A fortnight ago Tonny Mawejje was unveiled as a Police player marking his return to the StarTimes Uganda Premier League after more than a decade playing largely in Europe.
His return coincides with a period in which many Ugandan footballers are experiencing difficulties with clubs abroad and seeking to return home.
Speaking as a guest on K-FM Sports show, the former Cranes midfield dynamo relived some of his experiences having first featured in Iceland after leaving URA in 2009. The bag of experiences he shared came with big tips for the current crop of players who might be dream of going pro.
“It wasn’t easy but when you set your mind that you have gone to play professional football you acclimatise to everything that comes your way. That’s how it went,” Mawejje says of his initial time in the often cold Icelandic league.
“When I went to Iceland I didn’t play in my preferred position in central middle. The captain was playing in this position and was also putting on my preferred [shirt] number so I couldn’t get either of the two. But since it was the coach who had spotted me, he had to find space for me.”
Learning of racism
Mawejje had to do with playing on the right wing for about a season and can count on his stars that joining ÍBV Vestmannaeyjar had been the coach’s desire “because if I’d been taken by an agent may be I would not even had got a chance to play.”
During that time in 2009, Mawejje also tells of his racism experience suffered by many black players in Europe. “It one time happened to me but since I didn’t know their language, I ignored them. But it is something I later saw on the news and asked a friend what it was all about and he told me the opponents’ side had made racist remarks after I made a hard tackle and the club was later fined for it,” Mawejje revealed.
Mawejje lasted a seasons at the club that was also home to former Cranes teammates Andy Mwesigwa, goalkeeper Abel Dhaira and Augustine Nsumba. “Acclimatising to the conditions wasn’t hard because I once passed through Mike Mutebi’s set-up and he tries to prepare a player for professional football so when I got there I found the reality Mike used to teach at KCCA,” he said. At the peak of his powers, Mawejje moved to Norway in 2014 from where, he reveals, he committed his biggest career regret.
After failing to break into the first team at Haugesund, Mawejje asked to be loaned back to Iceland. “When I went to Norway, it wasn’t easy to get into the starting team and I wanted playing time to get into the national team,” he said ruefully since that loan move had cost him the chance to be spotted like it was with Nigeria’s Obi Mikel.
“One of the mistakes I made was ask for a loan and going back to Iceland. I think if I’d stayed longer may be my chance would have come and I’d have got playing time to be seen by the big leagues because there are some leagues they always look at,” he said.
“It’s one big mistake I made in my career and when I was compared to guys like (McDonald) Mariga who played in the Champions League and (Victor) Wanyama who played in the Premier League, I sat back and realised I had made a mistake and it cost me a lot.
But sometimes in life you also have to have luck.” A fitness stint and caution The former Masaka LC and KCCA midfielder also had another brief stint in South Africa before opting against a permanent move. “At Golden Arrows in South Africa, it was to keep myself fit because I had anticipated the Cranes qualifying for the Nation’s Cup yet in the Iceland league it is played for four -five months,” Mawejje says of his decision in 2012. He now has a word of caution for Ugandan players – they must change their attitude if they are to have successful careers abroad.
“I see many boys thinking they’ll play the same way they’ve been playing here. As a professional you have to give 100 per cent in training or a match. You must show that you’re better than the players you found there,” Mawejje said. He said qualifying for global junior competitions could be a game changer for Ugandan players.
“We might not have the hunger that many West Africans show but we need to have agents who have the ears of the big clubs,” he said. For now, Mawejje wants to concentrate on his swansong at Police that he believes will be an exciting time before hanging up his boots. “In life you never say never. I have an active agent who could yet secure me another good deal. But for now I want to concentrate on Police and bid farewell to my fans in a good way.”
TIPS FOR PLAYS
Tonny Mawejje’s tips
We need to have quality players not just having many agents. We also need quality agents who are hands-on. That’s one of the things pushing me to become an agent after my playing career. I see a lot of Ugandan players struggle when it comes to people that manage them. I’ll obviously be making money but I’d be helping players out. I’ll use the little contacts I have and maybe one day we’ll have a player featuring in the big leagues. The country has to qualify junior teams like U-17 and U-20 to the World Cup. Clubs in Europe want players in such tourneys.
Mawejje’s football tips
- Players must have the right attitude to compete at 100 per cent.
- Ugandan football needs quality agents with knowledge and contacts to fix deals.
- Uganda must show ambition and strive to qualify under age teams in global tournaments – that’s where scouts from big leagues look out for talents.
Mawejje club transfer
Left Joined Year
Al-Shorta (Irq) Police 2020
Al-Arabi (Kwt) Al-Shorta 2020
Tirana (Alb) Al-Arabi 2019
Free agent Tirana 2017
Thróttur (Ice) Free agent 2017
Free agent Thróttur 2015
Haugesund (Nor) Free agent 2015
Valur (Ice) Haugesund 2014
Haugesund Valur 2014
ÍBV Vest (Ice) Haugesund 2014
G. Arrows (SA) ÍBV (Vest) 2012
ÍBV Vest G. Arrows 2012
URA ÍBV Vest 2009
Police URA 2008
KCCA Police 2006
Unknown KCCA 2004