Cranes won’t miss Onyango

By Charles Thuku
Thursday, April 15th, 2021
Veteran Uganda Cranes and Mamelodi Sundowns goalie Denis Onyango reacts during a match at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations. He announced his retirement from international football of Tuesday. Photo/PD/FILE
In summary

Harambee Stars midfielder Keneth Muguna has downplayed what appears an advantage of sorts for the team when it faces Uganda in the opening 2022 World Cup qualifiers in early June following the retirement of Cranes dependable goalkeeper Dennis Onyango.

Muguna, an attack-oriented midfielder, said Stars’ front-runners should not read too much in the exit of the agile glove-man, adding that he believes Uganda has suitable replacements that can make life difficult for Kenya on the pitch.

“In as much as I don’t want to delve much into Ugandan football, I expect them to parade their best players including a goalkeeper to frustrate opponents’ strikers and as such, we have to work hard to bang in the goals,” said Muguna.

He added: “In the absence of Onyango, We have to respect whoever they will choose between the posts but that does not mean we don’t have strikers who can breach their backline and notch in goals.”

Muguna’s sentiments comes in the wake of Onyango, a mainstay at South African club Mamelodi Sundowns, retiring from Cranes, ending a 16-year international career.

Apparently, Onyango made the announcement on Tuesday, a few days after Cranes failed to make it to the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations, thanks to a 1-0 defeat by Malawi in the final qualifying match at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre last month.

The development now leaves Cranes coach Abdallah Mubiru with the option of choosing either Charles Lukwago or Salim Jamal, who were Onyango’s understudies, for first choice custodians to face the likes of Muguna and his colleagues in natural strikers Michael Olunga, Masud Juma, Elvis Rupia and Eric Kapaito.

Onyango, who was in Cranes squad in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt, possess several which include agility and concentration which sometimes surpass those of outfield players and which has endeared him to Ugandan fans.

The custodian, who has amassed 70 caps for Cranes since 2005, is renowned for his penalty-saving and calmness in one-on-one situations.

“He is all round, very consistent and calm,” said former Mamelodi Sundowns goalkeeping coach Mark Anderson.

Born on May 15, 1985, Onyango began his career in his native country and first featured for Nakivubo Sports Club Villa before being lured by St. Georges of Ethiopia.

He would then test waters in the South African top tier league and first played for Supersport United then Mpumalanga Blacks Aces as a free agent before landing at his current club Mamelodi Sundowns.