me,” Ssenyonjo warns as he leads me to his wife’s shop located along Kisaasi-Kyanja Road about 100meters away from Kisaasi Trading Centre.
I had to convince him that he is set to appear in a series that has featured some of Uganda’s best footballers like Fred Tamale and Polly Ouma.
“Kati ngenda kuwa Data Calcium wange. Naye ogenda kola yo ekintu kimu,” translating to, “I will tell you about my career but on one condition.” Data Calcium is the term he uses to refer to his biography.
“Inform the readers that I need a job to save me from alcoholism,” Ssenyonjo says without mincing words.
“I take a lot of waragi because I have no job. I walk to the bar in the morning then come back home late in the evening I end up struggling to put food on the table for my beautiful family.”
Due to alcoholism, his wife has ungrudgingly tendered for the family.
Ssenyonjo was born in 1974 (his passport however carries March 28, 1978). He started playing football at a young age under the tutelage of his grandfather Grace Ssenfuma in Kiira but only paid special attention to it when 17.
He attended Kisaasi Primary School and joined Kisaasi Rangers as early as 1991. Ssenyonjo joined Kololo Secondary School from there.
“I used to run along Wabiibe Hill in Kiira everyday as part of my roadwork.”
While at Kololo SS in 1993, his talent forced the then Bell FC team manager Charles Bakabulindi, the current State Minister for Sports to recruit him. It was then that he broke into the national under-21 team.
His time at Kololo was cut short when he moved to St Joseph Nagalama for A’ Level. Surprisingly he refused to play for the school team and instead joined Nagalama Islamic Institute. Apparently the latter’s headmaster Sheikh Jamir Kakeeto was giving special treatment to sportsmen. Ssenyonjo’s talent again shone and Express FC sought his services. That marked the end of his formal education.
From playing an U-21 game away in Nigeria, Ssenyonjo was fast-tracked into the Cranes set up. His best moment in a Cranes jersey came against Tanzania’s Taifa Stars after teammate Tamale was sent off just five minutes into the game for two bookable offences.
“Hussein Marsha, the Tanzanian right back was about to take a throw- in but the ball slid out of his hands so Tamale picked it and gave it back to him but Marsha refused to hold it.
Tamale tossed it down and was booked. When Marsha finally made the throw-in, Tamale was sent off for tackling their tricky right winger who made so much out of a simple challenge. Tamale’s ejection was a blessing in disguise for me because we (and Joseph Mutyaba) pumped up ourselves and played the game of our lives.
Ssenyonjo even put the icing on the cake. “I won the ball and passed to Mutyaba, he ghosted past Marsha, cut the ball back to me and I steered a low shot from outside the box past the Tanzanian keeper to win the game 2-1.”
Sadly, Ssenyonjo cannot recollect many of his good memories. He instead leads me to a tavern where he takes his local potent gin, in an effort to source more national team memories from his peers.
But instead an argument ensued on how many games he played for the Cranes. His already tipsy friends failing to realise the purpose of my visit jokingly told me, “He only played two games in two years,” they yell endlessly. Ssenyonjo though insists he served the nation for six years.