Kampala — Uganda is mourning the passing on of an icon that made several fans fall in love with the beautiful game.
Uganda Cranes, SC Villa and KCC legend Timothy Ayiekoh breathed his last yesterday morning at a local hospital in Maganjo, Kawempe.
He is said to have died of heart failure, just a month after he had surgery related to the same. He died aged 63.
Born in Uganda to Kenyan parents, Ayiekoh's final resting place will be at his ancestral home in Kenya, according to Fufa's technical committee boss and deceased's friend Asuman Lubowa.
Efrance Nanjego, who has been working with Ayiekoh in the Kakira Sugar Sports Office, confirmed to Daily Monitor "the body will be transported to Kenya for burial tomorrow (today)."
Ayiekoh is remembered as both a brilliant player, coach and amiable human being.
He coached current Cranes coach Moses Basena as Villa reached the Champions League finals in 1991 (then as assistant to Geoff Hudson) and Confederations Cup the following year.
"He was gifted both as a player and coach," said Basena of a man renowned for powerful shots and dead ball specialty, "And as a person, a wonderful man.
"He was much older than me but from research books that I've read, he was a brilliant player.
"There were many great players at the time and for you to pay in the national team aged 18 like he was, you've got to be a special talent."
Villa president Ben Misagga called Ayiekoh a "great coach and true legend of villa. We shall miss Timothy."
KCCA manager Mike Mutebi earlier told this newspaper Ayiekoh was the best ever Ugandan coach he knew.
"For me, he was the best," said Mutebi, "His knowledge of the game was top notch and some of the football we played under him was very good."
Celebrated veteran journalist Hassan Badru Zziwa remembers a "very talented midfield player, who was comfortable both as an eight and a 10.
"Timothy and Phillip Omondi had the best chest control. He had a powerful shot and was also reliable on free kicks," narrated Zziwa, points agreed on by Lubowa.
Ayiekoh started out at Express' junior side, the Nakivubo Boys and while at Pillai, later named Nakasero Secondary School, in early 70s, the late Ssebaana Kizito poached him to Nic.
Ssebana was the boss of NIC at the time and employed many footballers at the corporation.
Ayiekoh was part of the national youth team formed out of regional competitions.
Together with Moses Nsereko, Abby Nasur and Mike Kiganda among others, Ayiekoh was directly promoted to the senior Cranes team in 1973.
"At the time," explained Zziwa, "The likes of David Otti and Parry Oketch among others were ageing, and then Cranes coach Burkhard Pape wanted to leave behind a young, strong team."
Ayiekoh, then a teenager, went on to play a starring role as Uganda won the 1973 Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup. The youngster then crossed from Nic to mother club Express and helped the Red Eagles to the 1974 and 1975 league titles.
Ayiekoh also helped Uganda qualify for the 1974 Nations Cup, later debuting at the finals.
His time at Express was, however, short-lived, the midfield enforcer crossing to KCC in 1976.
He was instrumental for Uganda alongside Nsereko, Omondi et cetera in qualification of and at the 1976 Afcon finals in Ethiopia.
The same year he helped Uganda to the Cecafa Cup in Zanzibar, and a year later in Somalia.
Ayiekoh's development coincided with Omondi's injury from April 1976 to June 1977, the midfielder filling in brilliantly. And when Omondi returned, it was a combination that would go to be a pain in opponents backsides."Ayiekoh and Omondi's best year was 1978," explained Zziwa, one of the most accomplished journalists on Uganda's football.
"They helped KCC to the Cecafa Championship in January that year, where Ayiekoh destroyed Luo Union with a hattrick and Omondi punished Gor Mahia."
Ayiekoh ended that tournament with four goals and Omondi five.
That Cecafa could not have been better scheduled. It was in January and the Nations Cup in Ghana was in March. No wonder, KCC had 11 players at the finals in Ghana.
However, Nsereko was preferred in Ayiekoh's place at the finals, the latter starting only one game.
It is said that during the final against Ghana, then team manager Bidandi Ssali forgot Ayiekoh's passport at the team hotel, forcing the midfielder to miss the 2-0 defeat.
"Ayiekoh could have played a crucial role in that final, and who knows!" wondered Zziwa.
After the finals in Ghana, Ugandan sport took a nosedive because of the war that toppled Idi Amin.
A good number of Cranes players were arrested while others like Nasur, Ayiekoh, Otti and Denis Obua escaped to Kenya.
Otti was to later coach Kenya's Gor Mahia, signing on Ayiekoh and Nasur as players.
In 1982 Otti was sacked and Ayiekoh installed as coach-player.
Meanwhile, Villa chairman Patrick Kawooya had hired Otti in 1984 before Ayiekoh was invited back to the Jogoos a year later as an assistant coach.
The same year Otti was sacked and Ayiekoh took over as head coach but Villa won nothing, prompting the Blues to hire Polly Ouma.
With Ayiekoh as assistant, Villa won their first double in 1986, and Cecafa and league the following year. Villa then brought in Briton Hudson as Ouma's replacement in 1988, maintaining Ayiekoh as assistant.
The duo claimed Villa's second double that year and the next, adding the league title in 1990.
Before that, 1987 to be exact, Ayiekoh had been one of 10 local coaches including Tom Lwanga, Jimmy Kirunda and Jimmy Muguwa among others to undergo training in Germany.
Villa failed to win the local league in 1991, to the ire of Kawooya, but reached the finals of the Caf Champions League.
That did not help as Hudson was showed the exit and Ayiekoh took over reigns as head coach again.
Ayiekoh went on to win the 1992 league title and also reaching the Confederation Cup final.
He also won the 1995 league title. All the while, Ayiekoh also doubled as Cranes assistant coach between 1989 until 1996, when he quit both roles at national team and Villa.
Ayiekoh later had a stint as Kakira coach. He has been a sports officer at Kakira Sugar till his death.