Deadly left wingers you loved and loathed in equal measure

Sunday June 28 2020

Player Turned Coach. Denis Obua (standing) made

Player Turned Coach. Denis Obua (standing) made a name as a good tactician, too.  

By Robert Mugagga

In the past Uganda has produced ace left wingers like Kalibbala ‘Mdogo’, John Baptist Ssemanobe, Denis “Mr Football’ Obua, Barnabas Mwesiga, Fred Isabirye, Godfrey ‘Superstar’ Kateregga, Fred ‘Gaso’ Mukasa, Alex Olum, David ‘King David’ Obua and Enock Kyembe. Three players on the list; Kateregga and the two Obuas; father Denis and son David had so many things in common.

All the three loved applying either ‘simple scissors’ or ‘double scissors’ soccer moves on the pitch whereby they would play around with their legs to confuse and dribble past opponents - something similar Sam Mugambe used to do at KCC FC during the 80s). That apart, the three left wingers were also stylish but courted a lot of controversy something that attracted several front and back page headlines for both their heroics on the pitch and villain ‘bad boy’ character off it. This week, we dissect their personas for you the readers and you forthwith decide which of the three you loved to hate most.

DENIS ‘MR FOOTBALL’ OBUA
One of the most celebrated footballers in the history of Ugandan football. He was tough and uncompromising when it came to scoring eye-catching goals.
His wide range shooting ability was unbelievable as well as his lethal abilities in and around the box.
Obua came from a sporting lineage with one of his cousins being none other than the great John Akii-Bua (RIP), winners of the 1972 400m hurdles Olympic gold in Munich.
As was the custom back in the day, schools used to breed footballers and in this case Majansi High School in Tororo has a genuine claim on Uganda’s ace left winger of the 70s.

Denis’ hair raising shifts at Majansi gave him a red carpet welcome to Kampala’s Coffee FC, a club that gave him the facilities to hone his talent proper and earn nationwide recognition. Coffee spotted Denis during the club’s build up tour in northern Uganda around 1966. He joined Coffee around the same time with others like Alex Oundo, Charles Omiji, Hassan Mutaasa, David Otti and Ben Mukasa. The following year Denis was summoned to play for the Northern Region in the Aspro Regional Championship. He proved just too good something that forced Coffee’s arch rivals Police FC to snatch and sign him the next season.

With the promise of a sun and moon at his disposal, Denis jumped at the opportunity and grabbed it with both hands. During his career at Police, he worked hard at his game improvement and speed thus becoming the envy of many players.

Denis Obua (circled) won six Cecafa titles with
Denis Obua (circled) won six Cecafa titles with Cranes in 1968, 1969, 1970, 1973, 1976 and 1977. He also participated in three Afcon tournaments with the Cranes in 1968, 1974 and 1976.

In 1970, Denis spurred Police FC to the second place finish in the league, unfortunately losing the title to Coffee on just an inferior goal difference, both clubs having managed an aggregate of 17 points.
Denis was armed with abundant speed, tireless stamina, unquenchable enthusiasm and dribbling craftsmanship. He was always superb in the air and in 1977 emerged the league’s top scorer with 24 goals.

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Surprisingly Denis just like fellow players that manned the Police FC forward line were known to be ‘lovers of the life and the bottle’ and would at times turn up for league games while allegedly still ‘highly charged’.
Astonishingly, he made his first international appearance in 1967 and remained in Cranes’ first team for the next 11 years before retiring in 1978. Denis often strolled, seemingly aloof, to get where the ball was and haul Uganda out of trouble.
He was part of the famous combined East African side that played an English side West Brom Albion that toured East Africa in 1968. Then something happened in 1972 - a year after Idi Amin came to power. Denis was jailed at Makindye Barracks during the crackdown of people belonging to former President Apollo Milton Obote’s tribe.

There was an outcry from Ugandan soccer fans to have him released ahead of an international match involving Cranes.
A few hours to kick off, Denis was set free and brought straight to Nakivubo and managed to score in Cranes’ victory over Somalia.
Later in 1972, he again saved the Cranes from defeat by registering a late equaliser in a 2-2 draw against Egypt in an All African Games qualifier.

Denis’ impact in Cranes continued in 1973 when he scored a winning goal in that famous 2-1 win over Algeria in the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifying round first leg in Nakivubo. Earlier in 1969 Gossage Cup (later renamed Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup), Denis put four goals past Zanzibar when the Cranes won 7-1. Obua was again part of the Cranes team that featured in the Afcon tournaments of 1968, 1974 and 1976 scoring two goals in the process. In 1978, he didn’t make it to Ghana after the Federation of Uganda Football Associations (Fufa) suspended him for indiscipline.

He won six Cecafa titles with the Cranes in 1968, 1969, 1970, 1973, 1976 and 1977. At club level he also played for Maroons and SC Villa before retiring in 1983. He coached a handful of clubs, baptized him ‘Mr Football’ and went to notch the hottest job in Ugandan football as Fufa president.

DENIS OBUA FACTFILE
ACHIEVEMENTS
l Joined Coffee FC straight from school in 1966.
l He was summoned to play for Northern Region in the Aspro Regional Tournament in 1967.
l He played for Cranes between 1967 and 1978 scoring crucial goals against Egypt and Algeria in continental qualifiers.
l He was one of the six Ugandans that were in 1968 selected in a combined East African XI to play a visiting English club West Brom Albion.
l He was the league top scorer in 1977 with 24 goals.
l He won six Cecafa titles with Cranes in 1968, 1969, 1970, 1973, 1976 and 1977.
l He participated in three Afcon tournaments with the Cranes in 1968, 1974 and 1976.
l He played for Coffee FC, Police FC, Maroons and SC Villa before retiring in 1983.
l He served as Fufa president and Cecafa boss and earned the moniker ‘Mr Football’.

GODFREY ‘SUPERSTAR’
KATEREGGA
Arguably the most idolized Ugandan footballer of all the time. His trademark dribbling style was the applying the ‘the double scissors’ and what a beauty he was to watch. Fans would throng the KCC FC grounds in Lugogo to watch Kateregga do his thing especially when he trained alone.

If I was asked to name the most outstanding football juggler on the Uganda soccer scene during the 80s. I would spontaneously say Godfrey Kateregga. This soccer ‘wizard’ could literally make the ball touch any part of his body for minutes before he voluntarily rested it on the ground. With such skills, Kateregga was a double-edged knife as an entertainer to the crowds and also a danger to opponents as he was real teaser to the latter. It was his great flair and creativity that saw adoring Ugandan fans lavish him with the nickname of ‘Superstar’.

He started out to play at the village level nears his home in Mulago with a local team ‘Santos FC’ that groomed many others like Mugambe, Fred Sserwadda and Magidu Musisi. Mulago had a famous playing ground named ‘Maracana’ and this happened to be the home of Santos where Kateregga and others religiously turned up every afternoon to have a kick about and soccer tricks from the older players. Kateregga started playing serious football for Third Division side Tobacco FC (of Kampala) which he helped secure promotion to Division Two. It was here that in 1978 Tobacco’s part time coach Phillip Omondi spotted him and alerted KCC FC about the upcoming ‘wonder boy’.

He started training with City Cubs, the club’s understudy team before graduating to the senior side. In KCC, Kateregga made a quick impact and won the league in 1981 and 1983. He added four Uganda Cups in 1979, 1980, 1982 and 1984. On the continent, Kateregga will always be remembered for two particular matches. In 1984, he was at the peak of his powers as KCC FC destroyed Mozambique’s Desportivo Maputo 6-1 in the African Cup of Club Championship first round match in Nakivubo. Kateregga was so dominant, scoring three goals and setting up the others. At the end of the match, Desportivo players continuously gazed at him in disbelief.



Flamboyant. Kateregga was stylish.
Flamboyant. Kateregga was stylish.


In 1982, when KCC FC were pitted against the no-nonsense Kenyan side AFC Leopards then managed by veteran Ugandan coach late Robert Kiberu, Kateregga’s star shined, too! During the first leg of the first round at Nakivubo, KCC won 3-0. In the return leg, the Kenyans breathed fire and took revenge. They led KCC FC 4-0 with a few minutes to the end of the match when the Ugandans were awarded a penalty.
With all the confidence in the world, Kateregga moved forward to take it on a soaked pitch. The first thing he did was to remove some mud from his magical left foot boot also making sure that it was well fixed to accomplish the mission of earning KCCA FC the all-important goal. All this, however, didn’t seem to scare the Kenyans who in Mohamed Abbas probably boasted the best goalie and penalty saver in the region.

Kateregga went on to unleash a powerful kick that almost tore apart the net after sending Abbas diving the wrong way. Kateregga’s penalty was all enough to see KCCA FC through to the second round on away goals rule to meet Sudanese side El Hilal.
But as life goes, all good things must come to an end. In 1985 Kateregga, crossed over to SC Villa and was part of the team that won the League and Cup double in 1986 not forgetting the 1987 Cecafa Clubs title. Kateregga’s next port of call was the fan following Express FC which he joined in 1988 during the management of Robert Kiberu. It was however a short-lived spell.

The superstar played for Cranes between 1979 and 1988. There is no good man without a dent and so was Kateregga. Apart from being allegedly a bit arrogant and unapproachable by his admiring fans, he would at times have personal vendettas with his coaches and fellow players. At times, Kateregga would refuse to be substituted and there was a time when he punched a referee during a league match.
Fufa banned him for one year but later pardoned him after just a month due to an outcry that his services were needed in the Cranes team that was preparing to face Zambia in a World Cup qualifier. Kateregga passed on in 1999 after a long illness. RIP Superstar!

KATEREGGA FACTFILE
ACHIEVEMENTS
l He is one of the very few players that played for the three giants clubs in Ugandan football; Express, KCC and SC Villa.
l He won the league with KCC in 1981 and 1983.
l He won four Uganda Cups with KCC in 1979, 1980, 1982 & 1984.
l He won the league with SC Villa in 1986 and 1987 plus the 1986 Uganda Cup.
l He won the Cecafa Clubs title with SC Villa 1987.
l He played for the Cranes between 1979 and 1988.

‘KING DAVID’ OBUA

He is probably both the most gifted and more so most controversial footballer Uganda has ever produced. “Like father, like son”, so goes the English adage. In the case of David Obua, it was his late father, the former Cranes International and Fufa president Denis Obua who reminded and encouraged him that playing soccer was part of their family. David tried out basketball and tennis but it was always going to be football that would steal his heart. He specialized as a left winger for reasons that are obvious.

He wanted to emulate his father who became so famous in Uganda and beyond in the left wing position. He was born in April 1984 at the time when the likes of Kateregga were already excelling on the left wing for both KCCA and Cranes.
His raw skills were all available for the world to see when he joined Kitante Primary School and one day he scored a hat trick to help the school defeat archrivals Nakasero Primary School. For secondary school, he moved south and joined Fr.

Cornelius Ryan’s St. Henry’s College Kitovu. At Kitovu, he did something unheard of then by making it to the school’s soccer team while in S.1. Imagine he had an elder brother who was also a footballer attending the same school in S.3 but was yet to earn a summon onto the team. At club level, David was groomed by his dad who was in 1999 coaching Police FC. It is the same coach that polished the soccer skills of stars like Hassan Mubiru and James Odoch at the same club.

David spent one season at Police FC scoring five goals before he left for US to pursue an education. While there, he featured for Raleigh Capital Express and later Willington Hammerheads. On return, he joined Express FC for one season (2001-2002) before switching to Mauritius’ AS Port-Louis (2002-2003).

Larger Than Life. David Obua’s always brought
Larger Than Life. David Obua’s always brought his ‘A’ game when he donned the national jersey and was also a beauty to watch as he pumped up the crowds with his ecstatic goal celebrations. PHOTO/ EDDIE CHICCO


At AS Port-Louis, his career ended prematurely after when he was banned for snatching and tearing a red card into pieces. David returned to Uganda in 2003 and rejoined Express FC for two seasons. In 2005, he scored for the Cranes team that lost 2-1 away to South Africa and this was when he was spotted by a leading South African club Kaizer Chiefs. He played for Amakhosi between 2005 and 2008 scoring 17 goals in 63 appearances. In 2008, David went to the United Kingdom for trials at West Ham only to end up being signed by Hearts of Midlothian in Scotland where he spent four good seasons.

At Hearts FC, David played 91 matches and netted six goals. One of his goals for Hearts made headlines and came during a derby match against Hibernian. It was on May 1, 2010 when Hearts was playing away. The score remained 1-1 with a minute to go when in the 89th minute David tapped home the winner following an error made by Hibernian goalie Graeme Smith.

But it was at home that David was King. Mike Mutebi appointed him Cranes captain for the 2006 Afcon and World Cup qualifiers and David did not disappoint. During his generation, he was first choice for every set-piece. He scored crucial goals for Cranes. During the 2006 Afcon qualifiers, he scored an extra time goal away in Mauritius for Cranes to go through 4-3 on aggregate. In 2004, David scored in a 1-1 draw against Ghana, who had taken the lead through Asamoah Gyan. David also excelled in the 2012 Afcon qualifiers by scoring the team’s only goal in a 1-0 win away in Guinea Bissau and the winner against Angola in Kampala. But probably David’s best match for the Cranes must have been the September 2007 Afcon qualifier against Niger when he scored a hat-trick in the 3-1 win at Namboole.

But David being David and doing David things also made headlines for wrong reasons in equal measure. In October 2011, he was expelled from camp prior to an Afcon qualifier against Kenya for ditching the players’ meeting with President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni. He swore never to play for the Cranes again so long as Lawrence Mulindwa remained Fufa president and Bobby Wlliamson the team’s coach.

That was not all. During the 2012 Afcon qualifier against Guinea Bissau, David protested being substituted by throwing tantrums and Cranes jersey away before swaggering to the dressing room. During the same campaign, he one time arrived from Scotland and joined the Cranes camp in Luanda for an away match against Angola only to order teammates to put on tracksuits instead of the Fufa suits.
And not so long ago, David threw a spanner in the works of many a partisan Cranes fan while doing analysis on SuperSport (DStv) saying that the Cranes played street football without any philosophy during the last Afcon tournament in Egypt.

DAVID OBUA FACTFILE
ACHIEVEMENTS
l He played for Uganda Cranes between 2003 and 2011, scoring 14 goals in 58 matches.
l He played for Police FC, Express FC, Raleigh Capital Express (USA), Willington Hammerheads (USA), AS Port-Luis (Mauritius), and Hearts (Scotland).
l Won the Uganda Cup with Express FC in 2003.
l Won two league titles with AS Port-Louis (2002 and 2003) and one Mauritian Cup in 2002.
l Won one Premier Soccer League with Kaizer Chiefs in 2004-2005 and two MTN8 in 2006 and 2008.
l Won one Telkom Knockout Cup in 2007 with Kaizer Chiefs and one Nedbank Cup in 2006.
l He was part of Hearts team that was runners up in Scottish League Cup in 2012-13.
l Scottish Cup winners with Hearts FC in 2011-2012.
l Scored the winning goals for Cranes in 2012 Afcon qualifiers against Guinea Bissau, Angola and Mauritius (2006).
l Scored a hat-trick for Cranes in 3-1 Afcon qualifier victory over Niger in 2007.
l He scored his first goal for Cranes in a 1-1 draw against Ghana in Kampala in July 2004.
l Mike Mutebi appointed him Cranes captain for the 2006 n and World Cup qualifiers.

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