Omondi Will Always be Uganda's Best
Omondi is best East Africa has ever had.
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First published: December 13, 2006
The Confederation of African Football (CAF) recently nominated several names of players to vie for the African best ever award in the last 50 years. Names of the 50 players will be seen at the CAF website between December and February.
Among the nominees include Uganda's own soccer greats, the late "Magic" Magid Musisi, the now Cranes Assistant Coach Polly Ouma, and Phillip Omondi aka Omo (RIP).
Even though he doesn't walk away with the award, Omo will always remain Uganda's if not East Africa's best ever.
That Omo is the greatest footballer Uganda has ever produced has never been a subject but what should be debated is whether the tiny East African state will ever reproduce a player with skills and talent of his magnitude. From the magnificent talents of likes of Paul Hasule and Jackson Mayanja to Andy "Fimbo" Mukasa, among others... the truth is, none of them has the capacity to fill the Omo's over sized boots. Many soccer players and analysts will silently tell you that Omo is the best we have ever had.
His inventiveness and creativeness could light up one of the dullest matches into an unforgettable one while his making passes was at times out of this world. Omondi would cut through defenses like a knife cutting through butter and his ball control would only leave you thinking that the ball was just tied on his boot. The more opponents he had, the easier it was for him to maneuver through. You would either hate him for making your defense look ordinary, or praise him for reminding you that football can be a game for enjoyment.
His fellow CAF award competitor Polly Ouma recalls that he rarely scored easy goals.
"He was just phenomenal. It was very rare to see Omondi scoring tap-in's. His goals ranged from diving headers, volleys, chips, free kicks and over head kicks," recalls his former Cranes team mate.
Omo's former Club tactician, Mr. Bidandi Saali confesses that at one point Omo had turned into a small god at Lugogo just because of his super natural football talent.
"If there is any player who was exceptional to the rules of KCC, Omondi was it. He usually turned up for the match drunk but surprisingly this never impeded him from spotting where the two posts were," says the former local government Minister.
He adds that, one time he started the game from the bench as a measure to displine him for coming in drunk, but as KCC was trailing 1-0 in the 2nd half, they had no choice but to bring Omo on. He scored twice to give the Kasasiro Boys ,a 2-1 victory.
He is greatly remembered for his extra ordinary performances in the 1978 Ghana African Cup finals where he emerged the tournament's golden boot winner. Despite Uganda losing in the finals to the hosts, he left a huge landmark in Accra. Since then, Uganda has never qualified for the African Cup finals.
For starters, the tag "Omo" dates way back in 1983 after he had just returned to KCC FC from his professional stint in Middle East when he single handedly white-washed Express FC in KCC's 5-1 League mauling. He was twice on the score sheet before manufacturing the other goals.
After the 90 minutes, he received the baptism of this name. Reason: he white-washed the Red Eagles like what Omo detergent does.
In 1987, Uganda was tussling it out with Kenya's Harambe Stars at Nakivubo stadium in an independence Cup, Omo had previously not been summoned to the camp, because the coaching staff thought he was aging and preferred to have Letti in his place.
But after a disappointment from Letti in the training, they reversed the decision and called the super star to judge whether he was still a Cranes material. He didn't only score a hat trick after dribbling the entire Harambe Stars' defense but practically turned the match into a personal exbhition of skill and talent.
Perhaps the greatest individual performance that Omo has ever put up, was in a match involving the Uganda Cranes and Algeria's Desert Warriors in Uganda's memorable 4-1 sweet victory.
As Uganda was leading the Magrib state 3-1 in the 2nd half, Omondi in an unusual fashion dropped back to support his rear guard, got an aerial ball and chested it down in typical Omo fashion. Almost the entire Cranes players had fallen back but the maestro unbothered by this situation attempted the impossible and started a dribbling run from deep in his own half, beat every one, entered the18 yard box, saw Hasule arriving on the left flank and laid a killer pass for him to hammer the final nail in Algeria's coffin. He left the stadium bewildered and stunned, and was accorded a standing ovation by both Ugandan and Algerian football fans.
The instances to narrate on Omo are unlimited. Remember the KCC vs. Arab Contractors in the 1987 CAF Cup? What about the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon - Uganda Cranes encounter in 1987!!! He was simply extraordinary in these games.
Whether he wins the CAF greatest ever player award or not, there is no doubt that Omondi is Uganda's greatest and will always be missed. Thanks for the sweet memories he gave us on the pitch.
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First published: December 13, 2006
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.