Thursday June 14 2018

Sulaiman Mutyaba: From the streets to football stardom

Sulaiman Mutyaba built his home in Ggaba,

Sulaiman Mutyaba built his home in Ggaba, Kampala, using some of his payment from TP Mazembe. Photo by Ismael Kezaala 

By George Katongole

Sulaiman Mutyaba is rated with the likes of Ibrahim Sekagya, Andy Mwesigwa and David Obua, among the players in Uganda that have raked riches from their football careers. He is a frugal real estate entrepreneur who owns a string of properties around the country.
He suffered career threatening injuries twice with the latest (a knee injury) coming on December 3, 2016 while playing for Express FC against Sadolin Paints in the Ugandan league. It forced him to announce retirement.

But his love for football kept him going and found him resorting to futsal, a 5-aside indoor version of football, with business partners at Dream Team, for fun. He has secured some of the biggest deals by Ugandan standards, once bagging $600,000 (about Shs2.3b) to join DR Congo’s TP Mazembe. After two years on the sidelines, he is dreaming of playing for the Uganda Cranes again. He sealed a one-year renewable deal with KCCA FC who have included him in their CAF Champions League roster. The league will start on July 17.
Faced with a situation likened to one being between the devil and the deep blue sea, he had opted to quit football at 26, the time most players are hitting their peak.

Childhood
Born Mike Mutyaba to the late Robert Serunjogi and Josephine Nakkazi of Kirumba Katwe in Masaka in 1991, Mutyaba began playing for Masaka Baptist Primary School’s team in Primary Three. Unfortunately, his father died while he was in Primary Four. The death dealt his mother a heavy blow as they were living in a rented house. She developed a severe mental disorder which forced Mutyaba to briefly stay with his uncle Obadiah Kiwanuka, from where he escaped to start living on the streets of Masaka.

The journey to the city
While football was the vessel, the Kampala Kids League (KKL) was the compass. He was included in the team to play in Kampala and the rest, as they say, is history. He emerged the tournament Most Valuable Player (MVP) attracting the attention of Eddie Butindo, a renowned youth coach and lecturer at Kyambogo University, who took him in and secured him a place at Sir Apollo Kaggwa Primary School. While staying in Kyambogo, Mutyaba faced some challenges at home and ended up once again on the streets in Kampala.

It was here that he landed into the hands of Coach Ronald Ssali who took him to his Wankulukuku home. The coach started paying for his education and Mutyaba managed to complete his Primary Seven at Sir Apollo Kaggwa Primary School before joining Standard High School in Zzana. It was during this time in 2005 that his mother passed on. “Sensing my siblings were in danger, I brought Phionah Nakitende and Geoffrey Ndugwa who were by then four and six years old respectively, to stay with me at school. I asked for help from the school matron who agreed to take care of them,” he says adding, “To make ends meet, I gambled on penalty taking with the winner taking Shs100. I also made friends with his wife, Janat Namukwaya, whose family oftentimes offered assistance.”

Turning point
His breakthrough came during the school games in Wakiso District during the post primary games where St Mary’s Kitende spotted him and the school director Lawrence Mulindwa offered him Shs500,000 that he used to rent a room in Nyanama along Entebbe Road. He did not live here for long as he rejoined Butindo on a European trip for the Gothia and Tivoli Cup that took place in Norway, Sweden and Denmark where he scored 36 goals.
During this trip, Patrick Gwayambadde, a friend, invited him to the United Kingdom (UK) and advised him to join Yeovil Town football club that gave him £300 (about Shs1.5m) weekly as a minor. Because of his skill, he attracted the attention of Fulham, an English top side by then but since he had stayed in the UK illegally, his cover was blown.
Because Fulham were eager to sign him, the club arranged for his return to Uganda and formalise his stay but he was instead, slapped with a five-year travel ban. He returned to Uganda and joined St Mary’s Kitende for his Senior Four exams and resumed playing for Bunamwaya.

Mixed fortunes
When Bunamwaya won their first league trophy in 2010 and played in the Kagame Cup, his skills caught the eye of journalist Abdel Bagi Sheikh Edris who arranged a move to Sudanese giants Al-Merreikh. The deal was the biggest in Uganda at the time as he bagged $80,000 (about Shs303.5m). He used the money to buy his first car while Mulindwa advised him to invest the rest in real estate.
But disaster soon struck. A man, he identifies as Junior of Buikwe, had asked for a $10,000 (about Shs37.9m) share for his intermediary role. Mutyaba had taken it so lightly that he had not talked to Junior for the duration of the negotiations. But Junior’s magical wand was monitoring the deal.

“I started feeling pain in my groin whenever I stepped onto the pitch. Sometimes my legs would become heavy that I could not pass the ball,” he narrates. The continuing illness resulted in limited playing time and he was offered $20,000 (about Shs75.9m) by Al-Merreikh to end the contract.
He returned like a beaten man to Vipers. This is when Junior resurfaced with his demand to ‘let him play again’. Mulindwa paid the money although Mutyaba refused to engage in the cleansing rituals. Soon after, TP Mazembe of DR Congo approached with a $600,000 (about Shs2.3b) offer. He used the money to buy several properties and started building a house in Ggaba, Kampala. He played for Vipers in 2015 until he was ‘loaned’ to Express FC where he announced his retirement in December 2016.

From Mike to Sulaiman
In 2010, while playing for the Cranes, Mutyaba says he was inspired by his roommate Habib Kavuma’s ethics and lifestyle which led him to give Shahada - the declaration of belief - saying: “No God but Allah, Muhammad is his messenger.” He was so excited about his conversion and fellow Muslim friends, especially Mujib Kasule, the proprietor of Proline Film Academy, enlightened him about the main pillars of Islam and faith. He changed his name from Mike to Sulaiman which means “man of peace”.
In order to bolster his business ventures, Mutyaba expanded his portfolio into selling women’s handbags, a business he established in Kikuubo, downtown Kampala, with his wife as the main caretaker. Mutyaba says he now imports directly from China.

Comeback
Although many were baffled by his decision to join of KCCA FC instead of Vipers recently, he says he made the decision after learning that Viper’s coach then Abdallah Mubiru had dismissed him by giving away his number 10 shirt to new signing Brian Kakaire in 2016. Mutyaba is married to Janat Namukwaya and together they have three children.

Clubs he has played for
2008-2012: Bunamwaya
2012: Al- Merreikh
2013: Vipers
2013-14: TP Mazembe
2014-2016: Vipers
2016-2017: Express

What some club paid

Al- Merreikh- $80,000 (about Shs303.5m)

Yeovil Town- £300 (about Shs1.5m)

TP Mazembe- $600,000 (about Shs2.3b)

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