Ibrahim ‘The British’ Dafala is one of the Ugandan players who featured in the first independence tournament that was held between 29th September to 18th October 1962. The son of the late Kadara Kenyi a butcher was inspired by the former Express FC forward Jimmy Sewava to concentrate on football although he tried volleyball at school.
Although he loved the beautiful game at an early age, Dafala could barely access a good ball but together with his peers would locally make craft balls from banana fibers. But from this makeshift round figure, he mastered the art of playing football that his solidity in the backline later attracted a Sudanese non-league side.
He later switched to Young Salumbey from his native Entebbe in the Chwa league in 1960. His talent attracted the interests of Joseph Jolly Joe Kiwanuka the founder of Express FC who through the club captain Robert Kiberu lured him to the Red Eagles.
Unlike today when footballers are signed for millions of Shillings, Dafala’s cost of commitment was a pair of soccer cleats.
He says he played the game largely out of love. In fact, he recalls that he would personally foot his transport bills to and from the training ground.
“I tell you we had the best talents compared to the present but we were not driven by money like the current players that is why we could settle in our clubs. I personally did not discuss money when Kiberu took me to Express FC, maybe my transfer and sign-on fees was the football boots that I received after being introduced at the club. I loved the sport from my heart and it is not only me, none of my teammates thought about money in any form because it was not even there. I could ride my father’s bicycle to go for training sessions at the club and it was the order of the day among all players,” Dafala told this website.
While at Express FC, Dafala’s leadership abilities saw him appointed skipper in 1965, a responsibility he held for nine years leading the Red Eagles as they broke the dominance of the likes of Simba FC, Coffee and Prisons FC winning the 1974 and 1975 Uganda super league titles.
With such talent, a national team summon for the defender was inevitable. In 1962, Dafala was given his first summon and he never looked back.
His arrival on the biggest stage coincided with the country’s independence and hence his name was scribbled in Uganda’s history books as one of the players who featured in the inaugural independence tournament as the hosts lost 4-1 to Ghana at the Nakivubo war memorial stadium.
He says the loss to the West Africans was never an issue, he was living a dream.
“I was overwhelmed by the national team call up. Everyone loved to be a member. As if that was not enough, I was summoned for the inaugural independence tournament in 1962. I felt so privileged and to be honest I did not feel the final loss to Ghana because to me being part of history was big enough. The status of the match was bigger than the results,” Dafala said.
Dafala played for 15 and eight solid years for Express FC and Uganda Cranes respectively in the traditional number five position and it is alleged that he ended his playing career with no single yellow card or marching orders in addition to not being substituted or starting on the bench.
What a super exceptional talent! But it’s unfortunate that his survival story after hanging his boots is not any different from most Ugandan football greats. With no solid source of income, the 85-year-old survives on handouts from friends, family, and well-wishers.
IBRAHIM DAFALA PROFILE
Date of birth; 2nd February 1935
Parents: Aminah and Kadara Kenyi
Club career: Sudanese team, Young Salumbey Football Team, Express F.C.
International career: Uganda Cranes 1962-1970.
Career achievements: 1974 and 1975 Uganda super league winner with Express FC
1962, 1963, 1968, 1969 and 1970 CECAFA (Gossage Cup) Winner Uganda cranes
Education: Chadwick Primary School, Ndejje Primary School, Kibuli Demonstration School, Mombasa Institute of Muslim Education
Academic employment Record: UTV Sound engineer, Peacock Paints Limited employee.
By Fredrick Kalyango.