Maestros. Robert Luzze and Twaha Kivumbi first hit limelight around the same time in mid-80s while Edgar Watson surfaced during the 90s when the other two were soon leaving the stage.
All three played for Uganda Cranes where they controlled the midfield in superb style. Kivumbi and Watson also excelled at SC Villa. Luzze on the other hand proved himself at the less glamorous UCB from where he fought against all odds to clinch the 1985 footballer of the year accolade, writes Robert Mugagga.
Luzze was born in Katwe-Kinyolo, a stone throw from the famous Queen’s Way clock tower. The ground adjacent was a cricket ground where Asians enjoyed their favourite sport.
In 1972, many of them left the country following the expulsion by former President Idi Amin Dada. Since many locals had little interest in cricket, the cricket ground was turned into a football training ground.
The youth from Katwe and surrounding areas of Kisenyi, Makindye and Kibuye would converge here to play football especially in the evenings after school. It was this football ground that gave birth to footballers like Luzze, Moses Nkolawa, Zaid Tibesigwa and Moses Lumala among others.
Lumala was a good footballer during his youth days before he turned to the motor sport later in life. The clock tower playing ground was a favourite hunting place for many league clubs like SC Villa, KCCA, Express, Coffee and UCB that used to send football scouts there.
Luzze showed interest in football right from primary school days at Nabagereka School and when he moved to Nakasero SSS, his talent became even more pronounced. The top clubs approached him seeking his signature but surprisingly the boy turned them away.
“One SC Villa official Faison Ddamulira once gave me a brand new pair of Polo boots to woo me into joining his club but told him to wait a bit after I complete my studies,” Luzze says.
Then one day UCB players came to the clock tower grounds for training. There, they found a group of youth training and watched them a bit before they took over the grounds.
In no time, UCB coach Kurtson “Big Ben” Omoding spotted a boy.
This boy was Luzze. Omoding immediately approached and requested to join his club. The coach told Luzze that apart from playing football the club would provide him with a well-paying job after undergoing training, something he said other big clubs couldn’t afford.
“I immediately accepted the offer but with the main reason being attracted to the smartness of the club’s players. Before changing into training uniforms UCB players like Jimmy Muguwa, Patrick Kigongo, Fred Sserwadda, Martin Ochaga and others all wore nice ties and I knew that the moment I started working with UCB bank I would also dress like them since I had all along regarded people with ties in high esteem,” Luzze notes.
It was in 1981 that Luzze signed for UCB when he had just completed his O-levels. At the time of joining UCB was preparing to go to Tanzania to participate in that year’s East African Banks Championship and he was also taken along to his first trip outside Uganda which he enjoyed a lot.
His first match at UCB came during this tournament which they won. On returning from the trip he featured for UCB in the national league. His most memorable league game was against KCCA which UCB struggled to beat, something that excited the club officials to the extent of donating all the club’s share of the gate collection to players.
According to Luzze, he had never been given such an amount of money and indeed smiled all the way home in disbelief. Luzze continued excelling for UCB with his performance reaching climax during the 1985 season when he was voted footballer of the year by the sports scribes.
“I was delighted but at the same time surprised to be voted one when I was only 21 and ahead of stars like the season’s top scorer Frank Kyazze and teammate John Latigo,” Luzze reminisces.
In the national team, Luzze was first summoned by coach Robert Kiberu in 1988 for a friendly match against visiting Zambia at Nakivubo. He was later included in the Cranes team that went to that year’s Cecafa tournament in Malawi.
“During the Cranes residential camp at Lugogo, I was on cloud nine when I was made to reside in the same room with Latigo and my childhood hero Phillip Omondi. I chatted a lot with the two KCCA stars and they gave me a lot of playing tips that later proved useful,” Luzze says.
Robert Luzze fact-file (Achievements)
* He started playing good football while in primary school at Nabagereka
* He turned down an offer from giant clubs like SC Villa, KCCA and Express
* He joined UCB FC after completing senior four at Nakasero secondary school.
* On recruiting him in 1981 apart from playing soccer he was provided with a job at the bank
* He participated in the 1981 East African banks tournament in Tanzania
* He was voted the 1985 Uganda footballer of the year
* He was summoned to the Cranes team by coach Robert Kiberu in 1988
* He was part of the Cranes team that participated in the 1988 CECAFA in Malawi
Kivumbi was one of the most entertaining warriors during the dominant Villa side of the period between 1984 and 1992.
Kivumbi became part and parcel of the Jogoos team that clinched one Cecafa Club Championship and seven league titles.
In 1984, when Kivumbi first joined Villa, very few fans believed in him despite the fact that he had once played soccer in Mulago, an area that bred others like Jimmy Kirunda, Tom Lwanga, Magidu Musisi, Godfrey Kateregga, Fred Sserwadda and Adam Ssemugabi.
At Villa Park, Kivumbi proved to be one of the most trusted midfield generals under coach David Otti. Otti depended on him to instill fear on rival clubs alongside Godfrey Kisitu and Sam Mubiru.
Kivumbi was so influential in midfield of the Villa side of 1986 that went into Ugandan history books by winning the first ever league and cup double.
The following year, Villa would go on to become only the second Ugandan side to capture the Cecafa Club Championship, eight years after KCCA. His curve was only going up until 1991. Alongside Mike Mukasa, Paul Hasule, Paul Nkata, Peter Nsaba, Musisi, Sula Kato and Paul Mutakabala, the Jogoos came within 90 minutes of a continental title, losing the African Cup of Champion Clubs to Club Africain of Tunisia in the final.
In 1992, Villa was eliminated by Nigerian champions Iwuanyanwu Nationale in the semi finals despite Kivumbi’s spirited show.
Villa in Abuja
After winning the first leg 3-2 at Nakivubo, Villa went to Nigeria where faced many hardships like the eleventh hour switching of their match from Lagos to Abuja, a distance of over 400 miles away. Villa travelled that distance by bus and inevitably lost.
That coincided with the period when Kivumbi started to decline.
For Uganda, Kivumbi’s most memorable encounter must have been that 1989 Cecafa victory snatched from the jaws of defeat against Malawi in Nairobi.
Cranes came from two goals down to force a 3-3 draw before eventually winning the title through penalty shootout to bring the trophy back to Kampala for the first time since 1977 when the tournament was held in Mogadishu.
The second half inclusion of Kivumbi in the place of Sam Simbwa and Kato replacing Ronald Vubya ignited the fire in the team to force a draw at the time when the Malawians were already celebrating what looked like an easy victory. Kivumbi lives in Canada.
Twaha Kivumbi fact-file (Achievements)
* He played for Mulago Santos, and SC Villa among other cluibs
* He won seven league titles at SC Villa in 1984, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990 and 1992
* He won the Uganda Cup with SC Villa in 1986, 1988 and 1989
* He won the 1987 CECAFA-Kagame Cup with SC Villa
* He was part of the SC Villa team that in 1991 eliminated mighty Al Ahly of Egypt from CAF Champions league
* He was part of SC Villa team that reached the 1991 CAF Champions league final
* He was part of the SC Villa team that in 1992 reached the final of the inaugural CAF Cup
* He was in the Cranes team that clinched the 1989 CECAFA title in Kenya and for the first time in 12 years
If there was a Ugandan footballer that had a very big heart during his playing career, then that’s Watson.
While Watson was still playing for Miracle FC during the early 90s, his team went to Uganda Martyrs secondary school playground for a friendly match against Lubaga United.
At the end of an entertaining encounter won by Miracle, Watson approached one boy by the name of Tony Lumu who had impressed him.
Looking at the boy’s playing boots that were not only very old but had so many patches, Watson was shocked and said something. “You mean you have been playing in these boots?” Watson asked.
He immediately removed his new Puma boots and gave them to the boy telling him to take them and continue playing good football.
Because of this, it later did not come as a surprise when he first played league football at a church founded club, Miracle. Earlier on, Watson had attended Makerere College school, Caltec Academy and Progressive SSS where he was somehow looked down on for being slow and by the fact that he was skinny many mistook him to be a weak player.
In 1992, he took a big stride by joining a first division side, Miracle, which was then under the stewardship of coach Eddie Butindo. At his new club, Watson manned the central defence so efficiently but could also play in the midfield and even on the forward line.
At Miracle, Watson played a pivotal role in the dwarfs’ upset of SC Villa in the 1993 Uganda Cup at the quarter final stage. He scored the winner. He then worked like a donkey in helping Miracle win promotion to the super division in 1995.
While in the elite league, it became evident that it would be just a matter of time before a bigger club came calling at his door. In 1996, Villa signed him. At Villa Park, Watson won everything that was possible. That included seven league titles in 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004.
To these, he added three Uganda Cups in 1998, 2000 and 2004. As if this was not good enough, Wtason also went on to win the 2003 Cecafa Club Championship. Watson’s CV also includes three league and cup doubles registered with the SC Villa team of 1998, 2000 and 2002. He was the captain too after being named by Paul Hasule in 1998.
It’s Hasule too who decided to give Watson a new midfield role, a position he intelligently executed.
Watson was also named Cranes’ assistant captain in 1999, four years after his debut. He became captain in 2002.
With Uganda Cranes, he won the 1996 Cecafa title in Khartoum where they beat Sudan’s second string team 1-0 in the final.
He was also in the team that beat Ghana 1-0 in a tough Nations Cup qualifier that year. His tenure as Cranes skipper though was not any walk in the pack.
He faced rough waters while steering the Cranes ship with that 0-1 home defeat to minnows Rwanda in the 2003 Afcon qualifier the lowest ebb. A classy player, Watson retired in 2004 and has since proved such an ardent football administrator, first as Fufa national team coordinator to turning Fufa technical director and climbing the top of the ladder to become the Chief Executive Officer.
In “Football My Life”, Watson’s recently released autobiography, he says he had never dreamt of playing for the Cranes team until he was driven by a deep sense of self belief which is all he has.
Edgar Watson fact-file (Achievements)
* He played for St. Matia Mulumba, Namirembe FC, Baggrey, Miracle Centre and SC Villa
* In 1993 he scored the winning goal for Miracle FC that eliminated SC Villa from Uganda Cup
* He won seven league titles with SC Villa between 1998 and 2004
* He won three Uganda Cups with SC Villa in 1998, 2000 and 2002
* He won three doubles with SC Villa in 1998, 2000 and 2002
* He won the 2003 CECAFA- Kagame Cup with SC Villa in 2003
* He captained SC Villa between 1998 and 2003
* He won the 1996 CECAFA title with the Cranes in Sudan
* He captained the Cranes between 2002-2003
* He was once, at the same time, both SC Villa and Cranes captain.
* He is the current CEO at Fufa.