Before Allan Okello there was William Kizito Luwagga. Although he was and still is so fiendishly complex, the judgment of his merits were astute. It was hard to argue that this low-lying fruit was not ripe for discovery. Danger was never far away for an opponent whenever Luwagga was on the ball.
The 2015 Afcon qualifier against Guinea under Mandela National Stadium’s lights particularly illuminated a seductive authenticity about Luwagga. His intelligence and liveliness were apparent to not just those around him but fans watching. The scintillating wide play encapsulated by a pair of assists projected Luwagga as a player with a lot of skin in the game.
In the 2017 Afcon qualifying campaign, he created the vague impression of a goal scorer with a smash-and-grab strike in Gaborone, Botswana. His graph was truly on an upward curve. It seemed hard to imagine it experiencing either a flatline or nosedive. This was a crowd-pleaser whose artistry played well to a wide audience.
Luwagga’s appeal, however, petered out at what was essentially supposed to be his coming-out part -- the 2019 Afcon finals. Such was Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojevic’s investment of trust in Luwagga that he handed him a start in the marginal defeat against Ghana. The performance that the No.10 turned in was, however, as listless as they come. Little wonder, when Micho rung the changes, Luwagga was deemed surplus to requirements. He was a quiet, pale presence on the bench during that last gasp loss at the hands of Egypt’s Pharaohs.
When given a second bite at the cherry, Luwagga would come up with an outburst that was as shocking as anything anyone could ever encounter. Replaced by Geoffrey Massa with 12 left to play in the stalemate with Mali, Luwagga sensationally snubbed Micho’s handshake. It looked like the epitaph of his international career had been written. And yet here we are! Luwagga will be in the frame for selection at Egypt 2019 despite having not played a single match in a seamless qualifying campaign.
Although he’s only 25, this will in many respects feel like a last chance saloon for this journeyman of player. Since leaving Vipers in 2012, Luwagga has against his better judgment played for no less than seven clubs across Europe. His nomadic streak contrasts starkly with what another attacking midfielder, Allan Okello has enjoyed at KCCA FC.
Both Luwagga and Okello like playing on the right wing but for varying reasons. Primarily right footed, Luwagga delights in ghosting past opposing players before getting a telling delivery in. Okello is the polar opposite. The teenager needs little invitation to use his cultured left foot to cut inside and wreck havoc.
This column understands that Cranes coach Sebastien Desabre yielded with reluctance in choosing Luwagga over Okello. Many Ugandans have dismissed the decision as a gamble that will disintegrate with catastrophic results. If this proves to be the case, you’ll have to fear for Luwagga’s international career. At Gabon 2017, he left no better than he came -- if anything worse. Lightning cannot strike twice at Egypt 2019.