Uganda Cranes earned a crucial point during a one all draw with the Zimbabwe Warriors in the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) tournament 2019 at the Cairo International Stadium on Wednesday evening.
Emmanuel Okwi scored for Uganda whereas Zimbabwe’s Khama Billiat scored the equalizer in the closing moments of the first half.
The same night, Egypt also confirmed their qualification into the round of 16 after a 2-0 win against Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) but Uganda will need a point from their last game against Egypt to confirm their passage from the group stage. Cranes will face off with ‘The Pharaohs’ on Sunday June 30, 2019.
With four best third placed finishers reaching the last 16, Uganda currently does hold the upper hand in that regard as well with four points.
After Zimbabwe’s draw, Cranes Head Coach Sebastien Desabre confessed to being in love with every moment in Egypt before vowing to inspire the boys to achieve their target of reaching the knockout stage.
However, you cannot mention Uganda’s current success at the tourney without recognizing the efforts of goalkeeper Denis Onyango popularly known as Mr Safe Hands.
During a match against Zimbabwe, Onyango pulled off a fine goal line save off Knowledge Musona close range effort. The goal would have left Cranes with no option apart from losing the match.
“It was all about me to do what I have to do, and the moment the ball stopped on the line, I had to carry it away because if I was tempted to catch it, I would have gone with it in the net,” the Cranes Skipper who also serves as the team captain said after the match.
Who is Denis Masinde Onyango?
Born May 15, 1987, Onyango is a Ugandan professional footballer who plays for South African Premier Soccer League club Mamelodi Sundowns and Uganda as a goalkeeper.
A father of four, Onyango confesses to not being a frequent visitor to their country home in the Elgon region. “I was born and brought up in Kampala. We rarely went to Busia. In fact, I have been there only six or seven times since I was born,” he told thisisafrica.me during an interview in 2017.
His career journey started at Nsambya FC, before SC Villa, then a top club in Kampala, spotted him in 2003. The SC Villa coach, Serbian Milutin Sredojevic, aka Micho, had organised a friendly match with a lower-division side when he spotted a tall, big-bodied teenager with an impressive raw talent and height. Even though Villa was not looking for goalkeepers at the time, Micho, who would later become the coach of the Uganda Cranes, was in no doubt that Onyango was a talent worth recruiting.
His career was not always a bed of roses for Onyango, who has since played against the world’s best, including Cristiano Ronaldo, the 2016 Ballon d’Or and Best Player winner at the FIFA Club World Cup tournament. Onyango started out at Villa Park as the fourth-choice keeper, trailing Postnet Omwony, then Uganda’s first-choice keeper, Hannington Kalyesubula, his main understudy, and Matthew Ottamax Owino, a highly talented but very peculiar Kenyan stopper. But Onyango was patient and kept training hard as he awaited his chance.
“I knew that when given a chance I would give my best to keep the number-one jersey, and that’s what I have done all my life.”
It wasn’t long until his opportunity came and just as quickly, Onyango rose through the ranks to win the league with SC Villa in 2004. Following a brief stint in Ethiopia, Onyango joined SuperSport United in 2006 and won the South African championship for all three the seasons he was there. In 2010 he moved to Black Aces. In 2011, he joined Mamelodi Sundowns where, strangely, he once again started out as a very marginal fourth-choice keeper and had to spend the 2012/13 season out on loan at Bidvest Wits FC.
In just two seasons upon returning, he went on to win the league, the Champions League and the CAF award, the most accolades ever won by a single Ugandan player in a calendar year.
With Mamelodi Sundowns, he won the 2016 CAF Champions League and took part in the 2016 FIFA Club World Cup. He was named the 2016 African-based African Player of the year. He was also ranked as the tenth best goalkeeper in the world in list for 2016 compiled by the International Federation of Football History & Statistics.
Onyango is renowned for his penalty-saving and his play in one-on-one situations.He is all round, very consistent and calm as described by Mark Anderson a former Sundowns goalkeeper coach.