Former footballer Ali Kitonsa breathed his last on Friday after losing the battle to liver cancer. He was buried at his ancestral home in Butambala yesterday.
Nicknamed ‘Speed Merchant’ during his heyday, Kitonsa was the first Ugandan to play professional football after signing for Egyptian club Zamalek in 1964. But he returned home after only seven months in Egypt, claiming he had been racially abused. Kitonsa would have plied his trade in West Africa had there not been a civil war in Nigeria between 1967 and 1970.
Having started his career as a goalkeeper, Kitonsa switched to centre forward in 1955 as a 19-year-old. He dropped out of school in 1958 due to lack of fees. Express founder Joseph ‘Jolly Joe’ Kiwanuka signed him up at the club’s inauguration on September 17, 1959. His brilliance in front of goal helped Express qualify for the topflight in 1961.
It is believed the deceased holds the record for the highest number goals in any local league – 54 in 18 games as Express won the 1964 Kampala District First Division League. Blame it on poor record-keeping, Andrew ‘Fimbo’ Mukasa holds the known league goal-scoring record with 45 goals in 1999.
Kitonsa won his Cranes debut on December 9, 1961 in the Tanzania Independence Day Cup. Kitonsa missed making the Cranes’ team to the 1962 Africa Cup of Nations but won the Gosage Cup (now Cecafa) with the team after scoring six goals in an 8-0 win over Zanzibar at Nakivubo the same year.
He was also part of Uganda’s to the inaugural All Africa Games in Congo-Brazzaville 1965. After retirement at 43, he coached Wandegeya FC which he guided to promotion in the 1981 league.