There are two PlayStations in Steven Dese Mukwala’s life this season. There is the digital entertainment that is his pastime, and then there is himself.
At home, Mukwala enjoys PlayStation 3, on the pitch he is a PlayStation but one that many defenders find to be as dangerous as an eel – too slippery to catch yet too deadly in finishing.
The on-loan Vipers striker has scored half of Maroons’ 26 league goals this season and leads the running for the golden boot with his parent team’s Fahad Bayo a goal behind.
But Maroons are in relegation jail hoping for a miraculous ‘prison break’ with five games to play – should the coronavirus that halted the league be contained and action resumes.
“I don’t feel any pressure being the top scorer with a team fighting relegation,” said Mukwala, whose season-long loan deal is due to end. He will either sign for a new club, stay at Maroons or return to Vipers to continue the dream of growing fangs at St Mary’s Stadium where, for two seasons, he struggled for game time.
“I am not in a hurry to return to Vipers,” the Kasese-born striker says. “I haven’t thought about Vipers yet... even bigger deals await if I keep my scoring form. Maroons want me to sign but I am not in a hurry. My target is to keep scoring and keep the team in the league,” he adds.
Springboard The 20-year-old signed for Vipers in a three-year deal from Masaza Cup outfit, Ssingo, in 2017 after his speed, agility and ability to weave in and out of his markers wowed Venoms scouts. Most Vipers fans hardly remember the striker who featured in about 20 games, mostly as a substitute, completing only one game and scoring five times.
“There was a lot of pressure even though I feel I deserved a chance to play,” says Mukwala. At first, he was in the shadows of Dan Sserunkuma but competition became even stiffer when the Venoms added Fahad Bayo and Shaban Muhammad to their arsenal. It was especially frustrating as he had dropped out of university to concentrate on football. “I never saw myself getting playing time, that’s why I asked to leave,” he says.
First spotted in 2014 at Edgar’s Academy, Vipers attempted to lure Mukwala with offers to study at St Mary’s but he preferred Kibuli SS. After A-Level, when Kibuli won the Copa Coca-Cola championship in Soroti in 2016, Vipers signed the striker who played in goal in primary school. At Luzira, Douglas Bamweyana’s 4-3-3 proved the catch.
Pius Obuya, a former U-20 teammate, was deployed as false nine while Mukwala roamed on the wings. “I was comfortable because it gives me enough space,” he says.
Most of Mukwala’s goals have come from set-pieces because of a telepathic understanding with Abraham Tusubira and Obuya. Mukwala ghosts into the box to connect with crosses and dead balls, often appearing at the perfect place to apply the finishing touch. In his debut, he came off the bench, just a day after joining, to score 2-0 win over Tooro United.
“It is so far the best goal of my career. It took all the pressure off my shoulders. I celebrated by cooking beef for dinner,” says the striker who had last scored on February 22, 2019, in Vipers’ 3-0 win over Bright Stars.
He looks back at his frustrating time at St Mary’s as a learning curve. “My time at Vipers is not what I would have hoped for but there is time for everything,” Mukwala says.
Cranes call. First brought into the national team by Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojevic during the Cranes na Mutima tour in Paidha in 2017, Mukwala was a member of the U-20 squad that lost the bronze-medal match to Egypt. He also played for the U-20 team in the 2018 Afcon qualifiers as well as the U-23 Afcon qualifiers. He lifted the Cecafa cup in Kampala in December.