On Monday, Denis Onyango officially announced his retirement from international football leaving the country shocked although many saw it coming.
His retirement doesn’t only create a vacuum for the captaincy but also the goalkeeping position on the national team.
Onyango has been Uganda’s undisputed number one since making his debut way back in 2005 and guided the nation to Afcon appearances (2017 and 2019).
Coaches always make changes in line ups but rarely do they change goalkeepers. A good, or even great, goalkeeper is hard to find. When you find one, keep him. Denis Onyango has been such example since dethroning Posnet Omwony.
The former African Player of the Year – based in Africa has not only been indispensable but also reliable and undeniably the best Cranes have had in more than a decade.
Shockingly, there is not a clearly defined pecking order behind the retiring legend and that leaves a big question on who will fill the big gloves.
We look at the possible candidates for the number one spot on the Cranes for the coming years.
Jamal Salim Magoola (Al Hilal, Sudan): The Sudan based custodian has been on the national team for more than five years. He is proven with continental experience in the Caf Champions League and Caf Confederation Cup with Sudan giants Al Hilal and El Merriekh.
His size (height) gives him edge over many of his competitors but his downside is strained relationship with Fufa.
Robert Odongkara (AC Horoya, Guinea): Basing on age and experience, the former SC Villa custodian should be the straight replacement for Onyango.
He has been on the team since 2010 with over 29 caps although most have come in the Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup. He has also made two appearances in the Total Afcon finals.
Charles Lukwago (KCCA, Uganda): Like most goalkeepers, Lukwago keeps getting better with age. The KCCA number one is part of the Cranes set up and a top candidate to take over from Onyango.
He is a leader at club level and has played on the continent with both club and country (Chan) and fast rising to have a say on the throne left by Onyango.
Ismail Watenga (Chippa United, RSA): The 25 year old is arguably the most naturally gifted of the available options.
Watenga has been part of the fold since 2014, deputising Benjamin Ochan in Chan and also taking over as number one at the 2016 edition in Rwanda.
A career threatening injury while in Ethiopia hindered his progress but he is back to his best and just this week, made his PSL debut with Chippa United.
Joel Mutakubwa (Kyetume, Uganda): A new kid on the block who shockingly jumped the queue. He was part of the Uganda Cranes team at Chan 2020.
Benjamin Ochan (AFC Leopards, Kenya): Another explained lad who has been kept waiting by Onyango’s longevity.
The highly talented and confident Ochan has been part of the national team set up since 2013 keeping goal in Chan 2014 and 2018.
He has so far amassed 17 caps but most through Chan competitions.
Jack Komakech (U-20 national team, Uganda): The U-20 goalkeeper is viewed by many as the long term successor to Onyango’s jersey.
He is talented, confident, commands his area well and has gone through the ranks.
Mathias Kigonya (Azam, Tanzania): Another talented goalkeeper who has disproved critics with his match winning saves and top character.
Kigonya was part of Micho’s side at Chan 2016 keeping goal in one of the games and recently returned to the fold for the 2021 Afcon qualifiers against Malawi and Burkina Faso after a long time.
Others are James Alitho who has been part of the fold as well as Police’s Tom Ikara.
Over to you readers, who would you like to take over Onyango’s jersey and gloves?