Football: Best of the decade

By Fred Kaweesi, Charles Mutebi

Added 10th January 2020 01:18 PM

Goalkeepers are often unsung heroes but Uganda’s Denis Onyango became the wild exception in the last decade.

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Emmanuel Okwi (left) and Farouk Miya will extend their services to the Cranes in the new decade. Photo by Mpalanyi Ssentongo

Goalkeepers are often unsung heroes but Uganda’s Denis Onyango became the wild exception in the last decade.


Football bounced back in the last decade and in particular the Uganda Cranes, who ended their four-decade evasion of the Afcon with back-to-back appearances at the continental showpiece. This list top of the 11 footballers of the decade is largely influenced by this Afcon renaissance even though it had room for two players who were not part of those historical feats. Who were they? Let’s find out, beginning with the last in rank.

11. Daniel Sserunkuma

 serunkuma in action for ipers hoto by palanyi sentongo Sserunkuma in action for Vipers. Photo by Mpalanyi Ssentongo


He may not have made the Cranes squads for the 2017 and 2019 Afcon campaigns but Daniel Sserunkuma had some of the most memorable club seasons in the last decade. In 2011, he was named the best young player in Kenya Premier League then player of the year in 2012. The following year he won USPA footballer of the year before topping the scoring charts in the Kenyan Premier League in 2014. Returning to Uganda in 2017, Sserunkuma kept finding the net and his goals - he top-scored that year - helped Vipers win the 2018 Ugandan Premier League title.

10. Khalid Aucho  

 halid ucho has been a dependable servant for the ranes in the past decade Khalid Aucho has been a dependable servant for the Cranes in the past decade.


The soft-footed midfielder launched his senior career at the beginning of the last decade with home club Jinja Municipal. At the time few would have predicted what a glorious 10 years lay in store for Khalid Aucho, who made his made debut for the Cranes in the 2013 CECAFA Cup and has never looked back. A member of Uganda’s last two Afcon Finals appearances, not many would have foreseen the sort of impact Aucho would go on to have when he was summoned to the Cranes at the beginning of  2017 Afcon qualification bid. His winning goal in Uganda’s away trip to Botswana in 2016 gave the Cranes control of Group D, a position they would not relinquish.  

9. Murshid Juuko

 ranes icholas adada and  urushid uuko  center fend off alawis ellings hango abadhino during an  qualifier at amboole ovember 17 2019 ranes won 20 hoto by ichael subuga Cranes' Nicholas Wadada and Murushid Juuko (center) fend off Malawi's Hellings Mhango Gabadhino during an AFCON qualifier at Namboole, November 17, 2019. Cranes won 2-0. Photo by Michael Nsubuga


The retirement of the great Ibrahim Sekagya was supposed to precipitate a long and painful search for a worthy replacement. Thanks to Murshid Juuko, the pangs were largely avoided. An assured and astute center-back, Juuko has been a great pillar of stability for the reliable defense that has been the foundation of the Cranes successes of the last decade. Juuko came through the ranks, playing for both the U20 and U23 national sides, a learning curve that has paid off massively for a player who started out at Bunamwaya (now Vipers) before enjoying his best club years yet with Tanzania’s Simba.  

8. Hassan Wasswa

assan asswa starred in defence and midfiield for the ranesHassan Wasswa starred in defense and midfield for the Cranes.


He’s here. He’s there. He’s everywhere. If there has been a Ugandan footballer with the invincible qualities of the terminator, it has to be Hassan Wasswa. Whether he had a club or not, whether he was fit or not, Wasswa was always part of the Cranes. And in fairness, he was a relatively reliable part, whether playing in his natural holding positive or in the adaptive defensive role.

7. Godfrey Walusimbi

  ranes odfrey alusimbi in action against esotho during an  qualifier at amboole ctober 13 2018 hoto by ichael subuga Cranes' Godfrey Walusimbi in action against Lesotho during an AFCON qualifier at Namboole, October 13 2018. Photo by Michael Nsubuga


With nearly 100 appearances for the Cranes, Godfrey Walusimbi is not just one of Uganda’s top footballers of the past decade but one of the all-time greats. He was reliable at worst spectacular at best. ‘Jajja Walu’ went from being mature beyond his years to being one of the veterans of Cranes, taking part in both the 2017 and 2019 Afcon Finals in Egypt. He called time on his international career after the latter tournament, the perfect sign off for an almost perfect left-back.

6. Tony Mawejje

 ganda ranes idfielder onny awejje  in action against adagascar during an international friendly at tar imes stadium ugogo on ctober 42017 hoto by palanyi sentongo Uganda Cranes Midfielder Tonny Mawejje in action against Madagascar during an international friendly at Star Times Stadium Lugogo on October 4, 2017. Photo by Mpalanyi Ssentongo


The proverbial bundle of energy, Tony Mawejje overcame the pain of multiple failed Afcon qualification attempts to become one of the leaders of the 2017 Cranes team that broke the continental duck. Mawejje was a powerhouse, often fighting on when everyone around him was overwhelmed. The box-to-box midfielder finished his career having fulfilled the dream of playing at the Afcon, boasting almost 80 international caps.

5. Farouk Miya

 gypts amy abia left contests the ball with ganda ranes arouk iya during a  2018 orld up qualifier at amboole ugust 31 2017 ganda beat gypt 10 hoto by ichael subuga Egypt's Ramy Rabia (left) contests the ball with Uganda Cranes' Farouk Miya during a FIFA 2018 World Cup qualifier at Namboole, August 31, 2017. Uganda beat Egypt 1-0. Photo by Michael Nsubuga


Some footballers walk onto the scene. Others budge in, door unhinged and boots on fire. Farouk Miya did the latter. He exploded onto the national football stage after a historically great 2014 - 2015 season with Vipers. Miya was the darling of Uganda’s 2017 Afcon campaign, his goal against Comoros on Sept 4, 2016, officially ending the Cranes 40-year absence from the continental tournament. Miya came into the Cranes as something of a talisman, which he remains to date.

4. Emmanuel Okwi

 mmanuel kwi celebrates his goal against esotho during one the  qualifiers hoto by palanyi sentongo Emmanuel Okwi celebrates his goal against Lesotho during one of the AFCON qualifiers. Photo by Mpalanyi Ssentongo


One of the most gifted footballers of the last decade, Emmanuel Okwi completed the decade as the fulltime first choice Cranes striker. It was a point long and hard in the making, with stints in Tanzania, Tunisia and Denmark part of his often trying club career. Okwi’s two goals at the 2019 Afcon are certainly the highlight for a career that occasionally appeared to be in danger of losing its way in the last decade.

3. Geoffrey Massa

 assa served the nation deligently Massa served the nation diligently.


Uganda’s record goal-scorer bowed out on a high after captaining the Cranes to the 2017 Afcon. But what a struggle it was for Geoffrey Massa to fight and wait and to wait and fight for that breakthrough. For six campaigns, Massa ploughed the lonely furrow that is the Cranes’ striking job in vain. In 2017, the door opened and Massa’s goal in Uganda’s 2-0 win over Botswana was the first spark in a qualification journey that ended in glory.

2. Ibrahim Sekagya

 brahim ekagya was a vital member of the national team until he retired Ibrahim Sekagya was a vital member of the national team until his retirement.


What a shame he had retired when the Afcon breakthrough arrived in 2017. Ibrahim Sekagya is the most talented Ugandan footballer from the last decade even though he retired from competitive football in 2014, three years after ending his international career. Sekagya won the Australian Bundesliga and Cup double in 2012 with Redbull Salzburg, later becoming captain of the club in an incredible honour for a Ugandan. He also enjoyed two campaigns in Europe’s Europa League with Salzburg before joining its New York sister club and, upon retiring, studying for his coaching badges.

1. Denis Onyango

 nyango in action Onyango in action.


Goalkeepers are often unsung heroes but Uganda’s Denis Onyango became the wild exception in the last decade. He was a mini-superman for club and country. Voted the best Africa-based player in 2017, Africa’s best goalkeeper in 2018, Onyango had an unforgettable decade as he also became the first Ugandan to win the CAF Champions League - in 2016 with Mamelodi Sundowns. Onyango has been the cornerstone of Uganda’s 2017 and 2019 Afcon campaigns and has won six South African League titles.



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