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Uganda’s 8 CECAFA winning captains

Andy Mwesigwa became the eighth player to skipper The Cranes to CECAFA Cup glory despite the argument in some circles that the record 11th title came at the expense of a depleted opposition. That said, HASSAN BADRU ZZIWA revisits all Uganda's winning skippers


Polly Ouma (Simba FC) 1973:

He’s by far the most successful centre forward to don the national colours. He took over the armband from Parry Okech in 1972 and led The Cranes to CECAFA Cup glory in the inaugural tournament held in Kampala.

This new expanded version was also the first to involve Zambia and Somalia. In this six-team tournament, The Cranes had tied with Zambia for the group 1 leadership and it took a playoff – which Uganda won 2-1 – to settle the deadlock. As a result, The Cranes booked a place in the final, where they beat Tanzania’s Taifa Stars 2-1. In addition, Ouma, who retired after the 1978 Nations Cup, was at the helm of Uganda when it won the 1989, 1990 & 1992 CECAFA titles. Such a feat leaves him the only Ugandan to win the title as player and coach.

Jimmy Kirunda (KCC) 1976 & 77

He was handed the Cranes captaincy in 1975 and to this day, he remains the most famous skipper for The Cranes. It took him only a year to lift the title in Zanzibar. This seven-team tourney featured Malawi for the first time and had Uganda lose their first competitive game in the group stage to Zambia. However, they turned the tables when the two teams later met in the final, this time Uganda winning 2-0.

The following year saw The Cranes retain the trophy in Somalia. Kirunda and company flew to Mogadishu, directly from Cairo, after playing Olympic qualifiers. Once again The Cranes met Zambia in the final and won a penalty shootout by 3-2 to take the Cup for keeps.

It was an incentive that motivated Uganda to reach the pinnacle of African football, reaching the 1978 Nations Cup final. In all, Kirunda served as Cranes skipper for eight years and retired from international duty after the 1982 CECAFA Cup hosted in Uganda where Cranes lost to Kenya in the final. Later as team manager, he was part of the 1989 & 1990 CECAFA winning teams.

Paul Hasule (Villa) 1989 & 1990

After missing out on the 1988 event through injury, he took over from John Latigo in 1988. After twelve years of firing blanks, The Hasule-led Cranes returned to the big stage when they staged a memorable comeback in the final to beat defending champions Malawi. Uganda came from 3-1 goals down to send the game to spot-kicks, which they won 2-1.

The Zanzibar-hosted showpiece in 1990 once again saw Uganda retain the trophy after beating Sudan 2-0. Hasule missed the 1991 and 1992 tournaments due to SC Villa’s involvement in CAF inter clubs events. He retired in 1993. 

Sam Kabugo (Nsambya) 1992:

Hasule’s absence meant that hard-tackling defender led the team in Tanzania. The tournament attracted nine countries but with hosts fielding two teams after Zimbabwe opted to leave and join the COSAFA Cup. Malawi and Zambia, who later followed Zimbabwe in 1993, also sent second string sides. It’s widely argued that this makred the start of CECAFA Cup slide as teams lost motivation in the tournament.

Kabugo’s Cranes, which had failed to win the 1991 event on home soil, redeemed themselves by edging Tanzania 1-0 in the final. Kabugo retired in 1994 from Cranes and passed on the mantle to George Ssimwogerere:

Livingstone Kyobe (Villa) 1996

He is the only custodian to captain The Cranes in CECAFA and replaced George Ssimwogerere, who was dropped following Uganda’s dismal show in the 1995 CECAFA Cup.
The 1996 tournament was held in Sudan but none of the Central African countries participated and Uganda, which had dropped six starters prior to the tournament, edged Sudan’s second string side 1-0 in the final to emerge champions. Ironically, Cranes defender-cum-striker Phillip Obwin topped the scoring charts with 2 goals. However, Kyobe was dropped as Cranes goalie three years later.

George Ssimwogerere (Express) 2000

After a temporary layoff from the national team, the towering defender reclaimed his armband and led the Cranes to the 2000 CECAFA Cup held in Kampala. That said, the victory was watered down by the fact that both the Cranes and its second string side (The Lions) contested for the final which the former won 2-0. Ssimwogerere then retired from Cranes a year later after eight years of service.

Abubaker Tabula (KCC) 2003

The 2003 CECAFA tournament was poorly attended and only five of the ten member countries joined hosts Sudan in Khartoum. The Cranes team was dominated by the youth side (U-23), which was captained by left back Abubaker Tabula. Surprisingly, they punched above their weight to claim an unlikely triumph with a 2-0 win over Rwanda in the final, thanks to strikes from David Obua and Zakariah Lubega.

Andy Mwesigwa (Ibv Vestmannaeyier) 2008 & 09

He became the third Ugandan skipper after Kirunda and Hasule to win back to back CECAFA titles.  The defender won his first title last year in Kampala following a 1-0 victory over Kenya. Mwesigwa was on the song again recently when he received the CECAFA trophy from Kenyan Premier Raila Odinga following a sweet 2-0 victory over Rwanda. Unlike the Kampala tournament, Zimbabwe joined Zambia to boost the event, even though the standards were generally not up to scratch.


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