Living and thriving in North Africa hasn’t always been comfortable for many Ugandan professional footballers.
Over the course of the last two years, there has been an influx of Ugandans playing in North Africa particularly Egypt and Morocco.
From Jackson Mayanja at El Masry (Egypt) in 1992 for a then reported $30000 and later at Esperance (Tunisia) in 1995 to Geoffrey Massa at Al Masry and El Shams, Ugandans’ presence has been most welcome - only that they don’t last long.
Those two former Cranes players, in particular, set a precedence in Egypt that needs to act as guiding script to Khalid Aucho (Misr Makkasa), Abdu Lumala (Pyramids),
Emmanuel Okwi (Ittihad Alexandria), Tadeo Lwanga (Tanta) and Allan Kyambadde (El Gouna) that have just boarded ship.
So it begs the question of why some Cranes stars such as Okwi (at Tunisia side Étoile du Sahel in 2013), Hassan Wasswa (El Gaish last year) and Muhammad Shaban (Raja Casablanca till lately), haven’t gone past the first years of their contracts.
Many reasons have been fronted; from struggling with the Arabic and French languages, scorching temperatures, cultural issues, peculiar diet but it seems those are no longer an excuse if we are to read from Derrick Nsibambi (Smouha, Egypt) and Milton Karisa (MC Oujda ,Morocco) developing scripts.
According to player agent Ronnie Santos Mwine, who was behind Shaban’s shot lived stint in Morocco, a catalogue of issues connive to fail these players.
“First, most clubs in North Africa are deceitful when it comes to signing our players; they pay 25 per cent of the transfer fee and rarely come good on sign on fee. Secondly, they expect black players to have defensive abilities and end up playing them out of position like it is with Nsibambi now,” he revealed.
To Mwine, few Ugandan players can rise above the traces of racism in some of these leagues and it hurts him that most players still suffer from missing out on academy basics.
“These clubs have high expectations when they buy a player but surprisingly most Ugandan players don’t want to work hard, are impatient, take soccer as leisure and pride in playing for the national team,” he reasoned.
“Of all that we have just sent to Egypt after the Afcon fever, I believe Lumala may last longer because of the coach (former Cranes tactician Sebastien Desabre), Aucho because he is a workaholic, Kyambadde because he has the speed required in the Egyptian league but I doubt Okwi for having joined a club already in disarray,” he added.
Kyambadde’s agent Jens Leidewall is equally optimistic his client made the right decision that will propel him to greatness. Kyambadde is a promising player has good mentality. What I know is that Gouna have a good management infrastructure,” he said. Kyambadde’s success, with KCCA having signed an exchange partnership with Guona, points to one thing, more Ugandan players heading to Egypt for professional stints.