KAMPALA. Numerous efforts had been tried by family and friends to convince former Uganda Cranes goalkeeper Sadiq Wassa to stop abusing alcohol.
The habit was a concern to everyone. Newspapers wrote about it and everyone persuaded him to stop but he did not.
Wassa, Charles Temaligwe and the late Friday Senyonjo always formed the best reference whenever anyone wanted to lecture young people about a group of former football stars wasted by alcohol abuse.
Until today, the death of Senyonjo, the former Express, SC Villa and Uganda Cranes midfielder is attached to irresponsible use of alcohol. There is no doubt that many people thought Wassa would lose his life in the same manner.
Like the late Senyonjo, heavy boozing was a way of life for the towering former Uganda Cranes goalkeeper. He confesses that it even made him lose appetite for food which caused him to drastically lose weight.
But one day without anyone forcing him Wassa made a solemn decision to stop boozing.
“I always told people that no one charmed me into start boozing and no one would charm me to stop” stated the former KCC shot stopper.
When asked about how he came to abandon the habit, Wassa was quick to tell the story.
“On August 3, 2008, after coaching the Wazee team at Legends Rugby Club, I walked to the taxi stage on Jinja Road to board back home in Ntinda.
However, a heavy truck passed by at speed and the forceful wind it left behind blew me into a nearby trench,” Wassa recalled.
He was helped out of the trench and put on a Bodaboda (motorcycle) which took him to his home. Wassa, for clarity, had not yet had his daily drink that day but had collected enough money from his clients at Legends to fund his alcohol needs for the evening.
“When I reached home, I found my wife washing clothes but passed by her and went to bed. She asked what had happened because it was unusual for me to return home early and with dirty clothes. On that bed thoughts were ringing through my mind, and I sensed death catching up with me.
I quickly made the decision never to touch alcohol again” he explains.
But he kept quiet about what had happened until after some time when he opened up to his wife.
He says his colleagues thought he was joking that anytime he would go back to join them in the bar but Wassa maintains his determination never to turn back.
For ten years now Wassa has not touched any form of alcohol. He celebrates August 3, every year in memory of the big decision he took. Unfortunately this year he did not celebrate the day because he was broke.
His alcoholism tormented him into poverty. Wassa does not exactly remember when he started drinking but he says he drunk for as long as he was he lived until the day he stopped. His drinking problem intensified when he joined Nile FC from SCOUL FC in Lugazi.
“There was always a beer can at our disposal at Nile. We would take cups and tap as much beer as we could consume every after training.” he adds Wassa says he returned home in Lugazi a drunk man every day after training at Nile Breweries in Njeru. Every day he carried more than ten bottles with him to Lugazi.
For two years he never paid transport from Njeru to Lugazi but paid his transport fares with beer bottles. Many of the taxi drivers on the Kampala-Jinja highway knew him and sometimes fought over giving him a lift.
When he moved on from Nile to KCC, Wassa did not leave his habit behind
“I remember the night we went to Obligato for Afrigo, where we spent the whole night dancing with coach Peter Wandyete. From there we walked straight to the training ground at Lugogo.
The coach made us run 25 laps with some young boys who had spent the night in their house sleeping.”
Wassa says when the coach insisted on forcing him to chase the sober players in the race he protested out of the training and sat on the sides.
He then picked up a sugar cane to quench his hangover. Veteran sports photojournalist Mpalanyi Sentongo took a photo of him chewing the cane which he says was re-used in the papers for so many times.
He says his friends always made fun of him that he moved from Lugazi where he survived on sugarcanes to Kampala to continue surviving sugarcanes.
The photograph tormented him more than the actual incident that prompted him to walk out of the training session.
Wassa regrets that he drunk all the proceeds of his youthful days. As he retired from football in 1996, he only had an unfinished house in Lugazi to his name.
Unfortunately he was duped by his sister into selling it to buy a bigger piece of land elsewhere.
He says his sister used money to bail her husband who was behind bars in Kigo prison.
He bought the plot from the 1989 Cecafa Challenge cup winning bonus government gave him “Each member of the team was given Shs500,000 and I used Shs200,000 to buy that plot”
The former Uganda Cranes number one currently rents and he is unemployed after resigning at URA due to what he says intrigue.
He survives on handouts from friends and some little money he gets from coaching the Parliamentary football team.