Peter Ssenyonjo in action for Police FC. Credit: Kawowo Sports | JOHN BATANUDDE

ItPeter ‘Crouch’ Ssenyonjo’s 22 goals in the 2009 season put him joint eighth on the all-time list of Uganda’s top scorers but he tops the list of those who have struggled to make an impact on the national team. He did get eight Uganda Cranes caps in the CECAFA Cup, 2010 CHAN qualifiers and a friendly against Tanzania.

Beginnings

Ssenyonjo exploded with atomic-like force on the football scene after two and a half seasons with the now defunct Kinyara Sugar in Masindi where the late Friday Ssenyonjo had taken him in mid-2003 until 2005 from Nsambya.

Did you know? 
Peter Ssenyonjo, who scored 22 goals to emerge top scorer in 2009 does not have a goal for the national team after playing for the Ugandan Cranes B side in the 2009 CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup, a friendly against Tanzania and the 2010 Championship of African Nations (CHAN).

He was then spotted by Express coach George Ssimwogerere but things did not work out as he strangely fell sick for most part of the first round and did not play any game for the Red Eagles. Then a close pal, Nanik Muzamiru advised him to go for trials at Police FC. Nanik, who had played with Ssenyonjo at Kinyara had already spoken with coaches Angelo Lonyesi and Sam Timbe about his availability. It was an easy passage as Lonyesi had seen him play at Lugogo a number of times.

He easily settled in as Geoffrey Massa and Martin Muwanga, who had helped the team win the league in 2005 had left for greener pastures. He formed a partnership with Abraham Nega, Dan Walusimbi and Mike Sserumaga as Police won the CECAFA Kagame Cup on their first time of asking. He scored more than 10 goals as Hamis Kitagenda led the charts with 20. It was a promising start as he managed three goals in the 2006 Kagame Inter-Club Cup as Police emerged champions. During the six-team 2006 Tusker Cup in Dar-es-Salaam, where Ssenyonjo scored twice, Zanaco, who did not win any game, spotted him.

His move to Zanaco made headlines as the Zambian giants flaunted $10,000 to sign him with Nanik Muzamir. Yet he returned from the Zambian adventure disillusioned.

The unforgiving media in Zambia named the flawed genius as Zanaco’s most expensive flop in 2007. This was after the Zambian champions relinquished the two major titles, they had won the previous season after being dethroned as league champions by Zesco United and failing to defend their BP Top 8 title after losing to Kabwe Warriors in the semifinals. Zanaco finished seventh in the league. Ssenyonjo’s first goal in Zambia came after seven games. The other goal was in the semifinal loss of the BP Top 8 Cup.

His Zambian sojourn is down to two factors. First, a bout of typhoid towards the end of the season while the other was technical. “I was played more as a winger. But suddenly, the coach made a decision to play me as a forward where it was difficult to beat the Zambians who were even on the national team,” he explains.

Lesson learned. “I think it was too early to go pro. I reached a time when I felt like I am not a footballer at all. Guys were doing completely different things compared to what I was used to in Uganda. I compensated by training three times to catch up with them,” he says. Ssenyonjo was at Zanaco with another Ugandan Israel Emuge.

Top of the charts

On returning home, he linked up with Bruno Olobo, Amran Mukasa, Suudi Kayemba to emerge top scorer with 22 goals including two hat-tricks against Kanoni Mukono and Sharing Nsambya. He had scored five goals in the first round with a whopping 17 coming in the second round. Teammate Olobo finished with 19 goals.

“I did not come to prove a point but had learned new things in Zambia. I struggled in the first round with typhoid. What surprises me is that David Iga used to ask which magic stick I had got from Zambia. But I had improved my speed,” he adds.

Ssenyonjo is surprised his tally is still standing a decade later. “I have been following and I wonder why goals are not coming in. Maybe the defenders are more intelligent lately,” the 37-year-old says.

After two seasons, he impressed again scoring seven goals and Tanzania’s Azam signed him. 

In 2011, an ambitious URA under Ali Ssekatawa and coach Alex Isabirye added him to their squad as they built a strong squad for the Champions League. It was a sign of intent as they raked in Willy Kyambadde, Andrew Mukasa, Hamisi Kitagenda and Saidi Kyeyune, among others.

Ssenyonjo ranks 20th among URA’s most expensive buys. Patrick Ochan and Vincent Kayizzi’s arrivals from TP Mazembe and FK Srem, top the list.

It was a tight season as Express beat Bunamwaya (now Vipers) to the title by one point with URA finishing behind. But it was a nightmare season for strikers as Robert Ssentongo topped with 13 league goals and won the Uganda Cup as a consolation.

Cranes calling

Ssenyonjo spent the 2010/11 season in Tanzania with Azam before earning a national team call-up for the CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup and the Championship of African Nations (CHAN) qualifiers. 

Peter Senyonjo during a Uganda Cranes training session. Credit: Kawowo Sports | JOHN BATANUDDE

He was part of the team that secured the Cranes place in the 2010 CHAN finals held in Sudan, the first appearance to the continental finals since the 1978 Africa Cup of Nations finals.

Uganda were unable to rely on him for international matches. A towering 1.78m figure, 23cm shorter than English striker Peter James Crouch who many likened him to, Ssenyonjo was such an impressive specimen of strength and ability and aerial command yet he was calm on the ball.

Instead his time with the national team was once described by the then Observer sports columnist Robert Madoi thus; “Peter Ssenyonjo is surely unworthy of untying Drogba’s bootlaces” owing to his dismal show in the 2-1 loss to Kenya.

Williamson’s style accommodated two forwards, with one at the heart of the opposition’s defense. He had wanted Ssenyonjo or Kisekka to keep the opposing centre defenders busy and create space for the likes of Sula Matovu, Juma Saddam and Tony Odur to score. But Ssenyonjo did not exploit this opportunity well due to his frailty. Since childhood, he had peptic ulcers which made him sickly. His sickly nature bothered the then assistant coach Jackson Mayanja who knew Williamson admired Ssenyonjo’s attributes as a team player.

Williamson offered Ssenyonjo a chance to play for the Cranes during the 2009 CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup held in Nairobi, Kenya but he was overshadowed by Geoffrey Massa, Robert Ssentongo, Mike Sserumaga and Emmanuel Okwi although he has a winner’s medal as Uganda won the eleventh CECAFA title. He was later to be called for a friendly against Tanzania but he was not on the scoresheet as Uganda lost to Tanzania 3-2. Williamson did not give up on him as he named him for the locally-based CHAN squad that played the 2011 qualifiers although did not make the final 23-man squad to Sudan.

Current Police coach Abdallah Mubiru has put it, at least, down to the choice of national team coaches. “To play for a national team is sometimes out of luck. Not all good players at their clubs can play for the national team,” he says. 

Traditionally, this is a familiar tale. Coaches have given opportunities to some players at the expense of others. Enock Kyembe, Paul Mukatabala and Fred Tamale are some players who failed to shine for the national team despite glorious careers at their respective clubs.

Football analyst John Vianney Nsimbe says Ssenyonjo was just unlucky. “He was that calm guy on the ball but maybe the lack of aggressiveness played in his disadvantage,” Nsimbe says.

one thing is for sure about playing for the national team. There is history, hundreds of players are chasing with delight. It is not always about being the best, but sometimes the ideal approach is just to enjoy it for what it is. 

Going low

Attempts to resuscitate his career at KCCA, in 2012, were unsuccessful. During the try-outs, Brian Umony was chosen ahead of him to supplement Herman Wasswa, Yuda Mugalu and Tony Odur. 

A journalist friend, Hasfah Ssonko, who now lives in the UK, connected him to Soana owner Smart Obed, as the team gained promotion from the Big League. “It was not a salvage move because many other teams needed me but I sought an opportunity to try something new,” he said. At Soana, he helped Francis Olaki become the top scorer.

“I did not sign him. Smart (Obed) personally brought him but his seniority paid off as he inspired the young players and especially providing assists to Olaki,” said Richard Makumbi, his coach then.

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Soana finished fifth on their debut in the top flight and he opted to return to his eternal home at Police for another stint until December 2016, when he was let go. Police chairman/patron Asan Kasingye told the media then that Ssenyonjo had travelled to join a club in the United Arab Emirates without the club’s consent. But as it turned out, Ssenyonjo had gone to start work at Concordia DMCC Dubai as a security personnel in the property management company.

Unhappy retirement

Despite earning from football for close to two decades, Ssenyonjo continues to have some regrets. He is not involved in football at all apart from giving fellow players some advice.

“I want to get into coaching. I tried pursuing an FA Level One coaching licensing. It was quite expensive because the course fees amounted to Ush 5M. When you have a family to take care of, that can wait,” Ssenyonjo, a supervisor in a security firm, says.

He regrets leaving Zanaco after one season calling it a childish decision. “When I fell out with the coach, all I wanted was to return to Uganda. Unfortunately, he was fired two months later. It still hurts.”

When he completed Senior Six, he was always hoping to get time to get a degree. It is only a dream now. “I was always busy. For the younger players, it is important to pursue studies first before you can be eaten up by football and then family.”

Up to today, Ssenyonjo has never got his golden boot as FUFA officials told him there was no money to buy it.

“That was not convincing enough. Giving the little boy his golden boot is not asking for too much. That killed my love for football. I started caring less about scoring because I got a feeling that however much you try, no one will appreciate you. It was another childish decision but I had been frustrated enough even by Police who scraped the winning squad of CECAFA from the payroll. Many people in football don’t care enough about the players”.

Peter Ssenyonjo

But he has no regrets about his stalled Cranes career. Ssenyonjo says the timing was not right for him. He thinks the likes of Andrew ‘Fimbo’ Mukasa and Hassan Mubiru were on their peak while he was growing up yet the emergence of Geoffrey Sserunkuma and Geoffrey Massa meant little playing time later.

PETER SSENYONJO

Nickname: Crouch

Date of birth: Jun 26, 1980 (39)

Place: Bumbajja Mukono

Parents: Late Joseph Mukasa Naggyo & Edith Kituku Akiiki

Married to: Carolyn Nakawunde (with two kids)

Height: 1.78m 

Position: Forward

EDUCATION

Primary: City Primary, Bukoto Muslim, East Kololo and St Kizito Boarding.

Secondary: Hassan Tourabi Bweyogerere and Equatorial College Namuwongo (O-Level)

A-Level: Equatorial College

Work: Security personnel Concordia DMCC Dubai

FOOTBALL CAREER

Kisugu Young (1997-98)

Kansanga Half London (1999/2000)

Nsambya Namukadde (2001-2003)

Kinyara Sugar (2003-2005)

Express (2006- half season)

Police FC (2006-2007)

Zanaco (2007-2008)

Police (2008-2010)

Azam TZ (2010-2011)

URA (2011-2012)

Soana (2012-2014)

Police (2014-2016)

Previous top scorers with more than 20 goals

1969 – Ali Kitonsa (Express) 36

1976 – John Ntensibe (Express) 22

1977 – Denis Obua (Police) 24

1978 – Jimmy Kirunda (KCC) 32

1980 – Davis Kamoga (KCC) 21

1982 – Issa Ssekatawa (Express) 21

1985 – Frank Kyazze (KCC) 28

1986 – Charles Letti (Tobacco) 29

1987 – Majid Musisi (SC Villa) 28

1990 – Majid Musisi (SC Villa) 28

1992 – Majid Musisi (SC Villa) 29

1994 – Adolf Bora (Coffee) 21

1996 – David Kiwanuka (UEB) 21

1999 – Andrew Mukasa (SC Villa) 45

2000 – Andrew Mukasa (SC Villa) 27

2001 – Hassan Mubiru (Express) 27

2002 – Hassan Mubiru (Express) 22

2009 – Peter Ssenyonjo (Police) 22

2017 – Geoffrey Sserunkuma 21

George Katongole

George Katongole is a leading Ugandan sports journalist.

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