Uganda: Legendary Cranes Captain Kirunda Laid to Rest Amidst Teargas

It wasn't a befitting send-off for a football legend that Jimmy Kirunda was.

First, the Covid-19 social distancing restrictions made life unbearable for the hundreds that had thronged Mayirye-Bulesa in Wakiso District to see off the former Express, KCC, SC Villa and Uganda Cranes overlapping defensive stalwart.

Security was tight at the deceased's ancestral home and to contain the bulging crowds, it turned chaotic with teargas canisters being blown off to disperse the mourners.

Many of Kirunda's contemporaries and other prominent football personalities were stopped by police officers at Kiwenda town - about three kilometers from the Bulesa-Kyadondo burial grounds.

Buried two hours earlier

There was an abrupt change of program from the set 2pm burial time to midday which caught many off guard and caused ire.

"We had agreed with the area Resident District Commissioner (RDC) Rose Kirabira Nalongo to bury at 2pm but Police ordered us to do it earlier because of the prevailing conditions," Bony Kirunda, the deceased's son told Daily Monitor.

The few mourners that had stayed to see off Kirunda were also immediately dispersed by Police with teargas.

Some blamed Fufa for taking over the final function yet to them, the federation wasn't readily available when the late needed them.

"Our main duty was about burial arrangements. The security bit was handled by government," Fufa communications director Ahmed Hussein revealed.

Hussein added; "We delivered Fifa message to the bereaved family. "We are proud of the generation of 1978 team that didn't have self-entitlement. As a federation we are looking at a way to solve this scenario (football legends departing in a despondent state without aid) and soon we will work with institutions."

Grumbling voices

URA coach Sam Ssimbwa, who idolised Kirunda since they shared KCC roots, said he died a 'betrayed man'.

"Kirunda was the epitome of Ugandan football but he was betrayed by the game he served. I have bailed him many times. He deserved better," he stressed. Former Cranes skipper Andrew Mwesigwa was equally bitter.

"Fufa is our mother body as players but I have heard they had rejected him since Lawrence Mulindwa left. We play with all our energies hoping to be rewarded but that wasn't the case for the man I grew up admiring. He was a goal scoring defender and that is what I always strived to do," Mwesigwa remarked.

Fufa Competitions Director Aisha Nalule, who worked with Kirunda recalls him as a gentle, quite man.

"Fufa have tried their best but you can't do it all, Kirunda is irreplaceable both on the pitch and off it," she said.

To National Council of Sports (NCS) General Secretary Bernard Ogwel, Kirunda was incorruptible, not money-minded and one that let his achievements do the talking. A genius, born leader and winner, Kirunda's 70 years on earth were well lived.

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