The Legends: Phillip Omondi – Uganda’s greatest footballer ever

On many occasions, it is very difficult finding an adjective that simply defines how talented the Late Omondi was. Not even reffering to him as the greatest or finest can be enough. Born to Kenyan parents in 1957 in Tororo, Omondi’s family later shifted to Naguru in Kampala district. He went to St. Jude Primary school and later Kololo Secondary School. Despite the fact that he went on to become a soccer star, Omondi’s career as a sports man in boxing. He was lured into boxing by friend and house mate at school, Shadrack Odhiambo a former national boxer.
QUITTING BOXING:
Omondi lost interest in the sport after he was frustrated by a judge’s decision that saw him lose a fight in a boxing tournament. Following what he called unfair judgment, the young boxer quit the sport and opted to join football despite pleas from his friend Odhiambo.
FOOTBALL CAREER:
In 1969 while juggling a ball at Lugogo, Omondi caught the attention of Cranes Coach Bukhard Pape and team manager Andrew Wasake Musoke. The duo was with the national team that had camped at Lugogo for preparations ahead of the CECAFA challenge tournament. Convinced by Omondi’s juggling skills, Pape invited him to the team as a ball boy during that tournament.
CLUB CAREER:
After the tournament, he joined Naguru Youth FC in1970 and later Fiat FC where he had played till 1973 when he was together with Tom Lwanga spotted by KCC FC Coach then, Mister Bidandi Ssali and he joined the club immediately.
In the same year, he helped Northern region coached by David Otti to the regional championships triumph beating Buganda region in the finals in which Omondi scored the winner. Amazingly, Buganda Coach Robert Kiberu had let the lad go after a few training sessions in which he was not convinced by Omondi’s displays. He had been taken to the Buganda team by Mzee Kezekia Ssegwanga Musisi.
HIS TIME AT KCC FC:
Omondi remains the Yellow lads greatest player of all time as he helped the club dominate football domestically and in the region. He played lots of games for KCC FC but in 1976, suffered a career threatening injury. While playing against Kilembe mines on 10th/April/1976, Omondi collided with Kilembe goalie known as Kikomeko rupturing his pancreas and under went three surgical operations in Mulago hospital and later one in England. He was pronounced dead on two occasions in that period and many an expert ruled him out of football forever.
SURPRISE RETURN TO FOOTBALL:
He returned from injury on 22/06/1977 in a league game against NIC to the surprise of many in the soccer fraternity including those who had declared his career over after the injury he suffered. He scored one of KCC FC’s three goals in the game.
A year later, Omondi helped KCC FC win the CECAFA club championship in January in Kampala making history as the first Ugandan side to lift the regional tournament. Two years later in 1979, Omondi left KCC FC and joined paid ranks in United Arab Emirates where he featured for Sharjah FC. However, with two years into his career as a professional, he suffered another injury in 1981 and made a decision to return home rejoining KCC FC in 1983 after recovering.
On his return, he scored and assisted important goals as KCC FC lifted the league title in 1983 and 1985 and later the Kakungulu Cup in 1984 and 1987.

UGANDA CRANES CAREER:
Omondi made his cranes debut in 1973 scoring a brace against Somalia. By then, he was still a second division player yet it was difficult breaking into the team from a lower division side. He was instrumental as the Cranes won the CECAFA challenge cup in 1973.
1978 was the year when Phillip Omondi formally announced his presence on the African tournament when he led the Cranes to the finals of the Africa Cup of Nations losing 2-0 to Ghana in Kumasi in the finals. He finished the tournament as the top scorer with four goals and scored in all but one game. He netted in Uganda’s opening game against Congo Brazzaville as the Cranes condemned the central African side to a 3-1 defeat. His was the tournament’s fastest coming in just 45 seconds after kick off.
Omondi was again on target in Uganda’s second game in the group scoring the consolation as the Cranes lost 3-1 to Tunisia. In Uganda’s last group game, a must win against Morocco, Omondi put the icing on the cake by scoring Uganda’s third goal in the 3-0 win over the North African giants. The Cranes booked a semi final date with Nigerian super eagles and it was in this game that the real Omondi unveiled himself for all to see.
His greatest moment in the tournament came at this stage. With the score tied 1-1, Omondi put the ball in the back of the net after making Nigerian goalie then Okala dive three times in a space of seconds before slotting home for a 2-1 win that booked Uganda’s place in the finals.
In his recent interview with Daily monitor, Omondi’s 1978 team mate at the tournament Tom Lwanga described the goal as the best he has ever seen in his entire life.
“Best goal ever. Omondi received the ball from Kisitu Godfrey, beat three Nigerian tall defenders and was left with the very big and tall Okala in Nigeria goal. We were all watching from the back including the beaten Nigerians. Omondi pretends he was going to shoot, Okala falls for it and dives at strength, Omondi fakes again and Okala dives again having gotten back to his feet, still Omondi does not shoot. Then on the third time, Omondi dummies Okala again and shoots in an empty net. All this in a flash of a moment”, Lwanga told Daily Monitor.
Despite losing to Ghana in the finals, Omondi left his mark as one of tournament’s best player and this prompted FC Sharjah from UAE to sign him.
OMONDI’S MAGICAL MOMENT:
In another magical moment, Uganda Cranes was tussling it out against Algeria. As Uganda was leading 3-1 and the Algerians pressing for two goals to equalize, Omondi in an usual way dropped back to offer support to his rear guard, he received an aerial ball from a desperate clearance, chested it down in a typical Omondi style. At this moment, the entire Cranes players had fallen back but the magician unbothered by the situation, attempted the impossible dribbling from his won half, beat every one and entered the 18 yard area, saw Paul Hasule arriving and laid a killer pass for him to put the icing on the cake by scoring the fourth goal to put the game beyond reach of the Algerians. He left the stadium bewildered and got a standing ovation from both sets of fans.
In 1983, he scored all goals as Uganda beat neighbours Kenya 3-1 to lift the Independence Cup. In 1987, Omondi Phillip scored a brace against Somalia in an AFCON qualifier to advance to another stage where they met Cameroun. In the games against the West African giants, the forward struck once in each tie (home and away) but his goals could not help the Cranes qualify for the show piece. This frustrated Omondi and immediately announced retirement from football to pursue a coaching course in Germany.
On his return in from Germany, he played for KCC FC until the end of the season and hang his boots to kick start a coaching career. He coached Bank of Uganda FC for a few months and later had a coaching stint at his lovely club KCC FC before finally calling it quits in 1992. Omondi died on the 21/04/1999 and today marks exactly 13 years, 1 month and 7 days since his death. He remains Uganda’s greatest soccer star ever. May his soul Rest in Eternal Peace.
WHAT PEOPLE SAY ABOUT OMONDI:
Coach David Otti (RIP) – His first coach in the Northern region team.
“No body can match his skills. I have never seen a player like him. He could change a game in a flash of a moment”.
Hassan Badru Zziwa – The observer Ltd.
“No body could match Omondi’s achievements both at national and club level. He was crafty and actually could do anything with the ball. At times, he could make you think he had the ball tied on his boot laces. And when it came to head and chest control, he was unrivaled and his passion was world class. I have never seen a player as gifted and talented as Phillip Omondi”
Sam Ssimbwa – Current Express FC Coach and was lucky he was at Lugogo when Omondi had a coaching stint.
“You only compare Omondi when talking about Pele and Maradona. In Uganda and Africa, no one comes close. Omondi was just unlucky not to be born today. He could play in any team in Europe”
Abedi Pele – Ghana and African football legend
“Phillip Omondi was my idol”
OMONDI FACTFILE:
Born 1957 and died on 21st/04/1999.
Played for only five clubs: Naguru youth FC, Fiat FC, KCC FC and Sharjah FC in United Arab Emirates.
Won two Kankungulu Cup titles with KCC FC (1984 & 1987)
Won two league titles with KCC FC (1983 & 1985).
Won one Cecafa title with KCC FC (1978) and the Cranes (1983)
Won the AFCON 1978 golden boot with 4 goals.

*** Additional information from Hassan Badru Zziwa of The observer Media and Andrew Mwanguhya of the Daily Monitor was used in compiling this article ***

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