The debate for who is the best goalkeeper Uganda has ever had has always been reduced to three – Denis Onyango, Sadiq Wassa and Paul Ssali, in no particular order.
And according to Coach Sam Ssimbwa, Wassa is the best of the three
For Wassa, who won three CECAFA Cup titles with Uganda Cranes and two league titles with KCCA and as many Uganda Cups, his rise to stardom was never meant to happen, to say the least.
Wassa, started out as a Basketball player back in the days – No wonder his son, Ahmed Kassa plays in National Basketball League with KIU Titans.
“I was a good basketball player, and represented my school (Lugazi SS) splendidly,” Wassa reflected during an interview with The-SportsNation.
But basketball collapsed at the school and he wanted to remain engaged in Sports so he resorted to Football.
In football, Wassa started as a right Winger, but breaking into the Schools team proved a hurdle because of the stiff competition.
Lugazi SS was under SCOUL, a Sugar Company that had a team of the same name.
And SCOUL FC used the Schoools team to compete in Mukono division league.
During SCOUL’s last league game of the season, they were going to visit promotion-chasers Nkokonjeru FC.
Wassa commented: “We were out of the qualification equation going into our last game, but our opponents wanted nothing victory.”
A win would see Nkokonjeru qualify for the Mini League, a slot they were competing for with Mukono Lions.
SCOUL’s best player was their goalkeeper Laila, but a good drunkard, to say the least.
“Back then, when you were a star on the team, teams would even pick you from your home en route to the pitch,” Wassa added.
And when they packed the team lorry at Laila’s home, they waited for him in vain.
“It turned out that he had taken in much the previous night,”
“But I sensed my moment had arrived, it was a blessing in disguise.”
SCOUL coach then, Ben Ochama, wanted to cancel the trip and so that they forfeit the last game because without their reliable goalkeeper, it was obvious they were going for a beating.
Then Wassa said that he was to be the team’s goalkeeper!
“Then I bravely volunteered to stand in goal, I knew this was my only chance to appear in the starting team.”
But coach turned down the idea saying “oyimirira mu goal yani?”
But after he was backed by his teammates who obviously wanted to play the game, the coach reluctantly agreed to play the game.
Mukono Lions had ears on this match because if Nkokonjeru failed to win, they were qualifying for Mini League. And their fans came in plenty.
SCOUL scored first, but later hosts Nkokonjeru restored parity.
Into the closing seconds of the match, Nkokonjeru were awarded a penalty, and the turning moment arrived.
“Mukono Lions fans who were present stormed the pitch in protest, but I calmed them down as I backed myself to make a save,” Wassa said.
“They (Nkokonjeru) brought their star, by the time he hit the ball, I had already slept on his target side, I just punched It out, and the referee wasn’t bad – he blew the final whistle as he ran away for his dear life.”
Wassa became an instant hero as wild celebrations ensued. He was decorated with leaves and driven back home like a King.
“Coach then said, ‘everyday you have a hidden talent yet we spend time on the other drunkard?'”
“From today, I don’t want to ever see you playing basketball or forward on the pitch…!”
The following season, Wassa started as the goalkeeper for the school and SCOUL.
Thereafter, he was taken to Nile FC on recommendation from his cousin brother who was the first choice goalkeeper at the club.
“My brother wanted to leave a heir behind at Nile FC, and to me it was a dream come true. Nile was a destination for every good player from Lugazi.”
“It was the start of good things for me. I wasn’t minding about the money at the time, It was a privilege when I was issued with a league license, it could help me to watch games free of charge even at Nakivubo.”
In 1989, he joined KCCA FC, and like the old adage goes – The rest is history.
I think he should have mentioned the brother who took him to Nile Fc.
Too me, I think it was Adam a goalkeeper too, who lured him to join Nile Fc.
Unfortunately,he passed on early this year