UGSPORTS series: Top five league destinations for Ugandan footballers

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By Alex Bossa

The exodus of players from Uganda to the diaspora in the 90s was something that made news like a first-degree holder in the family but the turn of the new millennium has seen numbers increase.

Ugsports brings you the top 5 international leagues that have long been suitable for Ugandan footballers.

We considered the past and present performances by any Ugandan player and how it impacted both the league and national team.

The likes of Ethiopia, DRC, Zambia and Rwanda can feel undone but since the list can only accommodate 5, we can only leave it at the honorable mentions.

5. Turkey

The impact made by Magidu Musisi and Farouk Miya at both club and country made Turkey  come in the top 4 ahead of Ethiopia as we had earlier explained.

Forget the recent poor form especially towards the end of the season by Farouk Miya, the Turkish league has long been a favorable ground for most Ugandans starting with the legendary Majidu Musisi.

Those who were born in early 2000s may not be aware of who Majidu was but a chat with any Turkish born from Bursaspor will make any Ugandan player who dreams of playing professional football request for a transfer to Turkey.

The architectural story behind the Crocodile Arena stretches were back to the goal celebration style introduced by the legendary Ugandan.

During his first season in the Turkish League, Farouk Miya played a vital role in Konyaspors’ league survival campaign of the 2019/2020 season. The likes of forgotten boy Martin Mutumba Kayongo and Hassan Wasswa Mawanda have had brief stints in Turkey.

4. Egypt

Known for pace and silkiness, the Egyptian league is one of the hardest to penetrate through especially when you are coming from the sub-Saharan region but recent trends have shown that the most suitable destination for a Ugandan player is Egypt.

It took over 10 years for another Ugandan to make a move downstream the Nile after Jackson Mayanja. Nicknamed Mia Mia which translates to 100% perfect by Al Masry faithful, Jackson Mayanja built the foundation on which the current crop of Ugandan footballers in Egypt ride on.

Despite the backroom struggles and unclear contract agreements which in most cases led to separation by mutual agreements, the Egyptian Premier League is the only North African league that has become a home away from home for Ugandan players.

Both Jackson Mayanja (Al Masry) and Geofrey Massa (El Sham) made Uganda’s presence well known in a league which mainly favours players from North Africa.

The two set precedent to which the current crop of Emmanuel Okwii, Khalid Aucho, Abdul Lumala, Derick Nsibambi and Allan Kyambade among others are riding on. This exodus is mainly attributed to the Cranes’ back-to-back AFCON qualification.

3.Tanzania

Across the East African region, no country can beat the passion for football of Tanzanians. Big games like Younger Vs Simba are heavily contested and fans always fill the 60,000 capacity Benjamin Mkapa Stadium.

Known for its physicality and pacing, the Ligi Kuu Bara is widely recognised as one of the top leagues in Africa with two slots allocated to Tanzania in the CAF Champions League.

The physical nature of most footballers from Uganda presents an opportunity and balance which has long deprived most clubs in Tanzania

The exodus of Ugandan footballers to Bongoland has seen them become cult heroes for major clubs like Azam, Simba and Young African. They have been mainstays in their respective clubs.

Emmanuel Okwii was king at Simba SC while Cranes team mates Murishid Juuko , Musa Mudde and Tadeo Lwanga  all found their new home in Simba. Azam’s Nicholas Wadada and Mathias Kigonya have all made the positions they occupy their own while former Cranes International Hamis Kizza had a stellar performance at Simba

2.Kenya

Kenya has been viewed by many as a stepping stone for most Ugandan footballers who have a dream of playing outside the country. This exodus of players has not spared the coaches with the likes of Sam Simbwa and Sam Timbe among a list of tacticians to have tried their tactics across the Eastern border.

Kenyan teams have for long been known for their physical strength but recent trends show that “energy is nothing without skill”. Across the entire region, Uganda presents that talent and on discovering this Kenyan clubs decided to move for Ugandan footballers in the late 2000s.

The Kenyan Premier league (KPL) has produced the best out of Geoffrey Walusimbi, Khalid Aucho, Martin Kizza, Allan Kateregga, Musa Mudde , Dan Wagaluka and Dan Sserunkuma among others and at one point in 2012 the league had more than 20 Ugandan imports.

Save for the expired maize, the KPL has always got the best from the pearl of Africa with the peak being between 2008 and 2017. This prompted the former Gor Mahia assistant Coach John Bobby Ogolla in 2012 to comment, “Uganda has great talent. Their players are powerful and have a tactical approach to the game.”

The exodus of Ugandan players to Kenya has seen them play a bigger role in the recent successes of Kenyan giant clubs like Sofapaka, Tusker FC, Leopards and Gor Mahia.

1.South Africa

Just like our brothers in the spiritual world, South Africa has long been a favorable destination for Ugandans. From the “kyeyo” boys to the “sangomas”, Ugandans have been excelling in South Africa.

Even when they are not at their best like Ivan Bukenya and Moses Waiswa, they are not dubbed as flops in the PSL with a number of players both current and former all having successful spells in the gold and green country.

The Premier Soccer League (PSL) has seen a number of Ugandans take it by storm. It all started with Posnet Omony’s arrival in South Africa in 2005. His impressive performances for Bloemfontein Celtic made him a fan favorite.

The doors were now open with the next arrival being former Cranes’ captain David Obua shortly after Omony’s arrival in 2005. His three-year spell saw him win the 2005/2006 Kaizer Chiefs player of the year.

The most recent success by any Cranes player in a foreign country has seen the former Cranes Captain Denis Onyango dominate the back pages while winning a number of accolades including the PSL goalkeeper of the year in the 2015/2016 season.

Others to have made an impact in the Premier Soccer league include; Geoffrey Massa, Timothy Batabaire and now Isma Watenga. The likes of Geoffrey Walusimbi, Ivan Bukenya, Tonny Mawejje and Brian Omonyi had small stints while Murushid Juuko and Muhammad Shaban refused to have trials.

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