Often times in life, passion has always overridden professions and missions.
For a calling as refereeing, surely one must have the zeal, courage, patience, determination, enthusiasm and overwhelming passion to serve without fear or favour.
Yes, passion is the key overlying word.
From the countless hours of tough personal training regimes, mandatory fitness and medical check-ups, biased abuses, attacks from players, fans, administrators, media, shortage of equipment to use, the profession mild ego wars to other encumbrances, referees suffer quite a number of hiccups and endure a whole lot.
Retired FIFA Assistant Referee Samuel ‘Omukunja’ Kayondo served the profession with the due deserved passion for a massive and enviable 22 years.
Right from the humble beginning as a teenager, Kayondo rose to fame when he acquired the prestigious FIFA badge, 8 years after being a national referee.
The FIFA badge is what many young aspiring and actively serving referees yearn for.
When Kayondo made the decision to retire officially from refereeing, I happened to have been one of those lucky people he personally notified.
It was in the aftermath of the Uganda Premier League match between Sadolin Paints and Sports Club Villa at Bugembe stadium in Jinja.
“Brother Isabirye, I will not serve anymore. This has been enough. I thank all who have guided me along the way,” Kayondo discussed in a telephone chat.
Born to Kefa Kigero Ssekibuule and Joyce Nalubega, 47 years ago, Kayondo hails from the Ssi-Bukunja sub-county in the greater Mukono district, presently Buikwe.
Kayondo officially retired on 15th June 2017 after the 43rd Uganda Cup final at the Green Light Stadium in Arua when KCCA beat Paidha Black Angels 2-0 to win their first ever double.
It was such an emotional but thrilling moment to witness fellow referees raise a ‘guard of honour’ prior to kick off and a memorable ‘lap of praise’ shortly after the game.
Tears of joy rolled down my cheek at the fully packed Green Light arena.
A 5th born in the family of 9, Kayondo was a vivid athlete back in the primary and secondary school days.
Superb in the 10,000m race, he had a unique talent that earned him ‘free’ education courtesy of deserved bursaries at Ngogwe Baskerville and Mukono Bishops in Primary and Secondary Schools.
“I was a great athlete and I studied because of bursaries. However, I also had the passion for football,” he recounts with the customary smile flashing across the face.
A journalist by training, he has been employed by the national print powerhouse Vision Group (Bukedde), serving as sports subeditor at his prime, Red Pepper Publication under the Kamunye tabloid and currently employed at FUFA FM.
Everything has a humble beginning on earth. Former FIFA Assistant Referee, Nelson Mubanda Nsubuga has a big say in Kayondo’s career.
I remember very well in 1994, there was a referees beginners’ course organized by Mukono DFA.
Mubanda encouraged me to join and the rest as they say is now history.
I also wish to thank Ali Tomusange, he was a great person in my line of duty
The following year (1995), Kayondo became fully engaged in refereeing which became his daily meal until 2017.
Ascendancy to FIFA Status:
For 15 years of the 22 served, Kayondo has been FIFA Assistant Referee.
Since 2002 during the epoch of the then FUFA President Denis Obua (RIP), Kayondo never looked back.
The athleticism since primary school was his bed of roses especially when it came to the mandatory fitness tests.
Nothing excites referees as handling high profile matches and they end successfully.
Kayondo handled big games and everyone left completely satisfied.
He recalls the Magreb derby between Tunisia and Libya in Tunis and the match when Rwanda hosted Cameroon as his best matches handled internationally.
Besides handling big matches well, I also got the opportunity to travel widely and encountered the big names in the game as Cameroon Indomitable Lions’ skipper Samuel Eto’o Fills
He has inspired a lot in the media industry, refereeing and general life.
To be specific, his young brother Jackson Ntale decided to trend his path as well as many young referees by virtual of his status as the chairperson of Buikwe Football Referees Association.
Now 47 years old, Kayondo looks half the age – thanks to his strict training policy.
He vows to continue with the education of referees, sensitization of fans and entire football fraternity about the ever changing rules of the game.
Congratulations Samuel Omukunja Kayondo.
- Full Name: Samuel Kayondo
- Nick Name: Omukunja
- Age: 47 year (Born in 1970)
- Parents: Kefa Kigero Ssekibuule and Joyce Nalubega
- Place of Birth: Ssi-Bukunja Sub county, Greater Mukono District (now Buikwe).
- Education: Ssi Primary School, Ngogwe Baskerville Primary, Bishops SS Mukono (O&A ), Diploma in Journalism and Media Studies.
- Other jobs: Sub Editor Bukedde Newspaper, Kamunye Newspaper, Present 102.1 FUFA f.m, Referees’ educator
- Inspiration: Nelson Mubanda Nsubuga and Ali Tomusange
- Years as national referee: 8
- Years as FIFA referee: 14
- Best Matches handled: Tunisia Vs Libya (Tunis) and Rwanda vs Cameroon (Kigali)