Abdu Lumala is one of the fresh faces in Uganda Cranes camp in Abu Dhabi preparing for the country’s seventh Africa Cup of Nations finals due in Egypt June 21-July 19.
The Syrianska FC attacking midfield player, on loan from Kalmar FF (all Sweden), was a surprise inclusion in the 27-man squad named by coach Sebastien Desabre to prepare in UAE.
Lumala, who lost his mother when months old - his father is still at large -, grew up with his grandmother in Kamengo, Mpigi until moving to Kampala as a teenager for greener pastures.
He did play with Friends of Football once in Kampala. But it is also here where he did several petty jobs including washing cars that football connections saw him end in Sweden. The rest is history.
Now last week, he arrived in Abu Dhabi glowing, his smile telling of a kid whose life had turned 360 degrees.
In one of the pictures taken at the Cranes camp, his smile was innocent and gracious, next to evergreen Denis Onyango.
“To have such a person,” Lumala said of the Cranes skipper, “Such a goalkeeper in the group is humbling.
“It gives us great confidence having the best goalkeeper in Africa and club football. You want such a leader in the team and I’m honoured to play with him.”
A one-time African Player of the Year (based in Africa), the only time a goalkeeper has won the award, Onyango is the only Ugandan to win the Caf Champions League and to play at the Fifa Club World Cup. The Mamelodi Sundowns shot-stopper was also vice captain as Uganda ended a four-decade absence from the Nations Cup at Gabon 2017.
Lumala, 21, believes that it’s players like Onyango and other leaders on the team that will push him and other fresher Afcon hopefuls on.
The midfielder, who is more effective offensively but can also anchor from deep, believes that it’s because of this experience that they hold no fear for group-mates Egypt, DRC and Zimbabwe.
“Against DRC, Egypt and Zimbabwe I don’t think it’s too much to ask,” assured Lumala, who got his first deal at Mjällby AIF in 2014. “Already we have leaders in the team and most players have been around for a long time now. It gives us the new ones great confidence.
“Of course everyone is expecting Egypt and DRC to progress to the next round but our intention is to take one game at a time. “Get into the first game against DRC and win and then we look to the next. It’s a game plan the coach is telling us.”
Full name: Abdu Lumala
Date of birth: July 21, 1997 (age 21)
Place of birth: Kamengo, Mpigi
Height: 1.70 m (5 ft 7 in)
Playing position: Forward/midfielder
Current team: Syrianska FC
(on loan from Kalmar FF)
2014/15: Mjällby AIF
2016: Kalmar FF
2017: Varbergs (loan)
2017: Helsingborgs IF (loan)
2018: IFK Värnamo (loan)
2019: Syrianska FC (loan)