Football

Living History: Honouring Football Legend George Ssimwogerere

The 1st May 2020 marks Labour day, an annual holiday when workers worldwide celebrate their achievements.

Interestingly, its the same date when a living football legend who is also Express football club’s most successful Captain George Ssimwogerere came into this planet.

Born in 1968 to late Fredrick Magala and Deziranta Namutebi at Nsimbe, Simu grew up with his parents around Lukuli, a Kampala suburb in Makindye division.

He attended Nanganda primary school throughout his lower level education and its from here where everything football started.

As a toddler, Ssimwogerere participated in all categories Junior, Intermediate and open becoming the school football Captain while in primary six.

After his primary leaving examinations, he briefly moved to Kololo S.S for two terms enroute to Kampala S.S where he sat for the ordinary level certificate.

At Kampala SS, Ssimwogerere (Simu) tried some boxing as football wasn’t a top priority at the school however, having already developed passion for the most loved sport, he dropped the idea.

His next destination was Lubiri S.S, where he completed the advanced level Certificate and later did a mechanics course at Zinabala Engineering Service.

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In 1984, Ssimwogerere joined American Insurance where he played as a left back satisfactorily catching the eyes of other suitors.

Just one year later, Jimmy Kirunda lured him to join Cooperatives but he opted to join Gomba Motors in 1985 under the stewardship Ali Sendegeya.

While at Gomba motors, Coach Barnabas Mwesigwa summoned him to a star studded Lugave squad which had the likes of George Serunjogi, Charles Katumba (RIP), Obadia Semakula, Magidu Musisi (RIP), Ronald Vvubya etc and he did not disappoint.

After an impressive Bika tournament outing in 1987, Express and SC Villa scrambled for his signature prompting a national football league committee meeting and following his Father’s advise, decided to join the Red Eagles.

The towering defender laid his hands on the first silverware when the club won the 1991 Uganda cup before retaining it the following year after beating Nile on both occasions.

By then, Simu was already an established starter in the Express back line with rare leadership qualities hence his elevation to the Captaincy surprised very few in 1992.

Later the same year, Simu was part of 1992 Cranes cecafa challenge cup winning squad in Mwanza as we overcame Tanzania’s ”Kakakuona” 1-0 through golden boy Issa Sekatawa.

Two years later, he enjoyed his first stint as Uganda Cranes Captain under Polly Ouma when injuries started getting the better of Sam Kabugo’s progress while Paul Hasule was nearing retirement.

During his spell as official Cranes Captain, they used to change the armband with late Musisi who always served as a field captain sometimes whenever he came for national team engagements.

In 1994, Simwogerere missed a crucial penalty which would have given Express the lead in a title deciding contest against SC Villa at Masaka before namesake Simon Simwogerere sealed it for the Jogoos to clinch the league trophy.

George Ssimwogerere formerly at Express FC as a tactician

Express returned a stronger side in 1995 winning their only double under Jimmy Muguwa and later reaching the Africa club championship semi final falling to Orlando Pirates of South Africa 2-1 on aggregate led by Simu as Captain.

Between 1994 – 2000, Simu won two more league titles (1995, 1996) and 4 Uganda cups (1994, 1995, 1997, 2001) making him one of Uganda’s most successful footballers at club level.

He also won the 1996 & 2000 Cecafa challenge cups with the Cranes though during Paul Hasule’s first stint as national team coach in 1999, he rarely considered Simu.

However, when Nigerian Harrison Okagbue was appointed head coach in 1999, he offered Simu an olive branch by summoning him again winning the first East African Castle Lager cup edition together in 2000.

Infact under Okagbue, Simu served as Cranes Captain for a brief second stint but when the Nigerian left, the defender also quit national team duties.

Together with Issa Bin Mungu, they fell out with coach Leo Adra at Express in 2002 marking their exit from Wankulukuku unceremoniously.

Following his exit from Express, he went into sabbatical however, in trying to keep fit, Simu requested Sam Simbwa for a space at Military Police where the Prince was as the coach assisted by Abdallah Mubiru.

Luckily for him, Simbwa moved out leaving Mubiru to temporarily take over though it didn’t last longer as he also abandoned the club.

Military Police administration then turned to Simwogerere to see them through the remaining 7 matches to which he accepted though they failed to beat relegation at the end of 2002.

At the closure of year 2002, Simu moved to Masaka Local council under Sam Timbe but when the veteran coach left, he featured as a coach player until March 2003 when Ramathan Tano took over the reigns.

While at Masaka, he unearthed raw talents likeTony Mawejje and Maridadi Bukenya giving them opportunities to showcase their talents, they both flourished without regrets.

And in one of the memorable matches against Mbale Heroes at Masaka, Simwogerere, Mawejje and Maridadi came on as second half substitutes with the Eastern region based side leading 1-0.

Mawejje assisted Simu for the equaliser before going on to score a brace himself then Maridadi added a fourth and Badru Senkayi completed the rout for a 5-1 victory.

Old timers came calling in 2004 as Lyavaara the LC 5 chairman then, signed Simu to help the team in their relegation battle again as coach player however it backfired as they were chopped.

Simwogerere eventually hanged up his boots at the end of 2004 and resolved to take on a coaching career.

In September 2006, together with Edgar Watson, they attended a Coaching course in Germany and later Simu did another one in Austria hence enriching his qualifications.

On return, he briefly handled handled Express until fans forced him out in December 2006 and tycoon Njubi offered him a lifeline at Nalubaale in January 2007.

Since then, he has managed quite a number of clubs including among others Military Police, Masaka LC, Nalubaale, Kagera Sugar, Mtibwa Sugar, Express, Musanze, Kira Young, Somalia national team etc.

Throughout his coaching career, the major highlight is guiding Nalubaale and Kira Young to top flight league qualification though yet to achieve much as a gaffer.

On 15th March 2017, Simu was remanded to Luzira maximum prison together with Dan Walusimbi after leading a group of Ex Internationals who attacked Fufa house claiming to fight for their rights though they were later released.

Despite his generation failing to qualify Cranes to the Africa cup of nations finals, Simwogerere is a Living football legend in all aspects.

Source: Harouna Kyobe (Vipers SC official)

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