A s boys, Arthur Kyobe and Julius Lutwama were budding cricketers. Like anyone nurturing a dream they kept promising one another to do their best, and soon it became a competition.
Kyobe remained a cricketer and Lutwama branched into basketball. The competition remained, on who would shine more in their chosen sports disciplines.
The competition has been a fruitful one not just for these star sportsmen but for the country. Today Kyobe is a top batsman whereas Lutwama is a top basketball player and coach.
But the story of these top sports players has something to do with their mother, Teddy Mukasa, who, to their confession, is their biggest inspiration. She was a netball player, so one could comfortably say sports runs in the family.
Meeting each of these sportsmen reveals distinctive character traits.
Kyobe is bubbly, outspoken and a generally social guy while his brother is a composed, soft-spoken fellow.
Day with a star
A day with each of these sportsmen is quite revealing. My day with Kyobe kicks off at the Hotel Africana gym where he is soaked in sweat on a Monday morning, warming up on the treadmill.
He then moves on to do some cardio exercises before heading out of the gym, bathes and heads out and throws himself into the swimming pool where besides keeping in shape he visibly enjoys himself.
At 3:30pm, we head to the Lugogo Cricket Oval. Here the lead cricketer uses some of his training sessions to help pass on some skills to the younger players, and it is not another senior-to-junior session.
Kyobe likes to keep it at an approachable level, which helps his mentees relax and interact well with him. The seniority is in the proficiency, otherwise they are all of the same generation and as they go about their thing they will be soon throwing jokes.
However, Kyobe is keen and will use this interaction to impact some words of wisdom and inspiration which the youngsters take keenly.
This too runs in the family because when I travel to Nkumba University to meet Lutwama, he is busy with the girls’ basketball team.
Calling out names and giving instructions he commands a team of agile, passionate young ladies into motion. He runs along with them, fusing in well to help them speed up or jump as they shoot baskets. The energy in these two brothers drives others towards a common goal of improving their skills in the respective games.
Well, you could be brothers or sisters but not friends.
Kyobe and Lutwama are pals whose friendship blossomed from the fact that they went to the same schools and further cemented because sporting was their common language.
“We went to the same primary schools and always looked out for one another. We both played cricket but when I went into basketball, Arthur told me that he was going to outshine me. I was not going to let him outdo me,” Lutwama explains, while pulling off a smile of self-satisfaction.
This was in 2001. Like his kid brother, Lutwama was still in high school and a small boy in Senior Three (S.3) but was already playing for a big club, one of the top contenders in Jinja called Sky Jammers.
“They mentored me. In 2002, a year after I joined we won the regional championship. I was an underdog and they gave me encouragement.
“I trained with them and they gave me all reasons to work hard,” soft-spoken Lutwama recounts.
Kyobe was also chasing his dream. As a juvenile his biggest motivation was to use sports as a ticket to travel and see the world. “I saw cricket players travelling a lot, so I saw many opportunities to tour. Me and Julius love adventure,” says the 25-year-old Kyobe. But the left hand opening batsman did not look at boarding planes and smiling in the clouds, Kyobe was focused.
In his inaugural year as a topflight player in 2001, he was better than many and his credentials saw him appointed as vice-captain of the national under-15 team. That was his first trip out of the country and it was to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Uganda won.
He was passionately hard working and it was not long before he realized his first career dream.
“Playing in the junior world cup had always been my dream because it was the highest level and the under 19 qualifying in Namibia was a big stage I could not believe. I became one of the high performers because I averaged 50 runs every match. I was happy to contribute and be at the forefront of our campaign,” says the Tornado batsman.
From then on flights became a routine for the hard-hitting batsman. But his first biggest tournament that is still fresh in his memory was in 2004 when he was selected as part of the 14-man team represent Uganda at the 2004 International Cricket Council (ICC) Under 19 World Cup in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
“The game was taking me places. Cricket received more funding from ICC, which was not in other games. It boosted my love for the game and I proudly played the game knowing there was good support,” he adds.
Eyes on the ball
Lutwama too, kept his eyes on the big prize, or should I say the big game.
In his O’ level, he became the first recipient of a scholarship at Crane High School thanks to his above average skill levels.
“I had a friend who was a basketball coach at Crane High School. He would call me whenever his team had a game. He finally asked me to join him. He talked to the director and told him I was a good sportsman. The school director called me and my bursary was sealed,” he narrates.
When he stepped on the court, he bedazzled all the other school team members. He loved competition.
Soon other schools were noticing and one of the schools that took interest in the basketball player was Kibuli Secondary School, one of the top and arguably most avid sporting schools then.
“They started competing for my signature. The first tournament I played I got many offers from schools like Spena High School, Kibuli SS, Najja High School, Eagles Nest, Kitante Hill School but I was comfortable at Crane High,” Lutwama recollects.
Kyobe’s star was shining too, and his achievements were on a relatively similar level as Lutwama. His parents were willing to pay for education and no other co-curricular activities.
“I faced a problem of finances going for training and I always liked to play with the best. I used to go to Jinja Senior Secondary School to play with the best. I would go hungry for the whole day and find lunch in the evening because of love for the game,” adds the man who has played in two junior World Cups.
Soon the school recognised his good skills and he was given a scholarship. This enhanced his love for the game further. It seized to be a game. It became a sort of obsession.
“I don’t play to impress but I always want to win,” the batsman says. He adds; “If you love this game and want to be successful put everything aside. Critics are there and they make you work hard to disprove them.”
Lutwama’s hard work earned him his second scholarship at Laiser Hill Academy. “I got a scholarship that was worth Shs3m. We played with Kenyan schools at competition level and we emerged champions. I was the MVP. Then after we went and played East African Secondary Schools Championships in Tanzania where I managed to win the MVP award again,” reveals Lutwama.
When he finished high school he was the gem every university was looking. Scholarship offers from Uganda Christian University, Nkumba University and Ndejje University were aplenty. That was in 2007.
“I got a problem of selecting a university. I took four months before
I took a decision. My mother told me to choose Nkumba since I wanted to be far from town. I wanted a remote area where I would concentrate on books,” the KIU guard adds.
He joined the university at the time when their team was struggling mid-season but spurred them to the title alongside the Blick brothers Norman and Donald.
“We won the Falcon Open and Makerere Open which happen every year. In 2008 our team broke up and lost about nine players so we had to look for players in high school, so we started a young team.
I started soliciting for players and we built a new team. It didn’t win anything serious until 2011 when we played East African Inter-University Championships which we won,” recounts Lutwama, who was in a coach-player’s role then. This year his team is playing in the eight-team development league. His team has to emerge out of the lower echelons and make it the topflight next season.
Donning many hats
Still as good as many other players, Lutwama, though, has also taken on another career, as Nkumba Lady Marines coach.
“I left Nkumba because I got a financial deal with Falcons and
I wanted my career to grow further at a non-institutional club. The offer was good I got about Shs500, 000 per month and Shs20, 000 per training session. For someone who had just come from university and had no job it was good pay. I was playing shooting guard,” the soft-spoken player explains.
On the other hand Kyobe was scaling. A hatful of Kenyan teams Uganda had competed with noticed his unique playing skills and wanted him to feature for their franchises on short-term contracts.
Simba Union in Nairobi, who also have Kenyan legend Maurice Odumbe on their books, were the first club to sign him. Then soon he was invited to play in Oman for Passage to India Cricket Club.
“Being a professional is tough life. The team entirely banks on you for results. Oman was good but it was hard work. I had to be in office during the day and train for several hours on floodlights at night,” reveals Kyobe.
He got a couple of centuries and half tons but cricket like any other sport, the demand for positive results never ceases. “There are a lot of pressure moments but we have worked with many psychologists and that’s how we manage,” adds the well-built athlete.
The pressure, though, has not blurred his vision to become one of the finest cricketers in Associate Nations. Lutwama, too, is not sitting back either. “No one gets what they deserve in life. You can only get what you bargain for. Life is a hustle we must welcome, endure and enjoy its fruits,” concludes Lutwama. The sporting brothers’ competition is very much alive.
Kyobe somewhat crowns his sportsmanship.
“Being the best and staying up there is what drives me. I do not want to be looked at as someone who is trying. I always want to be the best. My favourite quote is by Steve Waugh, former captain of Australia.
“He says, ‘If we did what we did yesterday we will participate, if we do what others are doing we will compete but if we do more than what others did will be the best.”
A powerful and punishing left-hand opening batsman with an array strokes all-round the arc, Arthur is arguably the most exhilarating cricketer of his generation. At 14, he captained Uganda to regional success in the ICC East Africa U-15 Tourney in 2003 and his signature was madly sought by several Kampala clubs.
He also captained the national U-17 side. No-one since former Uganda skipper Guy Kimbowa Lutaaya, who retired in 2000, has built massive scores as often and as fast as Kyobe in his pomp.
In 2005, Arthur became the youngest ever double centurion in Uganda when he pummeled the visiting Dean Close College bowling arsenal from England. Arthur enjoyed his run feast that saw him end with highly admirable figures of 224.