Ex-Proline FC midfielder Isaac Imam Bumbuli scored two second half goals [including a penalty] to level matters for Team Red after Shafik Ssebuuma’s brace had given Blue a 2-0 halftime lead.
After a controversial penalty shootout, Team Blue won the all-amputees match organized by Malengo Foundation at Entebbe Oval on Sunday.
But Bumbuli, once a promising footballer before a gunshot shattered his dreams, felt the purpose of the inclusive soccer gala, which preceded the celebrations of the International Day of Peoples with Disabilities, was well served. In other matches amputees mixed with fully-limbed players.
“There are many children with a disability like mine or even worse and they are being hidden from the public…so when I play here I’m telling that child’s parent or caretaker that ‘your child can do something…bring them out’.”
In that fateful scuffle in 2013, a policeman shot at Bumbuli’s left leg leading to its amputation. That also altered his football journey that had taken him to Carrignton, Manchester United’s training ground, where he met his idol Patrice Evra in 2009. In 2013, a move to Malaysia, for semi-professional football, was in the final touches. But as an amputee, meeting Everton legend Steve Johnson had given him a second chance, as the face of amputee soccer.
“Amputee soccer has given me more chances that I think I couldn’t get before,” he said. But again, that chance was fluffed, when he spent two years in Luzira for manslaughter in 2014 after he knocked two people dead and left four injured.
So where does he imagine himself in Ugandan football had tragedy not happened? “I always tell my friends that half of the national team that played in the Afcon campaigns Geoffrey Walusimbi, Emma Okwi were my colleagues, we played together. So I think I would be where they are or maybe much better than them.”
Baker Mbowa, Bumbuli’s former Proline academy coach agrees: “He was very talented, even more than some of his colleagues. I think he would be in the national team, now.”
His only weakness, Mbowa added, was not his belief that he was the best, but his happy-go-lucky lifestyle.
So is soccer on crutches any consolation? “Yeah I can now wear a smile that I didn’t when this had just happened to me,” Bumbuli said. “You wake up one morning when your mom is dead, your dad is dead but life has to go on…this is just a leg gone, you can’t do much about it, you have to stand up and move again. That’s life.”
Next year Bumbuli and teammates can play at the African Cup in Angola.
Former club: Proline FC
Current club: Kampala Amputee Stars
Next mission: playing at 2019 Amputees African Cup