Beach soccer in Uganda has made great strides over the years with a number of success stories registered. The growth of the game has seen a number of players show their adeptness to play and some have gone ahead to feature for the Uganda national beach soccer team (The Sand Cranes).
Suleiman Ochero who plies his trade with St. Lawrence University is the reigning beach soccer player of the year and www.fufa.co.ug caught up with him for one on one interview.
Below is excerpt;
Who is Suleiman Ochero?
My name is Suleiman Ochero, a down to earth person but at the same time very social. I have been a journeyman since childhood since my father is soldier so I can’t tell where is was born. I attended very many primary schools like Kasijjagirwa Army Primary school, Kotido Mixed Primary school, Lomukura Primary School. Then I joined Standard High School Zzana for my Secondary Education and Makerere University Business School for University.
Where did you pick the interest to play football?
As we all grow up playing, my dad was a footballer but unfortunately the day he took us to watch him for the fast time he got a knee injury that ended his playing times and then I was very young at around 7 years of age.
When did you start playing football?
Like I said earlier, I started playing at a tender age but I got serious with it in high school under coach Edward Kaziba who is currently at SC Villa. He saw my potential and took me to Villa Park in 2009 because he was my coach at Standard High school Zzana.
When did you start playing Beach Soccer?
We had a friendly game with some of my friends like Brian Nkuubi and Baker Lukooya and there was someone who was watching us (that is Devis Nono, the current coach at St. Lawrence University).
He sold to us the idea of starting a beach soccer team and were positive about it. So that is how I got into beach soccer in 2014 and surprisingly, we won the league in our debut season.
Do you have any achievements in beach soccer?
Yes, and quite a number of achievements including being crowned the best beach soccer player last year.
I have won the Uganda Beach Soccer Association League twice, won Muwanguzi Cup and I have also been able to play for the national team.
Talking about the Airtel FUFA Beach Soccer player accolade, how did you feel when you were announced the winner?
I was delighted definitely because I had had good performance, being the league MVP and top scorer and we also managed to win Muwanguzi Cup.
I indeed got satisfied that my efforts were appreciated. Like I said, the journey did not start yesterday. There have been many struggles along the way and the fact that I was previously nominated but did not win it, when I eventually got it, I felt happy.
Baker Lukooya and Brian Nkuubi were nominees in the first edition yet they were my teammates, this motivated me to work hard.
In 2018, I was the first runner-up but still I did not frown. Instead I went back to add on what was missing and indeed I returned back stronger last year.
What did you mean when you said that the Award will give your more sleepless nights?
I was simply meaning that I have to keep planning on how to keep at the top because I am the best Beach Soccer player currently.
Who is your role model in Beach Soccer?
For me, the ex-Portugal captain Madjer who retired after winning the last Beach Soccer World Cup in Paraguay for. He had good technique of shooting the ball either short or long range plus leadership skills. Then there are also Brazilian-born Portuguese twin brothers Leo and Bernado Martins.
I also have respect for Brazil’s Rodrigo and Gabrielle Igori of Italy
Can one play 11 football and Beach Soccer at the same time?
Yes, and no.
Yes- Here in Uganda beach soccer is not yet professional and it’s played once in a week and only for 30 minutes on a Sunday so it can’t affect the 11-aside program unless otherwise.
No- However, in other developed countries that have professional beach soccer clubs it isn’t possible for a player to feature for both.
Uganda is hosting AFCON Beach Soccer this year, how big an opportunity is it for you players
It’s a very big platform for us to play at such a stage. We have not played at AFCON before meaning we need to work hard and improve a lot because we shall be facing the best players from the rest of the African Continent.
In addition, it is an opportunity for us to show our abilities and attract attention from other clubs because there will be many scouts looking out for talented players.
Do you see any progress for beach soccer from the time you started and now?
There has been a lot of progress not only for players but even the game at large. When I started there was no national team but now look at where the game is. We have a beach soccer national team that is very competitive.
I take this opportunity to thank FUFA for the consorted efforts towards developing beach soccer and the chairman Deo Mutabazi for being at the forefront of the game.
What advice would you give to young boys & girls playing football?
They need to remain focused and always work hard. Sport is about determination and nowadays, talent alone is not enough but rather the time you invest.
Additionally, they should remain in school because it is important to attain education.