The former Uganda Cranes captain Jimmy Kirunda and manager collapsed and died while at Hotel La Grande in Bwaise, a Kampala suburb on Monday.
Kirunda collapsed while walking and a few minutes later he was pronounced dead. However, the cause of his death is not yet known.
Jimmy Kirunda ‘the Ugandan Kaiser’ was the cornerstone of Uganda’s golden generation of the seventies, any football fan of that time will never forget. Kirunda was and will always be remembered for his outstanding technique and tactical insight into the football game.
He was born in 1950 to late Henry Kirunda and Constance Nawalu, he joined Mengo Primary School, Naggalama and later Old Kampala SSS.
Throughout his school time, football remained Kirunda’s biggest passion, till it turned into his career when Mulago FC coach Steven Kakooza spotted him and enticed him to join him.
In 1965, Kirunda started playing for Kampala District Bus Service (KDS). Around 1967, he featured for second-tier Lint Marketing Board (LMB).
In 1968, when the national league was introduced in Kirunda starred for topflight Express FC. Due to his performance in both leagues, Kirunda, who had switched to defence role, got his first appearance on the national team football with the youth side in the annual Friendly Cup in Ethiopia.
Due to his outstanding and promising performance, Kirunda earned his first cap in July 1969 with the national senior team during a friendly match between Uganda and Burundi, during Pope Paul’s Uganda visit.
His performance pleased the then Kampala City Council (KCC) coach Bidandi Ssali and immediately signed him to build a formidable side that would push Ugandan football forward.
According to David Lumansi a sports journalist, Kirunda was a talented player who captained Uganda for ten years (longest captain) and played in three Africa Cup of Nations consecutively (1974, 1976 & 1978) He won the first Council for East and Central Africa Football Associations (Cecafa) Cup with Uganda in (1969, 1970, 1973, 1976 & 1977)
As Cranes Team Manager, he won three Cecafa Cup titles (1989, 1990 & 1992). He won three league titles with KCC (1976, 1977 and 1981) and two Uganda Cups (1980 & 1984).
He also won a league title with Villa (1982) and one Uganda Cup (1983). He top-scored the league in 1978 with 32 goals. In 1987 he returned to football and featured for his Ngeye clan team.
“In today’s football if I am to compare Kirunda I would compare him with Barcelona’s Gerard Piqué. Kirunda was a defender but he would play well while in midfield and was good at aerial balls. Kirunda is remembered very well in 1975 when he fired a hard shot which hit the crossbar ended in the stands, killing a staunch Express fan, one Kiggundu (brother to Gen Katumba Wamala),” said Lumansi.
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