Captain proper: Sports fanatics pay tribute to former Cranes skipper, Jimmy Kirunda
“One yellow card in a 20-year career, 32 goals as a stand-in striker in one season and a penalty phobia,” is the description that journalist Sande Bashaija gave to the former Cranes captain, Jimmy Kirunda in his piece in the Daily Monitor in 2010.
Many have since christened him the Kaiser, a title given to Germany leaders for his style of play and leadership attributes on the pitch.
Fast forward, on May, 25 ,2020, Kirunda, 70 who led Cranes to the historic 1978 Afcon finals passed on after collapsing near Hotel La Grande in Bwaise, a Kampala suburb.
Several sports fanatics including journalists and former footballers have paid tribute to the fallen legend.
Sports analyst, Ruben Luyombo who broke the news of Kirunda’s death described him as a composed player but disciplinarian as a manager.
He said: “He (Kirunda) was a very composed and gangly defender as a player bug as a manager he was a disciplinarian.”
Ruben, as his peers refer to him reminisced a story at one of the African Nations Cup qualifying campaigns in a group that had Uganda, Tanzania, DR Congo and Gabon where Kirunda refused to give a $1000 bribe to one of their opponents to allow Uganda qualify.
“Uganda needed to beat Tanzania to brighten their qualification chances and the opponents asked for $1000 but Kirunda refused to give in to the demands,”Luyombo who works with Star FM says.
“Umaru Ssenoga opened the score for Uganda but Tanzania later in the game equalized. In the other game in the group, Gabon also drew with DRC. At the end of the day, Benin qualified with a point difference ahead of Uganda.”
The senior sports analyst described Kirunda as a humble and respectful figure to everyone.
Fellow sports commentator, Ismael Kiyonga of Kawowo Sports described the deceased former Cranes skipper as an epitome of humility.
“Despite all his achievements including captaining Cranes to the final of 1978 Africa Nations Cup, he remained humble. He is an inspiration to many aspiring footballers for his calm demeanor and will holds a place among not only the greatest footballers but also sportsmen this country has produced. His legacy will forever live on,”Kiyonga said of the late player.
For Leone Ssenyange summed up his tribute for Jimmy Kirunda as “captain proper” arguably because of his 10 year tenure for the Cranes but also for KCC that he guided to greater heights.
“Growing up hearing about Jimmy Kirunda, of course you’d want to meet the captain himself. The moment came with occasional talks at Fufa House and during games at Nakivubo. He was a very simple gentleman who carried himself with respect and didn’t put much of his success ahead of him. But he earned his stripes. Football and the country ought to honour him in more ways. RIP Captain proper,”Ssenyange said in his tribute.
Cranes captain, Denis Onyango said: “I am anguished by the demise of one of Uganda’s greatest footballers, Jimmy Kirunda. His skill sets as a footballer were legendary and he was instrumental in scripting a success story for the Cranes. My heartfelt condolences go to his loved ones & former teammates. RIP.”
FUFA president Moses Magogo said: “The demise of Jimmy Kirunda will leave huge gap in our game. He made his contribution on the pitch as player, manager, administrator and advisor. On the eve of the Uganda Cranes vs Comoros match in 2016, Kirunda and other legends of the 1978 Afcon squad talked to the Cranes team on how they were on the verge of taking Uganda back to the continent. He will remain a legend of the game who contributed tirelessly with a good return of results on and off the pitch.”
FUFA CEO, Edgar Watson said: “I was shocked because I spoke to him three hours before he was pronounced dead. There is no best word that will describe Jimmy Kirunda than a legend. He was a mentor to many, a counselor and advisor. Football has lost a real football legend.”
According to FUFA, Kirunda will be laid to rest on Wednesday May, 27 at 2pm at the family’s ancestral home in Mayire, Bulesa- Kyadondo in Bugiri district.
Born in 1950 , Jimmy Kirunda played for Express FC between 1968 and 1969 before joining KCC(currently KCCA) where he plied his trade for 10 years until 1979 and joined Abu Dhabi Sports Club .
He later returned to Lugogo at KCC and later SC Villa.
In his career he won three league titles with KCC in 1974, 1976 and 1978, two Uganda Cups in 1980 and 1984 whereas at SC Villa, he won the league title in 1982 and the Uganda Cup a year later in 1983.
Jimmy Kirunda captained Uganda for 10 years that saw him play at the coveted African Nations Cup three times in 1974, 1976 and 1978.
Kirunda won the CECAFA Cup with the Cranes in 1969, 1970, 1973, 1976 and 1977 whereas as the Cranes team manager, he won three CECAFA Cup titles.
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