In Uganda it is almost impossible to become a billionaire, not least when you are just under 20 years.
But one man has so far defied the odds, joining the billionaire club at just 19, after he signed one of the biggest transfer figures in Ugandan football history: US$400,000 to join Standard Liege, a top flight team in Belgium.
Slightly over four years ago Farouk Miya was struggling, like any other Ugandan student grappling with high school studies. Two years later, he probably did not have enough money to cater for his day-to-day needs as a second year student at Kyambogo University. But one thing stood out for him: he was determined to change his life. He took to football, playing for Sports Club (SC) Vipers, where he made a mark as a reliable striker, catching the eyes of the football technical bench of the Uganda senior team, The Cranes. The rest, as they say, is history!
And last year the player, commonly referred to as ‘Muyizzi Tasubwa’, loosely translated as ‘a hunter who never misses his target animal’, was called up for debut national duty, representing Uganda at the U23 tournament at the All Africa Games in Congo Brazzaville.
Billionaire footballer ‘Muyizzi Tasubwa’ has so far scored 12 goals in his international appearances, including one away goal in a friendly match against the dreaded Super Eagles of Nigeria at the Akwa Ibom Stadium, Iyo.
And, during the Africa Nations Championship qualification matches played against Tanzania and Sudan, as Cranes Captain Miya never disappointed, scoring at least a goal in every match. The highly-talented player also scored 3 goals in two matches against Togo in the 2018 Fifa World Cup qualifications, and has also been instrumental in wins against Ethiopia, Zanzibar, Rwanda and Malawi.
Not surprising therefore, that Standard Liege came calling, in the process making him join the envable ranks of Ugandan footballers who have made it on the global stage.
Over the years so many Ugandans have played professional or semi-professional football and among the first were Tom Lwanga and Hassan Biruma, who played semi-professional football in the Middle East in the 1980s. Then came the ‘Tier 2’ players that included stylist Jackson Mayanja aka Mia Mia, who played for Egyptian top flight team El Masry, and the prolific Majid Musisi, the first Ugandan to play professional football in any European league after he signed for French club Stade Rennes at US$180,000, then a record signing for any Ugandan player. In 1997 Musisi moved to Turkish side Bursaspor for US$ 1 million, making him also the most expensive player in Ugandan history. A four-time league top scorer and two-time Footballer of the Year awardee, Musisi died in December 2005 aged 38.
Then in ‘Tier 3’ there are the likes of David Obua, Dennis Masinde Onyango, Ibrahim Sekagya and Emmanuel Okwi.
About four years ago Obua, who plied his professional trade in Europe with Hearts of Oak in the Scottish league, was able to put up a two-storey mansion in Uganda valued at US$500,000, a huge amount by any standards. Obua has since gone into oblivion, only to resurface last week with news that he is enrolling for a Trainers’ course.
However, his colleague and former Cranes long-serving Captain Sekagya so far seems the most successful billionaire footballer Uganda has ever produced. He cut his international footballing career with an Argentine team, and later moved to Austria where he played as Centre Back with top rate Bundesliga club, Red Bulls Salzburg. Sekagya then moved to the US in 2013, where he played for the Red Bulls team of the Major League Soccer (MLS) in New York. Sekagya retired from football in February last year and was taken on as a Trainer at the Red Bulls team where he earns a salary of about US$129. 999, making him one of the highest paid Ugandans currently living anywhere in the world.
Sekagya, whose love for expensive rides among is almost unrivalled, has driven cars like the Range Rover Vogue, Audi S6 and Audi T7, both estimated at US$160,000, and has reportedly invested in real estate in Austria and at home.
Another billionaire Ugandan footballer, goalkeeping ace Onyango plies his trade with Mamelodi Sundowners of South Africa, a team he joined in 2011. Born in 1985, the towering 1.85 metres goalie has a running contract with his club, estimated at over US1 million and runs up to 2018.
Then there is temperamental player Emmanuel Okwi, who started his playing career in 2009. The 23-year old Okwi, who played for home teamsSports Club (SC) Villa and Simba, currently plies his trade with Sønderjysk Elitesport in Denmark, where he moved in 2015.
Before the move to Denmark Okwi had played professional football for a number of African clubs including Tunisian club Etoile du Sahel where he moved for a record fee of US$300,000, but he later abandoned the club acrimoniously and moved to Young Africans (Yanga) of Tanzania.
Other players who have previously made it to the US and other European top leagues where they earned in dollars include Charles Livingstone Mbabazi at St Patrick’s Athletic Club in Ireland, Augustine Nsumba with IBV in Iceland, Martin Kayongo Ssebuliba in Sweden; Alex Kakuba at Estoril Praia in Primeira Liga of Portugal where he moved in 2014 and Henry Kalungi, who plays for Charlotte Independence in the US; Mike Sserumaga at Helsingborgs in Sweden; Hassan Mawanda at Kardemir Demir Çelik Karabükspor and Suat Altın İnşaat Kayseri Erciyesspor in Turkey.