By Brian Bariyo Tumuramye
For a longer duration of twenty-one years, yes, read in bold 21; Aisha Nabikko Ssemambo served the beautiful game with all due diligence, commitment, passion, determination, energy and unrivaled enthusiasm.
What a career this retired Federation of International Football Association (FIFA) Referee had!
A former bicycle rider, netball player and footballer in her hey active youth days, Ssemambo has no regrets whatsoever having ascended the ladder from a humble beginning; the epitome of her career was donning the treasured FIFA Badge, which she first wore in 2006.
Following 12 years of great service as a FIFA Referee, she eventually bowed down with her last game in the Uganda Premier League on 28th December 2018 when Paidha Angels hosted Maroons at the Green Light Stadium, Arua, after the game, a final lap of honour, normally conducted in the company of fellow referees and assistants was executed.
As a bouncing toddler from Hajji Ssalongo Sulait Ssemambo (RIP) and Nalongo Hadijah Nagadya, Ssemambo came to life in 1975 in Bamusuuta village, Ndesse, Nakifuma county in Mukono district.
In her youthful days, Ssemambo’s sporting genes were manifested through the various activities she was engaged in as cycling, athletics, volleyball, netball and her true calling – football.
In fact, one of Ssemambo’s former teammates at Lugazi United, Irene Namubiru also served as a FIFA Referee.
Ssemambo went to Lugazi SS (now Mehta SS) where she got involved in a number of sporting activities.
In May 1998, the late Asaph Katende discovered her potential and advised her to join football refereeing, an idea she embraced with love and passion and immediately went for the course which by then was organized by Fredrick Balenzi, a teacher at Bishop Senior School.
Her passion for refereeing was top-notch to the extent she could handle training sessions the entire day and after five years of understudy, in 2001 she officiated her first league match between Kasana Nakibano and Mayangayanga FC in Mukono District Football Association.
Ssemambo became FIFA referee in 2006 and in her career, Ssemambo never failed a physical fitness test, was a no-nonsense and could not allow any kind of bribery.
Ssemambo’s experience has helped her raise the current FIFA Referees as Jane Mutonyi, Habiba Naigaga (she envisages Naigaga as the best upcoming referee), Nasser Muhammad Kirya, Brianson Musisi, Davies Wanyama, Amina Ndagire and two of her daughters.
Retired FIFA Referee Charles Masembe was her best referee and role model. Ssemambo also showers special praise to Mzei Edrisa Kiwanuka for his consistent counsel and constant teachings that helped her become a better referee.
In a special way, she sings praise to Samuel Kayondo (Retired FIFA Referee), Diana Mukasa (Retired FIFA Referee) and Rahman Kizito.
She is happily married to CAF C coach holder Luzinda Muwadda with whom they have two boys and two girls. Muwadda is the owner of Kitega FC and currently the head coach.
She noted that “When I was handling my first international game, I was a bit nervous but since I had been handling games for men before, it was not a hard task for me; thank God for my hard work, determination, commitment and help from family and friends, I went through it unfazed.”
“Upcoming and young referees should not be rushed into thick action, they should be given time to learn from their seniors and above all avoid bribes that may tarnish their career and female referees are so unfortunate of recent. The time of pregnancy is never catered for and the moment you go in for labour that may be the end of your career. I believe we have proved that ladies can also make good referees as I retire, my humble request to the authorities in the game is to continue motivating and guiding more women to join the beautiful game”, Semambo cautioned.