To most Ugandan journalists he was a complete departure from his predecessor Micho Sredojevic.
Where the Serbian was a call or text or tweet away, you had to go through set parameters to reach the clear-eyed Frenchman.
And even then, there were no guarantee that Desabre Sebastien Serge Louis, Cranes coach until July 6 when Fufa announced the two had mutually ended their contract, would give you what you wanted.
He must have been briefed on guarding his word against any other on arrival in December 2017 if he were to successfully fit into Micho’s shoes, who had just guided Uganda to their first Africa Cup of Nations in four decades, but - as we have come to know - this was simply his personality.
“If you want to speak to me about the team,” he would tell journalists, “You’ve got to go through the media officer Ahmed Hussein.” And that had to be outside of Cranes camp periods, especially if you wanted him for a big exclusive interview or to be on TV.
“After the camp and the match,” he would say, “You could get clearance from the media officer and I’ll talk.”
Minded his business
The 42-year-old hardly engaged in social media conversations, apart from - once in a blue moon - tweeting something from his website or a picture of himself or his players enjoying a moment.
You would never arrest Desabre in petty talks or situations. Almost everything he did was structured, and all that mattered was execution of his job to the letter.
He was also a man of his word. For example, he once found himself in a situation at the start of the Kabira Country Club camp before the team departed for a three-week camp in Abu Dhabi.
He had called players that his technical team had watched and approved, one of them being Brian Majwega - then at Maroons.
Unknown to him, Majwega was a blacklisted man in Fufa’s books because a couple of years back, the player had reportedly written to State House inquiring about bonus money for one of the qualification campaigns. His action had irked Fufa. And it was not until Desabre had summoned the left winger in his provisional squad that Fufa arrested the ‘error’, rather late.
“I wanted the player but I was informed by the federation that he had a disciplinary case which was committed before I came,” said Desabre.
At Fufa, at local league games, at Cranes residential and non-residential camps; he came, did his work and drove off. No side shows. Yet he still offered a smile or warmed up to your greeting when you approached him - until you wanted to discuss work.
“He is very professional,” Ahmed Hussein, the Fufa head of communications, would tell this reporter, “He wants everything he says to be conveyed through official channels. Outside of that the best he can do is send an email. But he is a very good man.”
He never shied away from declaring his style of play. But is also smart enough to judge situations.
“Each coach has his style but may adjust accordingly depending on the situation or opponent,” he said on arrival late 2017.
“Personally I believe in the offensive style of play but in football it is very important to remain compact and to have defensive discipline as you play your fancy football.
“But this depends on the atmosphere of play, game, type of players, their level of skills, technical abilities among other things. All in all I like winning with style.”
That last point, there, regarding knowing when to do what was employed by the Frenchman to some satisfaction.
His start was hardly the desired one, looking on just as an overseer as Uganda picked just a point at Morocco Chan 2018.
Desabre did not win a competitive game until Lesotho at Namboole mid-2018 following a tense home goalless draw with Tanzania, which left nationals questioning the Frenchman’s “offensive play” even the more.
His best team display that brought out a glimpse of what he preached was the 2-0 away victory over Lesotho to set the stage for Patrick Kaddu’s winner over Cape Verde in Kampala as Uganda qualified for the 2019 Nations Cup with a game to spare.
But it was in Cairo that even the most scathing doubting Thomases agreed the man’s style had finally come through.
The Cranes dispatched fancied DRC 2-0 like they had been going to the Nations Cup finals for the last 41 years, Faruku Miya’s expert dead balls clinically headed in by Kaddu and Emmanuel Okwi. The 1-1 draw with Zimbabwe was not the most pleasing to the eye but it was enough to land Uganda their first knockout slot since 1978, the 2-0 final group game defeat to hosts Egypt notwithstanding.
In Egypt Desabre proved an adaptive and tactically astute manager, who could indeed set out the game according to situations and one who is also able to tweak the match during the match. Uganda was on the lips of almost every Egyptian fan and local and foreign journalists, who praised the approach and play.
And this had to come at a cost for Uganda. Desabre was not going to survive this interest, and indeed Pyramids FC, one of Egypt’s powerful top flight clubs, unveiled the man three days after the Cranes succumbed to Senegal in the last 16, as their new coach.
At 42, this will have been a good continued trajectory in the Frenchman’s career growth. And at a reported monthly salary of $90,000 (we have not been able to verify this figure), four times better than he was getting at Cranes, who can fault the curly-haired, grey bearded smiling man?
Full name: Sébastien Serge Louis Desabre
Date of birth: August 2, 1976 (age 42)
Place of birth: Valence, France
2006–2010: ES Le Cannet-Rocheville
2010–2012: ASEC Mimosas
2012–2013: Coton Sport
2015: Recreativo do Libolo
2015–2016: Dubai CSC
2016: JS Saoura
2016–2017: Wydad AC
2019– Pyramids FC