Uganda Cranes captain Denis Onyango is not known to duck competition. Actually, as his club career has scripted out over the years in South Africa, his determination to succeed has far outweighed the simplicity of giving up.
After claiming three straight national championships with SuperSport from 2008 to 2010, albeit being more of the part than a catalyst, he was deemed surplus to requirements and released. Mpumalanga Black Aces picked him up July of 2010 as a free agent. A year later, Mamelodi Sundowns saw more than SuperSport had seen, and snapped him up.
Earning his pay
However, there was a problem. Zambian tested general, Kennedy Mweene, was running the streets, here. He was Sundowns number one and Onyango was not going to arrive and dictate matters just like that.
Quickly, the player and the club worked out something and Onyango was shipped to Bidvest Wits on loan. The Ugandan went there and earned his spot back at Sundowns.
Once he returned and got a sniff in goal, with Mweene injured, the song never changed. The Ugandan skipper has gone on to win four more league titles - this time playing a starring role, two South Africa Cup gongs, one Caf Champions League trophy, a Caf Super Cup and an African Player of 2016 accolade, to mention but a few.
Such has been Onyango’s impact that Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane has struggled to get him a successor, saying quality goalkeepers have always shunned the champions knowing it’s very difficult to challenge the Ugandan. But with Onyango now 35, Mosimane has managed to convince 26-year-old Ricardo Goss to come in and wait to pounce at Chloorkop.
Onyango warmly welcomed the former Wits shot-stopper but warned him it’s going to be a good, sweet battle for the gloves.
“With Goss coming to the club,”Onyango told the SowetanLIVE, “I think it’s a good signing. Looking at his quality, he’s done well for Wits.
“I believe he’s one of the keepers who have done well in the bubble. He’s conceded a few goals [he let in four goals in the bubble]. He’s been fantastic and he’s welcome at Sundowns.”
Onyango added: “Of course we have to support each other, when he [Goss] comes through he has to fight and get to the team because it’s a different environment for him. “But we are there to help, we were also once new at the club and we had people to help us."
Onyango, who debuted for Uganda in 2005 and played at two Afcon finals tournaments, captaining the Cranes in one of them, continued.
“Of course it’s a new challenge for him,” he said, “There’s a little bit of difference between Wits and Sundowns, so he must come and work hard…get the team to the next level because that’s the most important thing.
“It’s not about who plays, it’s about the team achieving what it has to achieve. “I believe he has the ability to do that, learn a few things from us and we are still also learning from him. He’s a very young man with a lot of energy.”
$1m Presidential reminder
Onyango, who won a domestic treble with Sundowns this season, also has a cheeky side to him that has allowed him to lead the Cranes as well as make their needs clear.
President Museveni promised $1m to the Cranes team that reached the last 16 of the Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt last year.
To date, that pledge is still at large despite a concerted social media effort by the players during lockdown.
Onyango threw in another well-dressed reminder on Tuesday as the President celebrated his 76th birthday. “As you age gracefully,” Onyango on his different social media platforms, “We as Uganda Cranes run out of ideas on how to surprise you.
“But maybe you can return the favour and come good on last year’s promise to reward us with $1MILLION for our determined display at the Africa Cup of Nations.
“Your Bazzukulu are in a dire need for a shot in the arm in these tough pandemic times! Once again, Happy Birthday Mr. President @KagutaMuseveni!.”
Onyango will now enjoy his off-season ahead of the next, as well as the November Internationals when Uganda host South Sudan in the 2020 Afcon qualifiers.