From the pitch to the dugout!

Caf instructor Kasule is having an impact on his students. PHOTO/COURTSEY 

What you need to know:

Mutyaba, Mawejje, Juma, Umony, Wasswa and Nsumba among a group of coaching apprentices that want to right the wrongs. They want to help bridge the coaching gap at a young, aspiring footballer's most critical infantry stage

Sunday Monitor senior sports writer Andrew Mwanguhya trekked down to Lugogo to see first hand what these aspiring young coaches are up to, picking their thoughts on the game and what they envision for the future.

It is one of those bright Saturdays before the gentle mid-morning sun inevitably gives in to the midday scorch. 

KCCA manager Morley Byekwaso has taken his seat on the touchline, just at the halfway mark of the MTN Omondi Stadium.

The rest of Byekwaso's coaching staff observe events some small distance away.

Different lenses 

Some metres further away, two young men clad in KCCA coaching kit and armed with notebooks - their gleaming faces a promise of a hopeful future - have also taken their seats.

They are intensely focused on events on the pitch, where KCCA senior team was playing a practice match against one of the lower division sides.

The said two young men, Mike Suleiman Mutyaba and Saddam Juma, applauded every goal scored and nodded in agreement when some special technique was exhibited.

They are now seeing football in a completely new prism. 

They no longer see it just from a playing perspective, or a fan's, but from a more responsible place, a place where their ideas will soon be translated to their own players.

The two are the latest in KCCA’s succession plan, where the club are helping their former players transition from playing to coaching and management.

According to the club, this is meant to ensure selected former players “follow in the footsteps of those that have played and coached the club” before.

Some of those are legends Tom Lwanga, Mike Hillary Mutebi and current club manager, Byekwaso. 

Richard Malinga, Saka Mpiima and Charles Nsanziro are among a few others.

Brian Umony, also a former KCCA and Uganda Cranes striker, did shortly join Mutyaba and Juma for the latter pair’s final two practical coaching sessions at Lugogo.

Beginners coaching licence 

The trio are part of a wider Caf C beginners coaching course happening across different regions of Fufa in the country.

Hassan Wasswa Mawanda, Tony Mawejje, Augustine Nsumba, Geoffrey Bukohore and Maurice Sunguti are the other prominent former players attending the course across different centres. 

Overall, there are 90 course participants, with 30 in Lira, 30 in Seeta and another 30 at Old Kampala.  

Instructors Majidah Nantanda and Mujib Kasule, former players at the women and men's senior national sides themselves, are in charge of the team in Seeta and Old Kampala respectively.  

The course at Old Kampala, which has the most former players, is organised by the Uganda Football Players Association.

The association is led by former Cranes internationals Paul Ssali (Chairman), Fred Tamale (Delegate) and Andrew Lule (General Secretary).

At Old Kampala, Caf instructor and Caf A licence coach, Kasule, is helped by Fufa instructor (certified to handle lower level courses) Ben Mwesigwa as part of the latter's apprenticeship.

The five-week course involves theory classes and practicals at the mentioned respective centres, with participants taking a week off for placements at different clubs.

After their placements, the budding coaches are expected to take back short videos of their drills to their instructors and pick it from where they left.

Mutyaba and Juma had their placements at KCCA, with Umony joining them later. 

“So far,” said Mutyaba - now in a group conversational interview style that included himself, Juma, Umony and the writer before the coaching apprentices took to the pitch to train KCCA’s U17 team.

Let's get it right 

“What we are learning is refreshing. It gives us a clearer picture and shows the stages we, ourselves, missed growing up. 

“Some of us have always wanted to play with flair, not just kick the ball about, but we missed most of that in our early stages where, unfortunately, it is all about winning. It shouldn't be.

Juma chipped in: “Of course we may not develop all, but we can start somewhere. We can contribute towards developing kids from the grassroots, by not skipping critical stages. 

“Personally, the experience in the last few days of this course have changed perspectives completely. 

“For example, I knew Jiba (Mujib Kasule) mainly as a coach and as a generally good person. But after attending his classes, I view him completely differently. 

“His knowledge of the game, how he genuinely wants to help you get better! Amazing stuff.”

Kasule has coached at the highest level in Uganda and is also a director at Proline Academy, one of the few fairly reputable ones in the country.

Juma, who - together with Mutyaba - was one of those truly technically gifted in their recent playing days but never fulfilled his potential, added: 

“So I’m using this opportunity to get as much knowledge as I can and that should continue for the next five years.

“During this time, I want to teach kids, develop my philosophy, get opportunities for exchange programs abroad etc. 

"The good thing is we (himself, Mutyaba and Umony) have started early.”

All along, Umony was following the conversations keenly, often nodding in agreement.

A gaze from the corner of his eye, followed by a smile that emerged from his bearded self, told of a burning submission.

“I’m happy that we are all interested in developing the game from the grassroots,” said Umony.

“Most of the problems with our style of play or lack of, as a nation, go back to our coaching at grassroots level.

“We want to contribute a brick, starting straight from the grassroots because we have come to learn and appreciate the foundations that we missed out at that young age.”

Umony’s decision into coaching, he says, was inspired by his one-time coach Stuart Hall at Azam in Tanzania and Mujib Kasule, who was instrumental in the player joining South Africa’s SuperSport United in 2009.

Professional landmines

The striker, the deadliest in the country in his early days, endured his own share of false dawns after leaving the then KCC for a SuperSport side he helped eliminate from the Caf Champions League.

After failing to nail down a regular place in his first season at SuperSport, the then 22-year-old went on to play for the University of Pretoria, Portland Timbers in MLS (loan) and Vietnam’s Becamex Binh Duong all in the space of just three years.

He then joined  Tanzania’s Azam in 2013 before coming back home to KCCA a year later, where he played until 2017 before another foreign stint at India’s Gokulam Kerala in 2018. His most recent football has been with Proline.

“It was tough,” Umony said of his pro stints, “At KCC and the national team I was in ascendency, but once I reached SuperSport, I was surprised by the environment, the culture and how professional the game was played.

“I paid the price for missing out on the critical foundations at a younger age. It was clear they were at another level.

"For example, I didn't know things to do with mental toughness, how to handle adversity, etc." Umony moved to SuperSport aged 21. 

“They first played me in their juniors team and the things those boys were doing on the ball, the movement, I had not seen back home.

“Then you had established strikers in the senior team and it was clear I was going to be extra special to get in.

“It's good we now have a new generation of good coaches, and if we can also come in and contribute, well enough.”

Umony's end game is to be that “elite coach” that builds youngsters from bottom to top, with a clear philosophy of “positive football.” 

Mutyaba, who had his own two-months trial stint at Manchester United while at school at St Mary’s Kitende around 2007/8, joined in. 

“First of all, academies in some top leagues abroad are real academies,” said the former Vipers player, Mutyaba, “for example, at Manchester United kids are taught everything from football, rules of the game to how to live life.

“All the four pillars of football; the technical, tactical, physical conditioning and mental strength are taught.

“Every Wednesday, we would be taught rules of the game, how to conduct yourself in public, how to respond in hardship, diet - generally the welfare of a player.

“And then on the other days, before every training session, we would do a class where coaches would detail what we are going to do before we step on the pitch. 

“So when you leave Uganda and meet your age mate who graduated from such an environment, with such exposure, you are no match, especially in the long run. That is where authorities here should invest.”

Mutyaba, whose trials at Manchester were eventually unsuccessful, added: “Actually, Fufa should facilitate former players to attend courses like this.

“Saddam and I are lucky that KCCA FC has paid for us. Not that we couldn’t afford, but because the club sees that there is something we can offer to the game. 

“But there are others that may not afford, and that is where Fufa could help.” 

However, according to Kasule, "Fufa pays for some ex players, as well as clubs like KCCA."

In his early promising years, Juma also had that opportunity to try out his luck in Europe - at English side Fulham, to be exact!

“Once I arrived they first put me in their U17 team. In my very first workout with them I spoiled their drill,” Juma explained, unable to suppress a wry laugh.

“At that young age, these boys' understanding of the game was at a completely different level both tactically, technically, physically and mentally. This is clearly something they had grown up doing.” 

Although to be fair to local coaches, it is not that they do not completely teach the critical aspects of the trade to kids.

“It is not that they didn’t teach us some of these things at all,” admitted Mutyaba, with Juma and Umony nodding in agreement.

“Maybe it was not the right time in our lives. We just didn’t listen. We hope it will be the right timing for the kids we shall teach.”

Before embarking on this coaching course, Juma - who was unattached after leaving Villa - was working with kids from in and around Nsambya and Makindye area.

“Unless KCCA has another plan for me after this course, the plan is to go back and work with these kids and try to implement what I have learned here.”

The crop currently undergoing this course are definitely not the magic wand to turn things overnight, especially in a place where ‘academies’ are rarely academies in the actual sense.

But that they are passionate about the trade and are determined to succeed in itself blends well into Uganda’s modern game aspirations.

And this encourages Kasule. "The boys' comprehension is good," he said, "especially the ex-internationals because most of the things at this level they have been through as players. They are also very eager to learn, which is key."

Coaching status in the country 

As per Fufa club licensing regulations, the head and an assistant coach of a club in the Uganda Premier league must be a holder of Caf A and B licences respectively starting with the 2023/2024 season. Currently, Caf B and B are enough.

At about 40 coaches holding a Caf A licence, over 80 Caf B, and over 200 Caf C, the number of qualified coaches for the Premier League, while admittedly improved, is still low.

This was not helped by Caf halting these courses in 2017 to enable new curriculum and modern modules to be developed. 

This has since been addressed and courses resumed last year.

However, a good number of aspirants have complained over ‘high’ fees charged by Fufa to start or upgrade over the years. 

For example, to upgrade to Caf B, one has to pay Shs2m while a minimum of Shs3m is needed for an upscale to Caf A licence. Beginners Caf C costs Shs1m.

"Fees will always be a challenge," said Kasule, "but like I said, Fufa pays for some ex-players, as well as some clubs. Also, Uganda has the lowest rates for Caf courses." For now, though, the steps are clearly in the right direction.

Some former players attending Caf C course

Mike Suleiman Mutyaba

Sadam Ibrahim Juma

Brian Umony

Tonny Mawejje 

Hassan Wasswa Mawanda

Augustine Nsumba

Geoffrey Bukohore

Maurice Sunguti

Ben Jamuhuri

 Julius Malingumu