Evergreen Kayizzi here to play on

Monday May 18 2020

Vincent Kayizzi

Vincent Kayizzi 

By GEORGE KATONGOLE

KAMPALA- In the A-Z of Ugandan sport, filling all the letters might take some debate but V and K are certainly a brand belonging to one man: Vincent Kayizzi. Here is a 36-year-old who didn’t play serious football until he was 19 but he has gone on to play more than 15 years at the top. The winger has adorned the jersey of KCCA,
Vipers, URA, Express in between spells in Rwanda, Serbia, Poland and DR Congo.

And the Kyetume skipper is no where close to done with the game yet, not even in his dream to play for Uganda Cranes again. The four-time league winner looked to be finished in 2018 when he opted for then Big League side Kyetume but to Kayizzi, finished is merely an F in the A-Z and that F is nowhere in his career trajectory.

Kayizzi’s arrival to paid ranks in 2003 was like an explosion – a Senior Five student at Standard High School, Zzana, joining Danish coach Jan Fray’s up-tempo system at KCCA, a top-flight giant. It was a huge leap for a boy who dribbled his way from Masaka where he studied at Ssaza Primary School, Masaka SS and St Charles Lwanga, Kasasa.

A sight to be hold on the wing, his cousin Godfrey Sendi found no difficulties getting him to Standard High School, Zzana. “Their standard of football was very high with up to eight players in top-flight league,” Kayizzi says. At post-primary powerhouse, Kayizzi was in the shadows of Joseph Kabagambe, who was by then a winger at Villa.

Lucky break Kayizzi’s breakthrough came during a friendly between Standard High and Police in 2003. Villa coach Paul Hasule Sam Ssimbwa got the player to sign for KCCA through his contacts with school director Justus Mugisha. Kayizzi ended up at Lugogo without receiving any money except fees. “I was excited because this was a dream come true,” says the player Ssimbwa described as “a gem who only needed polishing.” But at Lugogo, there was a problem fitting in; the team has the likes of Ben Kibirango was the other junior player in the star-studded KCCA team that had the likes of Abubaker Tabula, Asan Bajope, Alimansi Kadogo, Noah ‘Babadi’ Kasule and Tony Mawejje.

“The junior players couldn’t mix with the stars. For two years, I only came in the evening to train and return to school. We could only speak with senior players on the pitch,” he recalls. “I am lucky to have played with seniors like them. I kept a close eye on how they practiced and it helped me grow.” Tabula was the first senior to speak to him. “He was playing at the left back and as a winger, I met him so often. He was hard and physical. One time his challenge on me brought a premature end to training as everyone thought I had broken a leg,” he adds. It was not until 2005 when Kayizzi scored a late equaliser in a 2-2 draw against Villa as a substitute that he started getting his boots on and in 2006, he earned his place on the starting sheet. The 2004 Kakungulu Cup squad winner with the Kasasiro Boys admits poor crossing had been his challenge and it took Kabagambe’s helping hand to improve.

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Moving places When KCCA played in the 2005 Caf Confederation Cup, Kayizzi’s fortunes changed. KCCA eliminated Zanzibar’s Kipanga 2-1 in the preliminaries before falling to APR 1-0 after a goal-less draw at Nakivubo. APR, under Jacob ‘Ghost’ Mulee, came calling. The deal was discreetly finalised in Kampala but KCCA initially protested the transfer. Playing in the 2006 Caf Champions League against Angola’s Aviação and FAR de Rabat of Morocco saw the winger receive more offers. Yet none materialised. He returned to KCCA and won the league in 2008.

European tour Under agent Petrovic Vincetej with former Cranes coach Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojevic marketing players for the paid ranks, Kayizzi got a deal in Serbia at FK Srem, a second division side, in January 2008 after plans to join Toronto in the Major League Soccer fell through. In Serbia, he was rudely welcomed by freezing winter. “I struggled with the
language and the culture. I never met any black person in the town but it taught me that you have to be determined to get anything good out of life,” he says.

He was later sent on loan to Novi Pazar and he helped the club earn promotion to the second-tier league. With his parent club in third tier, Kayizzi refused to return. The feud that followed saw the player end up at URA where he won the 2012 Uganda Cup. He does not regret the decision to return home from Europe though. When league champions Express withdrew from Caf Champions League, URA stepped up, giving yet more exposure.

He was soon back in Europe with Motor Lublin of Poland in 2013. “I had no choice because I had the assurance of my agent while leaving Kampala that there was a team, which was not the case,” he recalls. Motor Lublin played in the third division with Kayizzi the only national team player in the squad. His stay in Poland was interrupted by a metatarsal injury.

Titles and Big League exploits On return, he settled at Vipers where he attracted but after Vipers won the 2015 title, he was off-loaded together with Mike Mutyaba; coach Wasswa Bbosa welcomed the pair at Express. Kayizzi would win nothing at Wankulukuku in a transition. It was chaotic but they managed to finish sixth. “There was no salary. My car (a Toyota Spacio) was actually fuelled by fans from time to time,” he says. Mike Mutebi returned the winger to KCCA where he won a double in 2016/17 season with a cast of stars. “That is my best year ever in football,” he says.

After his contract expired, he sought fresh challenges in DR Congo with Bukavu Dawa. But insecurity in Bukavu forced the player whose team at times had to train from Burundi out. This time round Kayizzi opted to play for promotionchasing Kyetume where Robert Sentongo and Patrick Ochan were already signed by Alex Isabirye.

Ronald Vvubya brought unprecedented levels of attention to Kyetume in the 1980s when he signed for SC Villa so was versatile former Express midfielder Simon Omba. That’s quite an alumnus for a ‘village club’ but not for the profile of Kayizzi. “It was a simple choice as they had ambitions to go up. Nothing will make me happier than when we are survive relegation in our first season (in top-flight),” says Kayizzi, the team captain.

gkatongole@ug.nationmedia.com

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