Heroes’ Day in Uganda takes place every 9th of June as the government honours some of its outstanding individuals that have dedicated their lives for the growth of the nation.
Uganda Cranes captain and goalkeeper Denis Onyango is a sports hero in a special way after numerous individual performances.
He has on many occasions carried Uganda on his back, and The-SportsNation has decided to name him rank his best saves for Uganda Cranes.
Onyango – admired for his courage and outstanding achievements – a super hero.
- Vs Tanzania Taifa Stars, AFCON Qualifiers, Sept 8 2018
Uganda dominated proceedings at Namboole in the group L encounter with Emmanuel Okwi and Joseph Ochaya failing to put away the hosts’ best chances.
In the closing stages, Uganda’s defence was caught flat footed in the centre with a brushed header setting Tanzania’s Ally Mbwana Samatta free on goal.
Samatta pushed the ball forward with his touch ensuring that he is very free and far away from onrushing Cranes defenders Denis Iguma and Nicholas Wadada.
His second touch drove him direct into the box. Its Sematta against a helpless Onyango. No way the forward was going to miss this, backed up by his reputation at Genk in Belgium top flight league.
Onyango, called into action, rushed out of his goal like a brave hen trying to rescue her chicks from an hungry eagle. The Sundowns shot stopper managed to trap down a low shot with his legs, and recovered in time to complete a double save with his hands to deny the striker. Phew.
- Vs Senegal Lions of Terranga, AFCON round of 16, July 5, 2019
Uganda got out of the groups to reach AFCON knockout for the first since 1978. The side had surely pushed above weight.
With a game against Senegal approaching, disturbing news came from Raddison blue hotel where the team had camped – A Players’ strike.
Fast forward, all was later settled. But still, the stress showed on the field of play against a star studded Senegal team.
The Boys made too many childish mistakes that for starters handed Sadio Mane the goal of the day.
In the second half, the team’s attempt to build from the back produced problems; Timothy Awany failed to get a glimpse of a loose pass from Murushid Juuko at the edge of the box before Mane stole possession. Onyango charged off his line and threw himself at the Senagelese forward bringing him on the ground for a penalty.
Onyango who survived a second booking, facing the Liverpool star on the spot, ensured that Uganda remain in the contest when he dived to his left and punched out Mane’s penalty. However, Uganda huffed and puffed for an equaliser, but in vain.
- Vs Zimbabwe Warriors, AFCON group stage, June 26, 2019
After beating DR Congo 2-0 in their opening group stage win, the Cranes had hoped for another impressive performance. But the Zimbabwe Warriors were wounded lions after a defeat against hosts Egypt.
Kharma Billiat leveled matters in the 41st minute after Emmanuel Okwi had given Sebastien Desabre’s men am early lead.
In the second half, it was a one-way avenue as Zimbabwe attacked in huge numbers. Knowledge Musona missed a seater, with his effort at point blank range hitting the woodwork as Uganda kept on surviving a series of attacks from an athletic Zimbabwe.
The big moment arrived later on when Billiat laid a low cross into the area and Evan Rusike pounced between Onyango’s legs! Goal? Wait.
Onyango made a quick turn backward and with one hand, pulled the bouncing ball off the goal mouth before it crossed the line in the 69th minute to deny Zimbabwe a winner. Breathtaking. Unbelievable. Outstanding.
That night, Onyango who had improved Uganda’s chances of staying in the tourney, was a centre of social media memes praising his heroic and save.
- Vs Egypt Pharaohs, World Cup Qualifiers, August 31, 2017
Before the encounter at Mandela National Stadium, Namboole, Uganda had lost to Egypt in Gabon courtesy of a late grasp goal.
The stage was set for Cranes to take revenge, but without coach Micho who had resigned, under Moses Basena, the hopes were not high.
Emmanuel Okwi gave Uganda Cranes a deserved lead just six minutes after the second half to send Namboole into frenzy celebrations.
Against a star studded team that had the likes of Essam El-Haddary, Ahmed Hegazy, Ahmed Fathi, Mohammed Elneny, Trezeguet and Mohammed Salah etc, it was just about time the visitors got an equalizer.
The Pharaohs kept pushing and pushing, with Onyango pulling a couple of reflex saves.
His best save came in the 62nd minute: Salah ran onto Ramadhan Sobhi’s chipped through-ball, the Liverpool star headed at close range but Onyango made a world class save to deny a wide-open forward, and the Cranes held on to beat the African giants.
- Vs Togo, World Cup Qualifiers, November 12 2015
Uganda faced a daunting task against West African nation Togo in the qualifiers of the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
With a winner between two legs reaching the group stages of the qualifiers, the Cranes were awarded with a first leg on the road.
Farouk Miya handed Uganda a shock lead at Stade de Kague in Lome. The hosts kept on pushing but Onyango kept on making saves against repeated wave of attacks from Togo despite missing dangerman Emmanuel Adebayor.
In the closing stages, the hosts were awarded a penalty. In a hostile and unfamiliar environment, there was no way Onyango was going to pull it off.
But earlier away against Lesotho, Onyango had saved Youssouff Mchangam.
France-born Mathieu Dossevi a was given the responsibility (read honour) of scoring the penalty; Onyango guessed right, dived to his right and thwarted the shot out before he was swarmed by relieved teammates. Did I say Onyango was not saving it? Oh no, he has kept on proving everyone wrong. Cranes won 1-0 and later 3-0 at Namboole to book a group stake spot in the World Cup Qualifiers.