Uganda's footballer of the yearBrian Umony has not completed his driving lessons and a thesis for a degree in Economics at Kyambogo University is still keeping him up and down.
Two months after scooping the 2007/2008 Footballer of the Year award for his 15 league goals where he was joint scorer; earning KCC their first league title since 1997, he received a maroon Toyota Corona from the awards sponsors Nile Special. But Brian Umony still relies on fellow striker Robert Sentongo as a driver.
But the grandeur Umony is enjoying has come after a childhood engulfed in loss and sorrow. Born December 12, 1986 to Francis Kermit and Loise Uwanchango in Jinja, Umony is the last born of four siblings: Jane Wanican, a nurse at Angal Hospital in Nebbi, Agnes Arach, a business woman, and his late brother Robert Kermit who passed on in 1997.
His mother died at the dawn of 1997. This is Umony’s worst memory in life. His magistrate father had earlier disappeared during the political turmoil that ravaged Uganda. Umony didn’t have a chance to know him.
Umony, who’s generally guarded as he talks, told The Weekly Observer that his family left Jinja in 1995 where he went to Victoria Nile Primary School. But when his mother lost her job, the only alternative to survival he says was returning to the village in Nebbi where he attended primary six at Padwot Primary School. But after his mother died, his maternal uncle, Zachary Anyaliel brought him to Kampala where he enrolled at East Kololo Primary School.
“It was challenging settling into a new school and environment but I scored 16 in my Primary Leaving Exams, which was hard work considering that I was just recovering from the loss.”
He then joined City High School where he scored aggregate 24 in six subjects in Senior Four and then 20 points from his History, Economics, Geography and Divinity combination at A-level. His dream was to study law since his father had been in that profession. But that dream battled with the passion Umony had for football.
“I used to play football for my class right from Senior One but to get onto the school team I was already in Senior Three and Four, simply because I was overlooked due to my small size.” But in his Senior Four vacation, Umony joined First Division side Nakawa United in 2003. “There, I met Owen Kasule but after a year I was hot property and Naguru Avis bought me from Nakawa, but I don’t know how much money was involved,” said Umony with a grin.
However, the ‘hot property’ couldn’t smile at the end of the 2006 season.
“It was a kick in the teeth losing 4-0 to City Lads in the Super Mini-League finals. We just needed to win that one game and we’d have been in the Super League. I was so disappointed that I couldn’t even score to help my team,” regrets Umony.
Umony saw this failure as an opportunity to concentrate on his Bachelor of Arts in Economics degree programme at Kyambogo University. His uncle was also applying pressure and caution that Umony should focus on his books more than football.
That is partly why his move to KCC Football Club last season came as a surprise.
His Naguru coach, David Opoka, liaised with Mujib Kasule to engineer the move. But Umony was hesitant. “I didn’t think I was ready for such a pressure team.”
However, Opoka said: “This boy was playing for my Under-12 side and he was really good. If his uncle who only wanted him to study hadn’t stood in his way, he’d be far now and I expect him to achieve a lot.”
At KCC, Umony found Owen again.
Umony remembers that when Moses Basena was hired as coach, things got tough.
“Basena was so particular on tactics and results, so that piled pressure [on me]. In the first days I didn’t even train with the first team until coach Basena later incorporated me.”
Umony adds that Basena also advised him not to neglect his books and demanded that Umony presents his school timetable to know when he would be available for training or not. He later made his debut, rescuing KCC with a winning goal against Iganga on 85 minutes after coming on as a substitute in the 75th minute.
“I was elated and so was my coach.”
That day, Basena told The Weekly Observer: “Umony is a new player with talent but we’re not going to rush him; otherwise it was a brilliant win for us.”
That game showcased Umony’s comfort on the ball, dribbling and passing skills plus sublime finishing, especially in one-on-one situations. He even went on to score braces against Maroons and Ediofe and his first hat-trick against Nalubaale last season.
Asked about his football models, Umony is quick to mention Majid Musisi. “As a child, all I heard and saw on TV was Majid Musisi whom I wanted to follow. Majid made Sports Club Villa popular,” he said.
So were you a Villa fan as a child? I ask. Umony smiles and answers: “No comment.”
But he fondly comments on Real Madrid striker Ruud Van Nistelrooy. “He’s terrific. It’s because of him that I supported Man-U.”
Umony adds that on the pitch, he tries to play like Barcelona’s Samuel Eto’o, a Cameroonian. He marks out Mike Azira, former Villa defender, as his toughest ever opponent. “Azira is so clever and thinks ahead of anyone and that is what made him hard to beat.”
Umony hopes he can play professional football but says hard work has to triple.
His sister Arach is all praises: “Mom always discouraged him from football but Umony would escape from home to play. But now he’s the pride of our family being in the news often.”
His uncle Anyaliel told The Weekly Observer: “I am strict regarding Umony’s academic work because I know he cannot play football forever, so he will need his academic qualifications after football. I follow his exploits though it is unbelievable what he has achieved in a short time. I hope he goes further.” George Nsimbe, his coach at KCC said, “He is a kind boy who is so disciplined.”
Besides football, Umony enjoys reading Shakespeare. This is probably why he’s been dating for two years. He laughs and calls for change of subject.
He’s a fan of Hot 100 FM and Henry Tigan. He likes eating rice, posho, Irish potatoes and meat. Umony, who stays in Namugongo, has a challenge of proving that he is not a one season wonder and to be on top of things for a long time in order to be classified as a great footballer. So far in his second season, he has not let up. He has scored seven goals this season so far.