Mutebi says no regrets at KCCA

Tuesday April 06 2021
SOCCER002 PIX

Done his part. Mutebi walks back to the dressing room after a league game final whistle recently. PHOTO/John Batanudde

By Andrew Mwanguhya

The meticulousness of how he loves his teams to play can be read in his dressing, speaking, and even in how his house smiles at visitors.
Marble, coloured stones grace the front walls of coach Mike Mutebi’s beautiful home in Kawempe; the luxuriant green, compound decor and breathing flowers making sure of the peace.

Inside the house, a large flat screen in the main living room is for his football-watching pleasure, and – occasionally – wrestling.
The one hanging from the wall in the adjacent room is for family and guests, while the one in his study and office, which is well stocked with books, soccer magazines, cuttings, portraits and medals, among other, collections, is for tactical analysis.

“This is where I rest,” said Mutebi as we navigated his study. “This is where I have peace. This is where I meet the boys when we have to discuss things.”
His kitchen is also a proud host of yet another flat screen. This, perhaps, to catch a game while cutting onions.
An accountant by profession, Mutebi also took a short course in interior and design, his artistic hand is inescapable in the house.

Clad in a blue suit, Mutebi had opened the gate for us on this Good Friday, but his enforcing-self had ordered us to carry out the chairs for the interview.
Mutual separation
Four days earlier, KCCA had announced their separation with then their tactician on mutual consent, recognising Mutebi as the most successful manager in the club’s history. In his true element, Mutebi was not going to let the ‘mutual consent’ communication go just like that.

“Firstly,” he told us, “I was not going to extend my contract with KCCA. I was going to see it out at the end of June, but I feel the powers that be; the chairman of the club, Mr [Martin] Sekajja thought that maybe I was not doing well and decided to terminate our relationship.”
Mubeti blames club authorities for interfering with his technical work, a situation he says made the relationship difficult.
“The board was divided,” he said, “other people, who had worked with me, were saying ‘no, this gentleman is doing things rightly. We can only advise him,’ which they did. And I would listen to advice as an employee, and they would make the final decision.”

Backs Byekwaso
“But I think some of the board members were not happy with me, because it looked as if I was the face of the club and some board members thought they were missing in action, they wanted to be relevant, and I was trying as much as possible to take a back seat.”
The club, Mutebi confirmed, paid his three remaining months in full. The man who has deputised Mutebi for the last four years, Morley Byekwaso, has since taken charge at KCCA in the interim.

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“He will do a good job. He’s been there, he’s been working under me. You cannot be working under me for all those years and you don’t learn. So I’m confident he will do a good job to try and achieve the objectives of the club.
Mutebi, 51, also believes KCCA can still win the league and Uganda Cup this season.

Player transfers and money
At the height of bad blood between Mutebi and the club, allegations were made that the coach would negotiate a cut on player transfers, claims he dismissed as “rubbish.”
He met the claims with a sarcastic laugh. “Nonsense,” he blurted out, “absolute nonsense. My job is to recruit players and groom them to play for the team, and I’m paid.
“The money (bit) that follows is done by the chairman. The cut? Ayayaaa… That is simplistic thinking. Very simplistic thinking. For what? Really! So, that is rubbish talk, and I’ll never do that.

“My job has always been to get the right technical people in place, the right coaches and players. Payment of these technical people is done by the management. So these players are owned by the club, not Mike Mutebi.”

Hanging players out to dry
On his well-documented public criticism of his players, Mutebi dismissed it affects their performance.
“I’ve done it for the last five years, and they’ve been performing. Whoever performs well will play. So I don’t think it affected players, only, it encourages them to work hard,” he said.

Mutebi insists he has no regrets whatsoever at KCCA. 
“I don’t regret anything,” he said, “what I set out to do when I got the contract in 2015, I believe I have done. I set out to put in order the club, I have done that.
“I have also helped to groom players, and helped the club make money by grooming players and selling them. But most importantly, I have earned respect.
“I also think I left the team in good shape. I put structures in place, and I believe whoever takes over can really use that to (further) grow the team.

Continent could have been better
The coach, however, believes that although they did not win a continental title, they gave a good account of themselves.
“We wanted to win the Champions League, we wanted to win the Confederation Cup. When we put these things in my contract, some did not believe.
“For instance, when we went into the group stages, some thought it was accidental. But for me, I think we could have done better.”

Locker-room altercation & offers
Mutebi’s combative self fully manifested in the dressing room during the 1-1 draw with Express this year, with the man reportedly coming to shoves with his assistant/s over team selection.

“Yes, it happened. My people had to question some things, which we resolved, and that is part of management. You can’t work with people who are always yes-men. You have to work with people who are going to provoke you.”
Whatever you make of Mutebi, you cannot wish away his star attraction for what he has done at KCCA.
Angolan club, Agosto, were one of those that first offered him a job when KCCA eliminated them from a continental tie a couple of years ago.

“I thought the KCCA project was a young project at the time,” said Mutebi, “so, I declined. Now maybe if they come, I may be ready. The phone has been ringing from all directions but it will take me [time] to decide where I go.”
Is he also receiving phone calls locally, where Vipers have forever been talked about as having interest in the man? 
“We shall wait and see,” said Mutebi.
Mutebi names Ugandan legend Jackson Mayanja and youngster Allan Okello as the most talented players he has ever worked with, and believes the latter has a big future in the national team.  

On managing Uganda Cranes, Mutebi kept his line of “we shall wait and see,” adding that he respects the current men in charge. He revealed that he has not been approached by Fufa on the subject.
“I believe coach Abdallah [Mubiru] and his team can do the job and I think they should be given time.”
Would he, himself, work with Fufa? 

“Yes. If the environment is conducive.”
On Johnny McKinstry, Mutebi said he is a “good coach who tried to play his way, only that, maybe, it did not work out well.”
Perhaps it can still do, as McKinstry seems back in time for the June World Cup qualifiers after his weird suspension expired on March 31.
amwanguhya@ug.nationmedia.com

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