Geoffrey Sserunkuma had just put in a brief shift at the now defunct Sports Club Victoria University (SCVU) following the end of his contract with South African club Vasco da Gama in 2012 when realization hit.
Morley Byekwaso, SCVU coach at the time, had given the striker a lifeline, handing him a one-year-soft-landing deal. But three or so months into it, his agent – with the blessing of SCVU - secured him a trial stint with a Vietnamese club November of that year only for the tests to fall through.
“The trials didn’t go well in Vietnam so when I came back I didn’t feel like it anymore,” said Sserunkuma, “I felt may be this is it. My body and mind felt the same.”
Sserunkuma, then 29, went on to sit out one and a half years without any competitive football; resigned and forgotten. One of the most feared strikers in his prime, Sserunkuma’s career has not been devoid of some tough years. He hardly settled at a club for more than two years. His contracts at different clubs he played for were either left to run out or he signed one-year recurring ones, like the one he has currently at KCCA.
Long, frustrating year
For each passing day of the next one and a half years after the unsuccessful trials in Vietnam, Sserunkuma increasingly grew disinterested to playing football again. “First Hassan Wasswa (then at Villa) talked me into going to Villa but coach Ssimbwa (Sam) said he already had players in my position.”
Sserunkuma was speaking to this SCORE at the club’s Phillip Omondi Stadium as KCCA hosted Maroons in a practice match this week. “So I gave up and for over a year I only trained at Officers’ Mess in Makindye and helped out my ‘brother’ Simeon (Masaba) coach some local team in Namugongo.
“At this point I knew I would never play competitive football again. I just trained to keep in shape and because football is my life.
“Even my wife would also ask me as I left the house with my bag whether I had got a serious team but I had no answers.”
Getting back up
One day Sserunkuma was playing one of those non-league matches in Buziga, a suburb of Kampala – turning out for Kampala International against the local side.
“Richard Luyima (footballer) saw me playing and said ‘Geoff, you need to come back and play. You can still play. Mike Sserumaga also told me the same. Mike then went and told Ahmed Ddamulira, the Lweza chairman.
“I went home and listened to myself. ‘I said, if people still believe in me, why not me?’ So I went to Lweza and they told me that they wanted me to help them survive relegation. We did and that is how my retirement plans ended.”
Sserunkuma played on for another season at the Wankulukuku-based club, scoring eight goals in his final campaign there before KCCA and manager Mike Mutebi came calling mid-last year.
“Collin (Subika, one of the insiders at KCCA), told me that he had talked to Mike (Mutebi, the club manager) about me playing for KCCA and from where I was coming from, I could not say no,” explained Sserunkuma.
This reporter understands that Sserunkuma, being a veteran at 32 at the time, was advised against demanding for huge salary and sign-on fees as they were “only doing him a favour.”
It is understood there was even divided opinion in the club hierarchy over whether having the striker was worth it, with Mutebi and his coaching staff standing by him.
“Coach Mike told me that KCCA was providing me the chance and it was up to me to grab it. He gave me a target of 15 goals in all competitions.” Sserunkuma has since exceeded the target, scoring 19 goals - 13 of them coming in the domestic league, four in the Champions League and another two in the Uganda Cup.
The player’s resurrection from unofficial retirement has also since seen him recalled for national duty, scoring once at Chan 2016 in Rwanda and putting in a substitute appearance against Ghana at the Nations Cup in Gabon in January.
Time with Cranes
His time in the Cranes jersey has never really been one to be hugely proud of, with almost all national team coaches preferring size, power and pace against Sserunkuma’s positioning and finishing touch. Sserunkuma’s type needs a patient coach, who will give him confidence to go there and do what he is supposed to do. The striker has played for Cranes coaches; the late Paul Hasule, Mohammed Abbas, László Csaba, Bobby Williamson and Micho Sredojevic but singles out the former as one tutor he enjoyed most playing under.“Coach Hasule played you according to your strength,” said Sserunkuma, “He would tell you what to exactly do and would send you on the pitch and trust you. He knew you would come good in the course of the game.”
But rather than dwell on whether national team coaches fancied his style, the striker would rather appreciate the second chance the game has offered him
“Even coach Micho calling me back was an honour for me,” Sserunkuma told this newspaper, “For someone who had given up any hope of playing again three years ago, I still can’t believe where I am today.”
Sserunkuma fact file
Full name: Geoffrey Sserunkuma
Place of birth: Uganda
Height: 1.80 m (5 ft 11 in)
Playing position: Striker
2002- To date: 19 goals
2000: Kibuli Wolves
2001- 2002: Horizon
2006– 2007: Saint George
2008–2009: Bloemfontein Celtic
2009–2010: Vasco da Gama
2010–2011: Bidvest Wits
2011-2012: Vasco da Gama
2014- 2016: Lweza
2016 - To date: KCCA