100 most influential Ugandans - Part IV

Sunday August 16 2015

L-R Moses Kipsiro, John Akii-Bua, Moses Golola,

L-R Moses Kipsiro, John Akii-Bua, Moses Golola, Dorcus Inzikuru, Ibrahim Sekagya and Bidandi Ssali among others are considered most influential Ugandans (sports) 

By Andrew Mwanguhya

Moses Kipsiro
Moses Ndiema Kipsiro was born on September 2, 1986. He won two gold medals in the men’s 5,000m and 10,000m at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, India. He was to set his own Commonwealth record, becoming the first man to defend the 10,000m title at the Glasgow Games last year. He did participate at the 2012 London Olympics in London but fell short in both 5,000m and 10,000m. Kipsiro also represented Uganda at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, coming forth in 5,000m. Just last year, he was under fire from the UAF for speaking on behalf of female runners that claimed they were sexually abused by a national team coach Peter Wemali.

Bidandi Ssali
Jaberi Bidandi Ssali (right) was hardly your standout footballer. He captained Nyakasura School during his teenage years before featuring for the Punjab University team while studying in Pakistan. That was far as it. But talk about sports administration and you would struggle to get his equal. Arguably the most influential figure in Ugandan football history, he has been there, done that. Not once, sports administrators from different clubs approached him for advice. According to veteran journalist Badru Zziwa, Bidandi “served the game with dignity”. He led KCC and Uganda Cranes to numerous honours. The former presidential contestant in the 2011 election, Bidandi, 77, has since retired into a quiet life at his Kampala home.

Grace Sseruwagi
Sseruwagi is regarded as Uganda’s best ever boxing coach. Celebrated boxers like Kalule and James Odwori among others all went through his gifted hands as Uganda became a Commonwealth boxing powerhouse during his time in the 60s and 70s. He is also a former boxer who represented his country 88 times internationally. He fought in 51 national championships, winning 127 bouts by knockouts, seven on points, and losing five. Sseruwagi never lost a national championship fight. His boxing career spanned 14 years in which he reached the quarterfinals of the 1960 Rome Olympics.

John Akii-Bua
Until Stephen Kiprotich’s recent Olympic and worlds exploits, the late John Akii-Bua was Uganda’s biggest Olympic success and the country’s only gold medal holder at the Olympics. Aged only 22 and weighing 76kgs, Akii-Bua was to shock the world and global champion, Britain’s David Hemery, in 1972. He indeed beat the Briton in the 400m hurdles at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich in a new world record of 47.82s. It was a victory littered with firsts. Born on December 3, 1949, Akii-Bua had become the first Ugandan to win an Olympic gold, the first to break a world record, and the first African to win a technique track event – in athletics speak. Before that, however, Akii-Bua - under steady guidance from British trainer Arnold Malcom - had a small issue with William Koskei, who deserted to Kenya after being trained by Uganda. Koskei had been beating Akii-Bua at every meet, including the 1970 Commonwealth Games. After the games, Akii-Bua’s target was to beat Koskei before he could shift focus to long-time track enemy, American Ralph Mann. But after winning gold at an American meet, two bronze at Israel Hopeal Games, and silver at the pre-Olympic Games in Munich in 1971, Akii-Bua was set for a proper shot at 1972 games. His demanding training paid off when he broke Hemery’s then world record of 48.1s en route to gold. Sadly, it was sad events thereafter; most informed by harassment from the Idi Amin regime that forced him into exile in Germany. Akii-Bua was later in 1976 released by his shoe-manufacturer, Puma, and lived in Germany until the Amin reign ended three years later. Still in 1976, he failed to defend his gold at the Olympics because of an African boycott. He died on June 20, 1997.

Leo Rwabwogo
Rwabwogo remains the only Ugandan to having ever won two Olympic medals. He picked up bronze at the 1968 Mexico Games and silver four years later at the Munich edition. By winning the bronze at the Mexico games, Rwabwogo – born in Kabarole District in 1949 before collapsing and passing away on January 14, 2009, while tending to his upcountry garden - had become the first Ugandan to make it to the Olympic medal podium. He also won silver at the 1970 Commonwealth Games.

Stephen Kiprotich
Until the final day of the 2012 London Olympics, Team Uganda looked a dejected, tired and spent force. Stories of government not providing funds for athletes’ preparations, more officials than athletes going for the Games, and some athletes funding their own training had characterised the build-up to London. Living to the script, there was no medal for Uganda heading into the final day. Only Kiprotich who was due to participate in the 42km marathon, now held the country’s heavy hopes. When Kiprotich, 23 at the time, broke free from two Kenyans Abel Kirui and Wilson Kipsang on the 37-km mark, he never let go of the dream. He raced on to finish first in 2:08:01 seconds and win Uganda’s only second gold medal at the Olympics in 40 years. The first and hitherto only gold was won by legendary John Akii-Bua at the 1972 Munich Olympics in the 400m hurdles. Kiprotich went on to win gold at the 2013 IAAF Moscow World Championships to cement his place as the country’s greatest athlete. Kiprotich is due to defend his Olympic gold medal at next year’s Rio Games in Brazil.

Patrick Kawooya
Born in 1947, Kawooya is perhaps the only other man you can mention in just about the same breath with Bidandi Ssali regarding sports administration. Patrick Edward Mayengo Kawooya almost single-handedly built SC Villa into the most successful club in Ugandan football, and of the best on the continent in the early 90s. However, his rather domineering approach would later lead to internal uprising, which saw to his unceremonious exit. His legacy at SC Villa remains so supreme that you cannot mention the club’s successes without referring to Kawooya. Under his administration, SC Villa won eight league titles, four Uganda Cups and one Cecafa Club Championship.

Ayub Kalule
Kalule was the first man from the Commonwealth countries to win gold at the maiden World Amateur Boxing Championships in 1974. The fact that all top world amateur boxers from 39 Commonwealth countries across the continents were there gave his accomplishment more weight. Born in Kampala, Kalule began his professional boxing career in 1976 when he won a four-round decision over Kurt Hombach in Copenhagen, Denmark. He would be based out of Denmark for the rest of his career. He went on to claim 29 more fights; achieving 30 wins and 0 losses. Kalule’s career ended on February 5, 1986. He ended his career with an remarkable record of 46-4 with 24 KOs.

Ibrahim Sekagya
The former Cranes captain is regarded the model footballer for any aspiring footballer. Sekagya is ranked up there alongside Paul Hasule (RIP), although - like Hasule - his biggest disappointment remains not ever qualifying for Africa Cup of Nations. The New York Red Bulls, Red Bull Salzburg, State House, KCC, Argentina’s Athletico de Rafaela, Ferro Carrill Oeste and Arsenal De Sarandi defender early this year called time on his 20-year career. Among his feats, Sekagya, who quit international football in 2012, captained Red Bull Salzburg to their seventh and his third Austrian Bundesliga title in the same year. He is remembered for his discipline, ball dribbling and distributing skills, fantastic game reading and his serenity in calming storms. He is currently working as one of the coaches at New York Red Bulls.

Sam Walusimbi
Walusimbi is undoubtedly the greatest cricketer Uganda has ever produced. A talented all-rounder during his peak, Walusimbi - together legendary opening bowler John Nagenda - played for an East African select side at the 1975 World Cup. That was, no doubt, the pinnacle of Walusimbi’s glowing career. From picking a 5-for against the much-fancied India to learning how to bowl with his left-arm after the right one got a problem, Walusimbi did it all. Besides introducing his son, Tendo Mbazzi, to the sport, Walusimbi carried on troubling local batsmen and bowlers in the 1990s and early 2000s. In 1993, aged 45, Walusimbi inspired his adored Wanderers Cricket Club to league glory.

Judith Ayaa
Ayaa remains one of the greatest Ugandan female athletes ever. Her record in East and Central Africa is impressive. She won gold in the 100 meters sprint, finishing in 11.5 seconds, in 1968. Ayaa cemented her fortitude in the same championships the following year, winning in 100m (11.8 seconds), 200m (25.0s), and 400m (53.6s). She repeated the feat in all three categories in 1970 at the same championships. By account of her personal best of 53.6s in 1969, Ayaa was ranked amongst the top women 400m runners in the world. Ayaa also competed at the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh in 1970, the Munich Olympics in 1972. Soon Ayaa’s body gave way. She got married and had children. And that was it.

Maj Gen Francis Nyangweso
A jack of all trades in its true definition! Boxer, soldier, politician; Nyangweso did it all. Born on September 29, 1939, in the eastern border town of Busia, Nyangweso’s boxing faculty won him friends with former president Idi Amin. In his mid-30s, Nyangweso was already a successful boxer internationally. He also went on to become chairperson of the National Council of Sports, Chief of Staff in the Ugandan Army, serve as Defence minister, plus minister of Culture and Community Development in Amin’s government. Nyangweso was a lightweight national champion from 1954 until he retired undefeated in 1963. Across the border, he represented Uganda in the Millington-Drake Trophy against Kenya from 1958-1963 during which six-year period Nyangweso won all his bouts by knockouts. On the international scene, he lost ‘controversially’ – according to Sports In Uganda, at the 1958 Commonwealth Games in Cardiff and at the 1960 Rome World Olympics but was to make amends, winning a gold medal in the Israel Hapeal Games a year later. He passed on in February 2011.

Karim Hirji
One of the best drivers in the country during his time but Karim is most remembered for his passion for the sport. He had the money. Correct that, he has the money. A proprietor of several top hotels in the country, Karim imported some of the best cars to race in and ensured everything he wanted was in place. But the saddest part of motorsport in Uganda’s history came in 2009 when ace Riyaz Kurji died during a rally. Kurji was pronounced dead on the scene of a crash after his Subaru N8 car crashed at a KCB Pearl of Africa rally in Mityana with about three minutes into the last section of day one. His navigator Sayed Kadri survived. Information from the scene indicated that Kurji’s car hit a tree at high speed and rolled.

John Mugabi ‘The Beast’
The 55-year old, Mugabi, is a former world light-middleweight champion and is regarded one of the best boxers the country has ever produced. Mugabi was part of the early 1980s junior middleweight and middleweight division scene that included Marvin Hagler, Sugar Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns, Wilfred Benítez, Davey Moore, and Roberto Durán. Nicknamed “The Beast” for his fierce approach, Mugabi won silver at the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow (welterweight), losing to Andrés Aldama of Cuba. The Ugandan was also a silver medallist at the 1976 Junior World Championships, where he lost to Herol Graham. Mugabe also knocked out Rene Jacquot in round one in Grenoble to become the WBC light middleweight champion in 1989. He never regained his mojo after that. He now resides and trains fighters in Australia. Mugabi’s 26-fight knockout winning streak stands as one of the longest ever in boxing.

Dorcus Inzikuru
Thirty-three years old today, Inzikuru introduced herself to the world when she won the introductory world title in women’s 3,000m steeplechase at the 2005 World Championships in Helsinki, Finland. Uganda had taken 33 years without an athletics world title until Inzikuru’s remarkable act in Helsinki, where she set a time of 9:18.24 (at the time, the sixth best performance ever). Inzikuru only became aware of the $60,000 prize after winning the final. In 2006 she won the Oeiras International Cross Country meeting, but pulled out of that season’s World Cross Country Championships. After taking two years out from athletics, due to giving birth to her first child (Emmanuelle Munguci) and receiving treatment for sinus infections, Inzikuru returned to competition. She won an 800m race at Namboole on June 6, 2009, with a time of 2:12.0. She did qualify for London 2012 Olympics but could only finish way beyond the medal bracket. She has not officially retired but it is safe to say her best years are long behind her.

Charles Muhangi
Muhangi started rallying in 1996 in a Mitsubishi Evo2. Having been flagged off as car 31 he reached Masaka in sixth place. He ended the day in Mbarara in fifth place but retired on day two with a fuel pump problem. Muhangi was to up-grade to an Evo3 “Yellow Bird” which he drove in the Rwanda rally. In 1998, the famous “Kitaguriro” Subaru was at work. Muhangi finished second. The same year, he won the National Rally Championship beating a field of top guns including Emma Kato and Chipper Adams. But the year that etched his name in Uganda’s motorsport history is 1999. Muhangi embarked on the Africa Rally Championship which he won comfortably. This earned him and his co-driver Steven Byaruhanga, the Sportsman of the Year award.

Davis Kamoga
Until Kiprotich pulled that marathon masterstroke on the final day of the 2012 London Olympics, Kamoga had remained only the second Ugandan to win a medal in any discipline at the Olympics. Kamoga’s bronze in the men’s 400m at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia was Uganda’s last medal until Kiprotich’s gold landed. Kamoga finished behind super sprinters in Roger Black from Greak Britain and Michael Johnson of the United States. The 46-year old, Kamoga, added to his personal feat in 1997, winning the first Ugandan medal at the World Championships – silver.

Justine Arop
Living between March 24, 1958 and 1994, Arop remains one of the best Ugandan track and field athletes. A two-time winner at the All-Africa Games (1978 and 1987), Arop was prominent in men’s javelin throw. He represented Uganda at three consecutive Summer Olympics, starting in Moscow, Soviet Union (1980). Arop set his best Olympic result by finishing in 12th place in the overall-rankings. At the Lite Summer Games held at the Duke University Campus in Durham (North Carolina, USA), on June 27, 1982, Arop threw the javelin to a winning personal best of 84.58 meters (old design). He currently holds the Ugandan record with 75.52 m (new design).

Philip Omondi
Boasting of an incredible dribbling ability and wit to beat the best of defences, Philip Omondi remains arguably the best talent Uganda has ever seen. Seven years after Uganda’s independence from the British in 1962, 13-year-old Omondi was hanging about at the Lugogo Hostel. Uganda Cranes were camping there preparing for Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup. A young Omondi was handed the ball and his juggling skills left then Cranes coach Burkhard Pape and team manager Andrew Musoke in utter awe. Somehow, he was taken on as a ball boy with the Cranes at the 1969 Challenge Cup. The rest is history. The KCC forward would later lead Uganda to the 1978 Nations Cup final in Accra, Ghana, losing 2-0 to the hosts with Omondi, then 21, top-scoring with four goals. “In his position as a midfielder-cum-striker, Omondi was the greatest,” says Tom Lwanga, who played with him at KCC and in Ghana. On a visit to Uganda in 2007, Ghanaian football legend Abedi Pele described Omondi as one of his idols. Omondi is also remembered for his ruptured pancreas in a league match but three surgeries at Mulago and in England ensured he recovered to continue with his career. Omondi passed on April 21, 1999.

Majid Musisi
Those who watched the powerful Majid Musisi terrorise defences with breathtaking pace and deadly finishing will agree Siraje Katende and Namutebi gave birth to a gem. Born on September 17, 1967, Majid Musisi remains arguably Uganda’s best striker. Musisi helped SC Villa to six league titles, three Uganda Cups and one Cecafa Club title. He was a four-time local league top-scorer and a two-time Ugandan Footballer of the Year. His exploits attracted foreign teams and in July 1992 he transferred to French club Stade Rennes, making him the first Ugandan footballer to play in one of Europe’s top leagues. Musisi stayed at Rennes until 1995 when he transferred to Turkish side Bursaspor for $1.15m, where he became a household name. The legend breathed his last on December 13, 2005, after a long illness.

The Blick family
The most prominent and successful of this generation is without doubt Arthur Blick Jnr. Born to Arthur Blick Snr and Grace on May 4, 1976, Blick Jnr pursued a degree in Business Management at Makerere University and on completion took over his father’s Speedway Engineering Ltd garage, which remains his family’s main bread earner. Married to Noella, they are blessed with two sons Alistair and Paddy, who all ride - to complete a motocross-mad family. Blick Jnr has won 10 national titles, a record he shares with no one. Motocross wouldn’t be motocross without proper mention of Blick Jnr’s dad, Arthur Blick Snr and his uncle Paddy, who won everything in front of them in East Africa in the 70s. Among others include late Dick Kawesa, Wycliffe Bukenya and Maggie Kigozi Blick – the only lady rider in East Africa in the 70s. Blick Sr has since taken to motor rally.

Continues next week

From last week

Last week we listed the most influential Ugandans in the education and health category. Below were the names;
lProf Ssenteza Kajubi
lBernard Onyango
lDavid Livingstone Ongom
lWaswa Balunywa
lProf Dani Wadada Nabudere
lProf Mahmood Mamdani
lSylvia Tamale
lSarah Ntiro
lDr Jovan Kiryabwire
lProf Alexander Odonga
lDr Matthew Lukwiya
lDr Samuel Okware
lDr Josephine Nambooze

What do you think of our picks for the 100 Most Influential Ugandans? Do you know anyone who you think should have made it to the list but did not appear? Please let us know through our email [email protected]