ABEL DHAIRA : Remembering the life of former Cranes goalkeeper

SINAN RAJUB SENOGA

27th March 2020 marks four years since Uganda Cranes goalkeeper Abel Dhaira succumbed to abdominal cancer aged 28.

After battling with the deadly disease for about four months, Dhaira died on the Easter Sunday of 2016 at the National University Hospital in Reykjavik, Iceland.

He is gone but not forgotten and will always be remembered as one of the most talented glovesmen the Pearl of Africa has ever had.

The lanky shot stopper rose to prominence with Express FC in 2006 before helping them win their 10th Uganda Cup in 2007 saving two penalties against rivals KCC in the final at Nakivubo.

Born on September 9th 1987 in Walukuba, Jinja, Dhaira was a son to Harriet Nakijoba and former Cranes and KCC goalkeeper Bright Dhaira. He was the third born in a family with five offsprings with the youngest being Eric, who is currently at Katwe United but had stints at BUL, Soana, Maroons FC and in Iceland.

Dhaira joined URA FC in 2008 from where he won the 2009 Uganda Premier League before transferring to Congolese side AS Vita in a deal worth $22,000 (Sh42m).

He transferred to IBV Vestmannaeyjar in Iceland where he played in his first stint between 2011-12 and later returned to Africa to join Tanzania’s Simba SC briefly.

Dhaira at IBV

In 2014, the 6 ft 6 in goalkeeper returned to Europe for his second stint at the Icelandic Premier League club before he breathed his last on this day in 2016.

He was a God fearing man, an achiever, a penalty saver and above all possessed a lion heart in between the sticks. Dhaira made his national team debut in 2009 and went on to win three CECAFA Senior Challenge Cups in 2009, 2011 and 2012.

Dhaira jumps highest

Dhaira’s last ever appearance in the national team colours was in 2013 when he captained Uganda Cranes in a 3-0 defeat to Libya in an international friendly game in Tripoli on 1st June. In fact, that was Uganda’s first ever game under Milutin Sredojevic Micho.

During his first stint with IBV, Dhaira not only became the first ever Ugandan goalkeeper to play in Europe but also in the UEFA Europa League. He made three appearances at the preliminary round stages of the Europa League in 2011 and 2012 all of which came against Ireland’s St. Patrick’s Athletic.

He won 13 appearances in the Cranes jersey and played 72 games for IBV Vestmannaeyjar helping them beat the drop in 2015.

Dhaira played 72 games for IBV

His Death
Towards the end of 2015, Dhaira had abdominal complications, he was hospitalized at Nsambya and later taken back to Iceland from where it was discovered that he was diagnosed with cancer.

He unfortunately lost the battle to cancer on the same day his contract with IBV Vestmannaeyjar was coming to an end.

His body was flown back to Uganda on April 1st courtesy of President Museveni who contributed Sh50.5m for his transportation from Iceland.

Bright Dhaira with Abel’s former coach during Abel’s burial (Fufa Media)

On April 6th, Dhaira was finally laid to rest in his eternal home at Buyaga Village in Kigandalo subcounty in Mayuge District.

RIP Abel Dhaira!

FACT FILE
Name : Abel Dhaira
Height : 1.98 m (6 ft 6 in)
Playing Position : Goalkeeper
Date of Birth : 9th September 1987
Place of Birth : Walukuba, Jinja District
Date of Death : 27th March 2016 (Aged 28)
Place of Death : National University Hospital, Reykjavik, Iceland
Burial : 6th April 2016 at Buyaga Village, Kigandalo Subcounty (Mayuge District)
Parents: Bright Dhaira and Mrs. Nakijoba Harriet Dhaira
Siblings : Janet Mbakire, Abraham, Musa and Eric Dhaira

Education :
1994-1999 : Narambhai Road Primary School (P.1-P.6)
2000 : Walukuba East Primary School (P.7)
2001-2006 : Jinja SS (S.1-S.6)

Football Career
Jinja Redstars Soccer Academy
Mbale Industry FC (2005)
Express FC (2006-08)
URA FC (2008-09)
AS Vita – DR. Congo (2010-11)
IBV Vestmannaeyjar – Iceland (2011-12)
Simba SC – Tanzania (2013-14)
IBV Vestmannaeyjar – Iceland (2014-16)

National Team The Cranes – (2009-13) 13 Appearances

Awards and Honours:
3 CECAFA Challenge Cups (2009, 2011, 2012)
1 Uganda Cup with Express FC (2007)
1 Uganda Premier League with URA (2009)
Best Player of the 2008 season in Uganda
First Ugandan goalkeeper to play in Europe and the UEFA Europa League

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