Virtually every Ugandan has an awesome memory of Abel Dhaira, Uganda’s renowned footballer who made his mark on the field as a goalkeeper.
Born on September 9, 1987, in Walukuba village, Jinja. Abel was the famous son of Nakijoba Harriet and Bright Dhaira, an ex-Cranes goalkeeper who rose to prominence in Uganda (majorly) as a result of his skills and tactics in football.
Bright’s son, Abel was the third of five siblings. He began showing a strong passion for goalkeeping at a very early age. While he was in his elementary and secondary school, he was well known by peers and classmates for his matchless goalkeeping talent.
Abel was blubbing with life, making the best out of every football competition and making his mark in his club until March 27, 2016, when tragedy struck, leaving the Dhaira’s family devastated and saddened. On that fateful day, rivers of tears flew down from people’s eyes (both in Uganda and Iceland) not because Abel lost a match or got injured. No! Abel Dhaira died! Uganda’s finest goalkeeper finally lost his battle with cancer.
Abel Dhaira’s Biography
As mentioned earlier, Abel Dhaira was born to Bright Dhaira and Harriet Nakijoba on September 9, 1987, in Walukuba village, Jinja, a town in southern Uganda.
He was a brother to one sister (Janet Dhaira) and three brothers Abraham Dhaira, Eric Dhaira and Musa Dhaira. He had his elementary school education at Narambai Primary School, situated in Jinja, and Walukuba East Primary School, from where he proceeded to Jinja Secondary School to further his education.
Born into a football family, it wasn’t long before Abel was discovered by Ugandans in Walukuba, an area where his father and many other football stars, including Geoffrey Massa, Andy Mwesigwa, Simeon Masaba, were also all discovered.
Abel began his football career at Walukuba Football Club in Jinja, from where he joined Express, then to Uganda Revenue Authority (URA), a Kampala-based football team; Association Sportive (AS) Vita Club, a Congolese football club based in Kinshasa; þróttabandalag Vestmannaeyja (ÍBV), an Icelandic sports club; Simba Sports Club, a Tanzanian football club based in Dar es Salaam; and back to ÍBV.
He made his debut for the Ugandan national team (nicknamed The Cranes) in 2009 and went on to play with them four years after his first appearance with the national team.
This Ugandan former international star last played for his club (ÍBV) in October 2015 due to health challenges. It was at this point that his football career started dwindling due to his inconsistency on the field and his on-and-off visits to the hospital. But before this time, he was a penalty-saver, a goalkeeper who knew where his goalposts were more than anything else.
Abel Dhaira’s Cause of Death, Funeral
It was on 27 March 2016 that news broke out that the international football star has died at his base in Iceland at a young age of 28. This was after he was diagnosed with abdominal cancer in Iceland.
Dhaira’s health had deteriorated in January 2016, leading to his hospitalization at the Nsambya Hospital in Kampala. He later returned to his base in Iceland where he was reportedly booked for further treatment.
The 6ft 6 inches goalkeeper, however, didn’t make it, as he died on Easter Sunday, leaving Uganda and his family in unbearable pains. Worst of all, Abel’s death cost the Dhaira’s family the life of his grandmother, who died immediately after she learned that her grandchild has passed away.
The remains of Ugandan shot-stopper Abel Dhaira was laid to rest on Wednesday 6th April 2016. His body was flown down to Uganda from Iceland on April 1, 2016, after the Ugandan government offered to transport his body back home.
The high-profile public funeral was marked by several solemn activities like church services, public viewing of Abel’s body, from Monday, April 4 (a day after his casket arrived at Entebbe International Airport, Uganda and was handed over to A Plus Funeral Management Services) to the funeral day.
Several people were said to have solicited for money on behalf of his family to help give him a befitting burial.
Major Successes and Achievements
Yes, Dhaira died at a very young age but his legacy lives on. In the very short time he lived, he changed so many games on the field. He brought joy to the Ugandan football national team and helped the team in winning over two football competitions.
In 2007, he won the Kakungulu Cup (Uganda Cup) with Express, saving two spot kicks in the 4-2 final shootout victory over the then Kampala Capital City Authority Football Club.
Abel also won the CECAFA Cup, a FIFA competition which includes national teams from the Council for East and Central Africa Football Associations (CECAFA), with the Ugandan national team in 2009, 2011 and 2012. He made his last appearance at the national team in 2013 but was hoping to make a come back. Sadly, it will never happen again.
A Pastor who spoke after Abel Dhaira’s death admitted that he had hoped that the gigantic footballer’s case will be a success story like former Super Eagles of Nigeria’s player Kanu Nwankwo’s victory over his heart problem. But as fate would have it, Abel permanently ended his soccer and lifetime career.
Meanwhile, Abel’s younger brother, Musa Dhaira is currently replicating the successes his father and fallen brother had recorded as goalkeepers. He recently secured a place with Iceland-based IBV Vestmannaeyjar after signing a five-year contract with the club.
Rest in peace Abel Dhaira!