Brains & Skills: Current Uganda Cranes assistant coach Abdallah Mubiru, Noah ‘Babadi’ Kasule and late Friday Senyonjo were midfielders with something in common. They were all holding midfielders or call them ‘defensive midfielders’ that always had a box to box presence.
The three won league titles at club level and featured for Cranes in tough World Cup and Africa Cup of nations qualifying encounters, writes Robert Mugagga.
ABDALLAH ‘TABLIQ’ MUBIRU
Nicknamed Tabliq for being a devoted Muslim and who used to dress like one, Mubiru is probably one of the best examples of players and even coaches that faced hardships but patiently waited before finally breaking through.
For instance; while at Kibuli SSS, he had to wait long before being picked the school’s starting team.
Kibuli had a galaxy of players including Sam Simbwa, Joachim Matovu and Robert Aloro. Then came a time when Mubiru went to Nsambya FC expecting to be considered but only to face rejection.
He left. He never lost hope but persisted and later ended up playing for giants SC Villa and KCCA. The icing on the cake was being summoned to the national team.
The same has happened during his coaching career which has not at all been a bed of roses. As a coach, Mubiru once set a record by being axed by two different clubs in a space of two years.
In 2016 Vipers slammed the door in his face and assistant coach George Nsimbe accusing them of applying wrong tactics that resulted in Vipers losing 2-1 to Villa in a league match.
Then came April 2018 when Onduparaka humiliated Police 5-0 at Namboole. Days later, Mubiru, then Police coach, was ordered to stop during a training session and leave.
Despite all this, Mubiru never lost hope but remained focused. Today, the same Mubiru was recently praised by Police chairman Afande Assan Kasingye.
“I have realized that this fellow Mubiru understands football and is not responsible for our poor performance. Most challenges we are facing are financially related,” Kasingye said.
Mubiru has also coached big clubs like KCCA and is is currently the first assistant to Uganda Cranes coach Jonathan McKinstry.
As player, Mubiru first hit prominence when playing in the lower division for Diary, a club he joined in 1990 when veteran Barnabas Mwesigye was coach.
He helped the club gain promotion to the top tier and was instrumental to Diary finishing fourth in 1993.
The following year, Mubiru went up the ladder by ditching Diary for giants Villa. There, he won the league with them in the very first season at Villa Park.
At the time, Mubiru was an enigma in the midfield and won admiration from many clubs that started eyeing him.
It was not surprising when KCCA signed him in 1996 and a year later won the league with them.
For Uganda, Mubiru was first summoned to the national team by coach Polly Ouma in 1993 and took part in the 1994 Afcon qualifying campaign making a good combination with Jackson Mayanja.
His first major continental match came on April 22, 1995 when the Uganda beat Tanzania 2-0 during the 1996 Afcon qualifiers with Phillip Obwiny and Joseph Mutyaba scoring.
Earlier on, Mubiru had been in Ugandan team that lost to Tanzania in the Cecafa finals. A persistent groin injury cut his footballing career short and he retired in 2001.
Abdallah Mubiru fact-file (Achievements)
* He excelled for Kibuli SSS in national school championships
* He played for UCI of Tororo, Diary FC, SC Villa, and KCCA
* He was part of the Diary FC team that finished fourth in 1993 league
* He won the league with SC Villa in 1994
* He won the league with KCCA in 1997
* He was first summoned to the Cranes team in 1993
* He prominently featured for the Cranes
* He coached Kibuli SSS, Proline, Vipers, KCCA among others
* He was appointed Cranes acting coach in July 2019 after Desabre left
* He handled second string Cranes team in 2019 Cosafa Cup
* He currently coaches Police FC and he is first Cranes assistant coach
The late Senyonjo was a remarkable defensive midfielder and an outstanding member of that conquering Express team of 1994 and 1995.
With the Red Eagles, Senyonjo clinched the 1994 Uganda Cup and added on a double in 1995.
Every Express fan would like to forget the 1994 season when SC Villa pipped them to the title on the last day of the season in the crucial match played in Masaka.
Express needed just a win to clinch the title but Villa carried the day by a 1-0 score to instead grab it.
To Senyonjo, the defeat proved too much to stomach and at the end of the match, he fell to the ground and cried like a baby with players from both sides rushing to console him.
Senyonjo broke through at Kololo SSS from where former Bell FC manager and later sports minister Charles Bakabulindi spotted and signed him around 1993.
He spent one season at Bell before Express recruited him to their side in 1994 – the same year he was summoned to the national youth team.
In 1995, Senyonjo has proved a vital cog in Express’ Caf Champions League run that was ended in the semifinals by Orlando Pirates of South Africa.
During the two ties, Senyonjo put up a great performance forcing Orlando Pirates to try signing him but Express boldly told them that the boy was not for sale.
Senyonjo was so talented and got promoted rapidly. Many were not surprised when in 1995 he was summoned to the senior national team where it took him a short time to do the unthinkable by dislodging George “Best” Nsimbe.
This was during the 1996 Afcon qualifying campaign where Senyonjo was exceptional against neighbours Tanzania.
That year, Senyonjo featured in almost every national team game enjoying a good partnership with Joseph Mutyaba.
Even when he was in decline, Senyonjo left Express for Villa in 1997 after a public fallout and claimed that the latter was always his dream club.
In 1998, at Villa, Senyonjo won the league and cup double. It’s a feat he had managed at Express three years prior.
Apart from Express and Villa, he played for Umeme, Military Police FC, Majis (Oman), and Royals FC of Abu Dhabi.
Off the pitch, Senyonjo belonged to that club of footballers that during and after their careers fell in great love with alcohol, something that partly contributed to his downfall.
When he finally hung up his boots, he indulged even more in local gins. Life hit an abyss when he was being hired to fetch water for fellow residents in his home area in exchange for a few coins which he used to buy the white stuff.
During a 2014 interview, Senyonjo categorically made it clear that he badly needed a job to save him from alcoholism.
“I take a lot of Waragi because I have no job. I walk to the bar in the morning and then come back late in the evening ending up struggling to put food on table for my beautiful family,” he said,
His peers blamed his failure to stay longer in Abu Dhabi playing football for not having converted into a Muslim.
Senyonjo argued that; “I was not born a Muslim and so there was no way I was going to become one for money.”
Friday Senyonjo fact-file (Achievements)
* He played for Bell FC, Express, UMEME, Military Police, Majis (Oman) and Royals (Abu Dhabi)
* He won the 1994 Uganda Cup with Express FC
* He won the 1995 league with Express FC
* He won the 1996 league with Express FC
* He won the 1998 league with SC Villa
* He won the 1998 Uganda cup with SC Villa
* He won the double with two different clubs, Express and SC Villa
* He was part of Express team that reached the
* He was so outstanding for Cranes during 1996 AFCON qualifiers
NOAH ‘BABADI’ KASULE
Kasule played for the national team at the time when the country had plenty of classic midfielders like David Obua, Joseph Kabagambe, Mike Serumaga and Abubaker Tabula.
Despite this, Babadi worked hard and became consistent member of the team during the 2006 World Cup/Afcon and 2008 Afcon qualifiers.
It took for an injury in the 2008 Afcon qualifying campaign that Kasule was replaced by Johnson Bagole.
With his Rastafarian hairstyle, Kasule always stood out from the rest. In the national team, Kasule made a mark in the game against Nigeria during the 2008 Afcon qualifiers.
Uganda rallied from a goal down in the second half to beat Nigeria 2-1 courtesy of Obua and Sekagya goals.
During the match, Kasule put up a spirited fight in the midfield partnering well with Asan Bajope to keep the Nigerian at bay.
Then came that robust goalless draw encounter away to Niger during the same campaign when Kasule worked like a well-oiled machine in the otherwise controversial match in which himself and three other Cranes players namely captain of the day Timothy Batabaire, Andy Mwesigwa, Geoffrey Massa received yellow cards.
In most national team matches where he featured, Kasule always had a box to box presence and demonstrated how superb he was in man marking dangerous opponents.
He played for the Cranes between 2001 and 2008 registering 26 caps. At club level, it was KCCA that first introduced him to serious Ugandan football way back in 2001.
He spent five seasons at the club and later joined URA during the era of coach Deo Sserwadda before Video Anyau took over.
At URA, Babadi was part of the team that won the 2006 league title and defended it the following season.
Thereafter, Kasule left the country for professional football in Armenia where he played for among other clubs Banants, Ulisses and Gandazasar.
From Armenia, Kasule returned home and played for Bombo based – Saints – that was later taken over by UPDF.
At Saints, Kasule played a pivotal role in the club’s fight for relegation but surprisingly was instead laid off ahead of the 2017-18 season.
On the negative side, in 2005 Babadi was reportedly arrested from his workplace in London UK and accused of overstaying and later deported.
Noah Babadi Kasule fact-file (Achievements)
* He played for KCCA, URA, UPDF, Binants, Gandazasar and Ulisses (Armenia)
* He won the league with URA in 2006 and 2007
* He was a prominent member for the Cranes between 2001 and 2008
* He registered 26 caps for the Cranes national team
* Had a great game for the Cranes away in Niger in 2006 AFCON qualifier
* He was an exceptional defensive midfielder in the Cranes team