How often does a 16-year-old boy play for any national football team?It is a rare feature, it must be noted, but Edris Nyombi’s story is a unique one.
Having horned his football skills at a tender age, Nyombi’s talent earned him a place in the Uganda Cranes at only 16 years, a milestone he still prides in.
Born in 1947 in Kassanda, Mityana District, Nyombi’s career took an upward curve at quite an early age.
His career started at Naama Primary School where he was from 1954 to 1959.
Aggrey Memorial School took him on but before long, Namilyango College offered him a soccer scholarship. At Namilyango, Nyombi joined the likes of Paddy Blick Sr and Jack Mukasa, who were household names at the school.
“We used to compete mainly with St Mary’s College, Kisubi (Smack), which had good players like John Baptist Ssemanobe at the time,” he recalls.
In one of those games, in 1963, Nyombi tore Kisubi apart and was hastily signed by Bitumastic FC, a top division side.
At the same time, he was selected to the Uganda Youth Team (U-20) and Cranes.
“Era Mugisa was coaching the Uganda Cranes in 1963 and when he saw me playing, he was impressed and drafted me to the team that played Kenya on the day the country attained her independence (December 12, 1963),” says Nyombi.
David Otti, John Agard, John Bunyenyezi, Moses Jogoo, Jimmy ‘Omulogo’ Sewava, John Dibya, Hassan Mutaasa, Baker Kasigwa, Henry ‘Bulldozer’ Matte, Alex Oundo, Steven Baraza, Joseph Mabirizi and John Kaddu were some of the players on the team.
“I was a left-sided winger. Those days, we were really orthodox wingers, crossing the ball into the box for strikers. Ssemanobe was just behind me in the pecking order alongside Bugoba.
“Mugisa particularly liked me for being cleverer than those two on the ball.”
Move to Europe
Nyombi’s talent grew in leaps and bounds, attracting scouts from as far as Europe.
Heracles Almelo, a then top division (Eredivisie) team in the Netherlands, pursued and signed him on a playercoach scholarship.
However, prior to joining them, he sustained a leg injury, which got worse with time and cut short his career.
“It was a blow. I felt the world crushing on top of me, but I had nothing to do other than accept that my playing career was finished,” he explains, in a shaky tone.
Heracles would later enroll him for a fully-sponsored coaching course in Sports administration at Hengelo Sports Center, where he attained a diploma.
In 1967-1968, he attained a Football Association (FA) Full Certification at the Lilleshall National Sports in London.
Full time coaching
With those certificates, Nyombi decided to venture into full time coaching plus training coaches.
He was one of the attendants of the Fifa Starters’ course instructed by D. Cramer in 1973 plus courses for coachesinstructors conducted by Fifa instructor, Heinze Maroizke, in 1980 in Nairobi.
Nyombi also enrolled for the Olympic Solidarity coaching courses in 1990, Fifa instructors’ course in Rotterdam in 1991, the Fifa-Coca Cola Futuro World Football Development Programme conducted by Claude Le Roy in 1991 and 1993.
Other courses include High Level Coaches’ Certificate in 1993, Fifa Instructors’ Course in 1993, Senior Coaches’ Course in 1998 plus the Futuro II Fifa Coaching in 1999.
Nyombi is also the force behind a variety of coaches Uganda has had including Asuman Lubowa, Moses Basena, Polly Ouma and Paul Hasule (Rip).
Talent identification and development
In his coaching journey, Nyombi identified and developed many players, some of whom went on to become national team stars.
He is credited to have discovered Isa ‘Golden Boy’ Sekatawa, who is rated by some football commentators as one of the best strikers Uganda has ever produced.
“I was traversing the country in search of talent. I was in Mbarara and saw Sekatawa’s potential and straight away I drafted him into the National U-20 team. Then Nytil FC signed him and he later joined Express. I also brought Peter Nsaba to Villa,” he adds.
As Tobacco FC coach in 1965, Nyombi groomed Sande Mokiri, who went on to play for the Uganda Cranes.
But his main calling came in schools where he developed David Obua and Badru Ssenkayi at Naggalama Islamic Institute plus Davis Odowa, Sam Magala, Black Mukasa at St Balikuddembe, Mitala Maria in 1990-1992.
Former Cranes captains Paul Hasule and Magid Musisi, Geoffrey Higenyi, Sula Kato and Moses Basena were all under him at SC Villa in 1993, while Simeon Masaba and Alimansi Kadogo also announced their arrival to the national scene under Nyombi in Iganga FC in 1998.
How nyombi lost his career
His playing career was shattered by a nasty leg injury.
Despite a short playing career, Nyombi has spent most of his life in football, especially training and instructing coaches.
But, he literally lives a beggar’s life and he is not shy to ask for help. During one of the nationwide coaching courses as the instructor, Nyombi suffered a stroke in 2008 in Mbale. That became the beginning of his journey into obscurity.
To this day, he has never fully recovered. He still walks with a limp. His cries for assistance have fallen on deaf ears.
“It’s only Mulindwa (Lawrence, former Fufa president), who has ever reached out to me with Shs1.5m. It wasn’t enough but I thank him because the other football authorities have neglected me yet I served the football fraternity whole heartedly,” he laments.
Meeting him at his home in Namagoma off Masaka Road, Nyombi is now a shadow of the flying winger he once was.
He says sometimes he fails to afford an average meal, on top of missing his appointments with doctors because he can’t afford the fare to the hospital.
He castigates football administrators for only caring and praising the dead. “They only wait for you to die and start talking good about you. That’s what hurts me, seeing that basiima ogenze (praising you when you are dead”.
For now, he is hopeless that any miracle will happen to save his life.
Buganda Youth Team (1963-1964)
Buganda Senior Team (1964-1965)
Bitumastic FC (1963-1965)
Uganda National U-20 (1963-1965)
National Second Team (U-23, 1964)
Uganda Cranes 1963-1965
Uganda College of Commerece coach (1964)
Coachlayer Tobacco FC (1965)
Buganda Youth Team coach (1968-1969)
Buganda Senior Team coach (1974)
Simba SC Coach (1975)
South Buganda Senior Team coach (1975)
UEB FC sports officercoach (1976)
National U-20 team coach (1977-1981)
Uganda Airlines Sports officercoach (1981-1986)
St. Balikuddembe Mitala-Maria S.S. coach (1990-1992)
Naggalama Islamic Institute coach (1993-1994)
SC Villa coach (1993)
Scoul FC coach (1995)
Shabana FC (Kenya)oach (1997)
Iganga TC coach (1998)
Kawempe Coaches’ Association chairperson (1999)
Friends of Football (FoF)oordinator (2000)
GLORY DAYS GONE
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SOURCE: Daily Monitor