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Grief as legendary cranes captain, Kirunda dies aged 70

By Richard Kintu

Sorrow gripped the football fraternity in the country on Monday afternoon following news of the passing of legendary soccer icon, Jimmy Kirunda, 70.

The darling former Uganda Cranes international collapsed and died near La Grande Hotel in Bwaise, Kampala, while on his way to Mulago Hospital. 

News of his sudden death shocked the entire nation, with soccer governing body, Federation of Uganda Football Associations (FUFA) ruing his demise. “Sad news: the legend is gone,” Fufa eulogized Kirunda on its website.

Meanwhile, Sports Club Villa, one of the teams Kirunda played for during his active playing days described the icon’s death as an “extremely dark day for Ugandan football”.

Kirunda etched himself into the hearts of Uganda by displaying extraordinary soccer skills that saw him rise to the pinnacle of Uganda’s football.

Despite being a natural defender, Kirunda was a fearsome goal grabber. This saw him score 32 season goals in 1978, thereby setting a super league record that was only broken 21 years later by Andrew Fimbo Mukasa’s 45 goals in the 1999 Super League campaign. 

Arguably the greatest Ugandan to grace the Cranes shirt, Kirunda is touted to be the best header of the ball in Uganda’s soccer history.

Having hung up his soccer boots, kirunda went on to serve football in several other capacities; mostly as a coach, team manager and administrator. He was named national team manager between 1989 and 1996 while he also managed SC Villa, Bell FC, KCC FC, and Buikwe Red Stars (1985), and Cooperative FC.

KIRUNDA QUICK FACTS

Although many mistook him for a Musoga because of his name, Kirunda was actually a Muganda from the Ngeye clan. He started his career at Mulago FC, where he played youth football. His senior career kicked off at Express FC where he played between 1968 and 1969. He then represented KCC (1969-70), before later playing for SC Villa. He is among the few Ugandans to play professional football having played for Abu Dhabi Sports Club in 1979-80.

He captained Uganda for ten years and played in three Africa Cup of Nations (1974, 1976 & 1978)

He won the 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).

His brothers William Kityo and Dick Bintanula played for KCC and Mulago respectively.

He top-scored the league in 1978 with 32 goals.

He coached three clubs (Bell, Buikwe & Cooperative).

He returned to football in 1987 and featured for his Ngeye clan team.

During the latter years of his life, Kirunda went into football administrative. He served as a Personal Assistant to former Fufa President, Lawrence Mulindwa. His body was lying at mulago hospital mortuary by press time. Fare thee well, gentle giant!!

Having hung up his soccer boots, kirunda

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