Dhaira Junior is Set to Rule Uganda's Goal Keeping Department
Like father like son.
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First published: December 6, 2007
Ever since the late Magid 'Tyson' Musisi and Jackson 'Mia-mia' Mayanja hung up their boots, followed by the pre-mature retirement of Andy 'Fimbo' Mukasa, due to mental illness, Uganda's national football team has struggled to replace their talent in the striking department. However, this seems not to be the case with the goal-keeping department. From Paul Ssali, Sadiq Wassa, Mike Mukasa, Livingstone Kyobe and Ibrahim Mugisha to the current choice of Denis Onyango, Hannington Kalyesubula and Posnet Omony, Uganda has always had good goal custodians between the goal posts. Today, Uganda's goal keeping is boosted by the talent of Abel Dhaira.
The Express FC youngster is Uganda's new kid between the goal posts and is Bright Dhaira's son too. Bright Dhaira's goal keeping heroics in the 1980's and early 90's are still praised by many soccer lovers in Uganda and beyond. Before joining Express FC, Dhaira Sr. plied his trade at Nytil FC, Umeme and KCC FC. Dhaira Jr. came into the lime light last season at Wankulukuku by standing firm during his first season in top-flight football to save the Red Eagles from the relegation axe. It is believed that Dhaira was a strong factor in masterminding the team's plot to lift the Kakungulu Cup. The Kakungulu Cup is Uganda's second prestigious soccer competition, an equivalent to the Kings Cup in Spain or the FA Cup in England.
His heroics have seen him earn his maiden summons for national duty in the cranes squad preparing for the forthcoming CECAFA Senior Championship in Tanzania. The 6'4" goal custodian spreads well in one-on-one situations, grasps the ball well and knows when not to come off the goal line. His self-belief is compared only to that shown by Denis Onyango, the current Cranes' first choice goalie. His penalty saving skills remind people of the great Sadiq Wassa and Dhaira Sr. Sadiq Wassa himself describes Dhaira's talent as magnificent if natured well. "He is the best locally based goal keeper," observes the former Cranes and KCC FC star.
Dhaira was born in Jinja 19 years ago to Dhaira Sr. as the third child of four boys and two girls. He is currently studying at Makerere University. He started his football career at Nalukubi Primary School while in sixth form, shortly after crossing over from Narambai Primary School. At 13, while in his first year of high school at Jinja SSS, his talent attracted the attention of scouts for Uganda's big clubs including record champions SC Villa and the then eastern region giants, Nile FC. Dhaira Jr. attests; "It was at Nalukubi that I actually emerged as a star in Jinja. SC Villa showed interest in me while at Jinja SSS. In fact, they paid for my tuition for a few years and when they stopped, the school did.
After high school, he joined First Division side Jinja Industrial FC but because of his exceptional talent, it was evident that the days of Dhaira at the Jinja based side would not be many. It was not long before SC Villa and Police FC led other Super League teams in the battle for Dhaira's signature. He had a short stint at Naguru, training with Police FC but found the competition too high. Express FC exploited that opportunity and sent their then club captain, Apollo Kakaire (Dhaira's longtime friend) to lure the youngster to Wankulukuku. This, Kakaire successfully accomplished when Dhaira put pen to paper in the 2006 season, giving more fuel to the adversarial relationship between Express and SC Villa. Villa had been convinced that he was theirs for keeps, going by the long history between the club and Dhaira. "True, my heart was at Villa but I realized later that for the good of my career, Wankulukuku was the right place to be," the youngster says.
On arriving at Wankulukuku, our young star had to compete with former Buikwe Red Stars goal custodian Swaib Kakwaya and when the later crossed over to KCC FC in the mid-season transfer window of 2006, Dhaira's arrival to first choice team football materialized. He announced his arrival on the Ugandan soccer scene in the finals of the Kakungulu Cup, when he dramatically saved two spot kicks to earn Express FC a second opportunity to lift the title in a row. Little surprise then, that in the month of September, he scooped the Uganda Sports Press Association (USPA) Player of the year award.
Young Abel Dhaira.
The youngster attributes his success to his father. "He is more than a daddy, more like a brother. We are very close, my father and I. He treats me like his student or brother," Dhaira Jr. says of Dhaira Sr.
However, the type of indiscipline that often associates itself with gifted footballers seems not to have spared Dhaira either. His refusal at the eleventh hour to honour his club's league opener against bitter rivals SC Villa in November 2007 is a case in point. The youngster missed the encounter that ended in a one all draw after he refused to sign his license, complaining of some loopholes in his contract with the club. Nevertheless, this should not over shadow the miraculous rise of Dhaira Jr., whose talent keeps the Dhaira family on our TV screens and confirms the aphorism "Like father, like son".
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First published: December 6, 2007
Ramathan Kasozi is a member of Ultimate Media Consult (U) Ltd. . A graduate Journalist, Kasozi has more than 5 years experience reporting on sports in Uganda for different print and broadcast media houses.