The former defender died in May and remains one of the most decorated soccer figures in the East African nation
Uganda President Yoweri Museveni has explained why he had not heard of the country’s football icon Jimmy Kirunda until his death.
Kirunda collapsed and died on May 25 at the age of 70 and Museveni said he was pre-occupied with national struggle during the former Cranes captain's heyday.
“I, actually, never heard of Kirunda until when he died,” Museveni told journalists, as per Sports Nation. “Why? It is because for 16 years, 1971-1986, we, the freedom fighters, were cut off and we were not concentrating on the pleasure and leisure activities that were going on in Uganda.
“Being a footballer myself, I used to avidly follow, not only the news about football in East Africa, but I would follow up all the sports, especially, and athletics.
“I would know all the names such as the boxers, Seruwagi and Tom Kawere. The latter got a silver medal at the Commonwealth Games, at Cardiff, in Wales, UK. Sprinters like the Goan from Kenya, Serafino Antao, [and footballers like Joe] Kadenge of Kenya and David Otti of Uganda."
Kirunda captained Uganda in the African Cup of Nations tournament through to the final against Ghana in 1978, something the country has not achieved since.
He won the Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup five times in 1969, 1970, 1973, 1976 and 1977, and also managed to skipper the national side for 10 years.
Museveni claims that between 1966 and 1986, his focus was entirely devoted to the struggle.
“I would only pick up a few extra-ordinary performances by East African sportspersons such as Kipchoge Keino, with a record for 1500 metres in Mexico City, 1968," he continued. “I think Akii Bua’s 400 metres hurdles record in the Munich Games, 1972 and a Tanzanian Army Officer, Filbert [Bayi] who won the marathon for one of the Olympic events.
“Hence, I had never heard of our Kirunda, the footballer.”
Kirunda guided the team to regional glories as a coach in 1989, 1990 & 1992.
He played for Abu Dhabi Sports, Express FC, KCC FC (now KCCA FC) and SC Villa before coaching the Jogoos, Bell FC, Kassasiro Boys and Cooperative FC at different times. He was also the coach for the national side in 1989 and in 1996.
In 1976 and 1977, Kirunda won league titles with KCC.