Ugandan players and their North African ‘struggles’

Saturday January 18 2020

Ssenkatuka and Taddeo Lwanga (inset below) are some of the Ugandans getting daily run-ins at their clubs. AGENCIES PHOTO

By the time of publication, three things had brewed up. Allan Okello and Joel Madondo were on the verge of sealing moves to North Africa, while administrative negligence had got into the way of Mustafa Kizza completing his.

Okello was Algeria-bound yesterday for a medical before completing his transfer to top division side Paradou AC, with Madondo having said his goodbyes to his Busoga United teammates en route to Wydad Casablanca in Morocco. These deals could be completed anytime now.

But late communication from the Moroccan FA on Wednesday, according to Hassania Union Sport Agadir, had ended Kizza’s move after it informed the club they had exhausted their transfer limit, and that anymore signings they would have breached financial fair play rules.

All this as the KCCA left wingback was at Agadir for a medical and transfer completion! Transfers can be that turbulent. But even when they have happened, success has been far and between for Ugandans.

Mixed fortunes
David Obua (Kaizer Chiefs) and Denis Onyango’s (Mamelodi Sundowns) successes come to mind when you think of South Africa, and Emmanuel Okwi and Dan Sserunkuma in Kenya and Tanzania.
Ibrahim Sekagya (Argentina, Austria, USA) and Majid Musisi (France, Turkey) are the men when you talk Europe.

But moves up north have yet to produce the best of memories. Jackson Mayanja, who had considerable success at Egyptian club El-Masry after moving there from the then KCC in 1992 at a reported $30,000 (Shs111m today), comes to mind amongst the scanty successes up north.


His eight goals in his first season helped El-Masry finish fourth in the league, their highest ever at the time, and they nicknamed him Mia Mia (100 per cent).

Mayanja was to fall out with the Egyptians and briefly return home but Tunisian giants Esperance paid El-Masry $20,000 (Shs74m today) for him in 1995, only for a bad knee injury to cut his spell there short.

Geoffrey Massa came in with some goals at El-Masry but there was nothing monumental, really.

Emmanuel Okwi at Etoile du Sahel was as dreadful as they come, with the player and club counter-accusing each other of contractual breaches, and the Ugandan returning to Tanzania as fast as he had left for Tunisia.

Okwi is currently giving it another go at Egyptian side Al Ittihad Alexandria Club, where has scored one goal in nine appearances before Thursday’s match against Pyramids FC, with eight per cent goal participation. Twelve matches overall have been played.

Hassan Wasswa has also had an uneventful spell at Egyptian club El Gaish, while former KCCA striker Derrick Nsibambi has had an on and off relationship with Smouha. He has scored three goals in the league and put in 30 appearances in all competitions. Player stats in this piece are got from German company Transfermarkt.

Shaban Muhammed, Uganda’s one-time hot shot that had Vipers, Onduparaka and KCCA up in arms in some dramatic player ownerships, lasted only a year at Moroccan club, Raja Casablanca, scoring three goals in 14 appearances before the two cancelled the contract.

He is at Vipers recovering from a long term injury. Murshid Jjuuko, Uganda’s dependable central defender, was significantly last heard of when he moved to Wydad Casablanca last August. The jury is still out on former KCCA players, Patrick Kaddu at Morocco’s RS Berkane (one assist in seven league matches) and Allan Kyambadde at El-Gouna, Egypt (two assists in 10 league games.)

Former Bright Stars striker Nelson Ssenkatuka is settling in at Moghreb Tétouan in Morocco. He has played five times.

Milton Karisa, who joined Moroccan side Moulodia Club D’Oujda from Vipers in 2018, has scored four goals from midfield so far.

Abdul Lumala (Pyramids - Egypt, from Kalmar FF, Sweden), Taddeo Lwanga (Vipers to Tanta SC – Egypt) and Khalid Aucho (Churchill Brothers, India to Misr El Mikkasa, Egypt) also have a duty to show Ugandans can make it in the Maghreb and Egypt.

Professionalism wanting
But why has it been tough for Ugandans to get the act together up north? “The professional level of our players is still wanting,” Paul Mukatabala, an SC Villa legend, told SCORE, “Both on and off the pitch. Remember football in a professional environment is not just on pitch alone.

“It entails so much off pitch as well. How a player integrates into a professional set up of a professional club like say Wydad Casablanca, is key.

“That, I’m afraid is still a struggle for many of our players. Can they carry themselves around, and act as professional players?” wondered Mukatabala.

“It takes time. A player like Ibra Ssekagya was able to succeed in Europe, because when he got to Argentina from Uganda, he accepted and was willing to take time to be ‘educated’ on what a professional player should be.

“Both in conduct, integration into a foreign culture; the kind of food a professional player should consume, how to train, when to sleep etc.”
Mukatabala was a player in the famous SC Villa side that ruled the region and threatened continental forces early 90s.

He also played for Umeme, Al Bustan Club and Al Buraimi (both in Oman), Binh Dhuong (Vietnam) Ggaba United FC and retired in 2008 after three years at Victors.

“We need to prepare our players to act professionally right from an early age,” he said.
“But it’s an uphill task when our clubs themselves do not do things professionally, or even the Federation itself in certain instances. So how then do our players learn, or from who?

“Because you have to understand that clubs like Wydad Casablanca,” explained the former Ugandan International, “Have been doing things professionally for years.

“When they bring in a player, they expect that player to be up to speed on many things including training schedules and simple things like time keeping for team meetings.”

KCCA manager Mike Mutebi, who will be remembered for taming North African clubs in Kampala since taking over at Lugogo, agreed with Mukatabala.

“They were not well prepared,” said Mutebi, focusing his players that moved to Egypt and Morocco (Shaban, Kaddu, Nsibambi, Kyambadde), “They were just excited and were playing well, and then they are taken over.

“It would be very difficult for us to stop them because we did not grow them. It’s different from these Okellos.

“But for us who have watched these kids grow (Okellos), it’s a good move for us, and if does well (to Paradou), it opens up the market for others.

“Our main target was Europe,” he added, “Because we believe that when these clubs want a player at an early stage when he is well developed, it becomes easy for them to continue this development.

“But I believe Kaddu may survive because of all the ones we’ve mentioned he was the more focused one.” Hope is that the Cecafa kings can extend their regal-self up north.

Ugandan players that have played/play in North Africa
1. Allan Kyambadde (KCCA to El Gouna, Egypt)

2. Patrick Kaddu (KCCA to RS Berkane, Morocco)

3. Abdul Lumala (Kalmar FF, Sweden, to Pyramids, Egypt)

4. Emmanuel Okwi (Simba, TZ to Al Ittihad, Egypt)

5. Taddeo Lwanga (Vipers to Tanta SC – Egypt)

6. Khalid Aucho (Churchill Brothers, India to Misr El Mikkasa, Egypt)

7. Nelson Ssenkatuka (Moghreb Tétouan, Morocco)

8. Milton Kariisa (Vipers to Moulodia Club D’Oujda, Morocco)

9. Isaac Muleme (Al Assiouty Sport, Now Pyramids FC, Haras El Hodoud – all Egypt)

10. Geoffrey Massa (Police to El-Masry, El Shams – all Egypt)

11. Jackson ‘Mia Mia’ Mayanja (KCC to El-Masry, Egypt, and to Esperance, Tunisia)