Jackson Mayanja: The Greatest Ugandan Footballer?
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First published: May 9, 2007
It does not happen every day that a player is compared to either the great Pele or Maradona. When it comes to the international footballing, the time has come to accept that even Barcelona's 'teacher' Ronaldhino who was widely tipped to be the next Maradona is still far off that prediction. Likewise, when it comes to Ugandan football, it is very unusual that anyone is compared to the great Omondi, the greatest footballer Uganda has ever produced yet. To do so, one stands the risk of causing outrage in Uganda. However, I find the temptation not to compare Jackson Mayanja to Omondi all too irresistible.
Through out the 1990's, there was only one household name as far as Ugandan football was concerned - Jackson Mayanja. He is currently U-23 national team's and KCC FC's tactician. He was twice voted as footballer of the year in the best leagues on the black man's continent, (in Tunisia and Egypt where he played professionally) and was baptized 'Mia mia', Swahili for one hundred because of his ability to give a 100% whenever he played. He twice won the Uganda Sports Press Association (USPA) player of the year award, emerged top scorer twice in the Super League, won various accolades for his beloved KCC FC and Uganda's national team the Cranes. Mind you, ever since he retired from active football, KCC FC has been no where near the Super League title.
Not that he equaled Omondi's prowess but he is up there in the club of Ugandan football kings. Like Omondi, he played position 10 (what modern coaches prefer calling half 9) although at times he featured in the midfield and at other times as an out striker depending on the team strategy. Both players outscored tradional number 9s, dictating matters from the mid-field positions and made their fans forget that they were not strikers. Omondi was named in the all African team of 1978 and so was Mia Mia in 1996 after the African Cup of Nations qualifiers.
Omondi is still ranked as the best dribbler Uganda has ever witnessed. He used to squeeze his way around defenders, sell dummies, change pace without warning and secured numerous goals after virtually dribbling his way through entire defence lines and Mia Mia was not too bad either. If there is any area where Mayanja beat Omondi, it should be the ability to pass the ball on, at just the right time. Classic passes were always attributed to him for a long time until Willy Kyambadde and his short reign on the national team came along. At the moment, only former SC Villa and now Iceland-based professional Augustine Nsumba comes close.
Talk about winning games. That is perhaps the other area where Mayanja out-performed Omondi. While Omondi featured prominently nearer the18 yard box, Mayanja managed to cover more breath taking mileage on the pitch, making chisel runs through the midfield and dribbling, before finally initiating diagonal killer passes. Both players had professional stints in the Middle East and North Africa and were once untouchables at Lugogo for KCC.
Omondi was always excepted from the rules at Lugogo. He used to miss training sessions after drinking too much but always made the first eleven and put up incredible performances. Though Mayanja doesn't hasn't shown the same love for the bottle, he used to miss training and make excuses that were very similar to those that Omondi used to make. Very few realized the talent of 18 year old Mayanja at Lugogo alongside Omondi until Omondi quit the game in 1987 and inherited super star cult status at Lugogo.
There is always a time for every thing and the time for Mayanja to quit finally arrived but sadly, his only genuine potential successor Willy Kyambadde crippled his career. It's now up to 20 year-old Nsumba to remind us of how Mayanja and Omondi did their business.
Jackson Mayanja's Profile:
Born: 27th July1969
1987: Captain Kololo Senior Secondary School.
1988: Joined KCC and Uganda Cranes as well.
1989: Injured for most of the season.
1990: Back from injury, guides KCC to Kakungulu Cup.
1992: Joins paid ranks in Egypt to become Uganda's only second proper professional after Omondi.
1993- Voted best player in the Egyptian League.
1995: Joins African power house Esperance of Tunisia
1996: Returns to KCC and inspires the team to 2nd position in the Super League, scoring 17 goals.
1997: Voted Uganda's footballer of year.
1998: Inspires KCC to win the Super League title again.
2001: Hangs up his boots.
2002: Appointed URA SC head coach
2003: Guides URA to Super League victory.
2004: Crosses the border to Rwanda to coach Kiyovu Sportive.
2005: Returns to Lugogo to take over from Sam Simbwa as KCC's head coach to date.
2006: Appointed the Kobs' (Uganda's U-23 team) coach.
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First published: May 9, 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.