Ssentamu: Yet another memento of Fufa’s long over-looked duties

Yunus Sentamu after receiving his man of the match award on Sunday. The 19-year-old scored a brace against Burkina Faso. Monitor photo

What you need to know:

You have to have been within the confines Nakivubo to witness Mubiru put Algeria to the sword with as spectacular a brace as any a Ugandan striker will ever produce, yet as a marked sign of the times all you had to do to partake of Ssentamu’s lethal sumptuousness this time round was turn on the telly.

For every Ssentamu and Iguma there are hundreds of equally gifted or even better jewels that have been lost because of the failure to establish a systematic, continuous and sustainable conveyor belt, leaving schools and clubs to fend for themselves and deliver ready-made products for national service as and when.

Ugandan strikers have over the years got into the habit of announcing their arrival into the big time with a bang, and so as Hassan Mubiru did some sixteen years ago did Yunus Ssentamu on Sunday night.

You have to have been within the confines Nakivubo to witness Mubiru put Algeria to the sword with as spectacular a brace as any a Ugandan striker will ever produce, yet as a marked sign of the times all you had to do to partake of Ssentamu’s lethal sumptuousness this time round was turn on the telly.

A few in my environs were asking as soon as he had sidestepped Burkina Faso’s goalkeeper and slid the ball into a gaping net for his and Uganda’s first in this African Nations Championship group opener in Johannesburg; long after the final whistle the texts continued to multiply after Ssentamu’s double had inspired a quite impressive victory.

Where I had had plenty on Mubiru by the time he skillfully sliced into Algeria, I had little on this boy who was expertly felling the Burnikabe with a seasoned sniper’s cool.

Out came the smartphone and a few rings later the details were in place, the curiosity about the past satisfied, but the appetite regarding the future well and truly whetted.

The young coach Peter Ssebulime was convinced of the boy’s ability and immense potential even if he first discovered him in Kasese as a little kid fresh from Primary Seven, playing as a goalkeeper!

Ssebulime handed the kid over to Jeff Sserunjogi, the proprietor of emerging sports powerhouse St Julian’s in Gayaza, and the journey had begun.

Several years later, after the boy had made a splash at the Copa Cola Schools World Cup in Tororo, topping the scorers’ charts despite St Julian’s early exit, and then gone on to spur the school to the Buganda Cup title as they toppled the mighty Kitende, Sserunjogi felt the boy needed to make the step up; he handed him over to the same Kitende, owned by his old buddy Lawrence Mulindwa.

At that Copa Mike Mutebi, the meticulous former ‘chief scout’ of this famed Coca Cola tournament, had noted Ssentamu’s unique skills set. But as SC Villa coach then, he was only in Tororo in an ambassadorial role and so it was left to Matia Lule, the coach in charge then, to appreciate the boy enough to select him on the 20-man team to represent Uganda in Nairobi.

He didn’t make that trip, but his switch to Kitende led to Vipers and now The Cranes and instant stardom.

His is only the latest reminder that our clubs and especially Fufa have taken for granted the major sources and stepping stones of the country’s emerging talent, a near-fatal casualness for a federation that does not run a school of excellence of its own.

Fufa presence
For years the organisers of this schools tournament have variously complained about the lack of a Fufa presence and overall support.

Individuals from Fufa usually double as club officials and school administrators and so will show up, but there remains a pressing need for the federation to create a permanent scouting department all round that is duty-bound to closely monitor this and other youth competitions and tournaments that are not necessarily schools-based.

That message has always been lost in the stack the Fufa of the day has filed under the label ‘political opponents and/or idealistic critics’, leaving the country to only chance upon a Ssentamu or Denis Iguma (the captain of this Chan team who is a creation of the Kampala Kids League).

For every Ssentamu and Iguma there are hundreds of equally gifted or even better jewels that have been lost because of the failure to establish a systematic, continuous and sustainable conveyor belt, leaving schools and clubs to fend for themselves and deliver ready-made products for national service as and when.

But clubs and schools come and go, yet the federation will always be; where you once had Nsambya and Simba, you later had Villa, Express and KCC, and now Vipers, URA and Victoria University; where you have Kitende and St Julian’s, a while ago you had Naggalama and St Leo’s, and further back Kibuli, Kololo, Lubiri, Rubaga and Kitovu.

The umpteenth cue is here again, that the federation has got to wake up to it true long-term duty. The latest alarm has been set off by Ssentamu, but like others before it the chimes will fade into the distance and be lost, until another one comes along and sounds the gong yet again. Unless of course …

[email protected], @markssali on twitter

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