Alimansi Kadogo, Nathan Mutenza and Michael Ssebalinga all had their football origins in the eastern region. Kadogo and Mutenza first played serious at Iganga Town Council while Ssebalinga first made a name at Jinja-based Nile. All the three were left-footed and featured on the left side of the attack with a common attribute of crosses.
In Ugandan football, most left-footed or to be precise left wingers have been known to be troublesome, so proud renowned for giving coaches a lot of headache.
One notable exception to this stereotype was Mutenza whose former coach at KCCA Tom Lwanga praises for having been a disciplined player and a swift left winger whom he would at times field at left back.
“At his peak, Mutenza was one of our most dependable players whom we really missed when he left to join Tusker of Kenya,” Lwanga says.
“He was such a player we never wished to sell but because of his conduct and club policy we did not want to stand in his way when an opportunity came knocking.”
Mutenza’s earliest football lessons began at Iganga TC in 2001 before relocating to Kampala. It was KCCA, a club he played for on three different occasions that first signed him in 2002.
He moved to Villa in 2003 where he won the league in 2004. That Villa side was very strong and had Dennis Onyango, Hannington Kalyesubula, Posnet Omwony, Timothy Batabaire, Andy Mwesigwa, Robert Tumusiime, Phillip Obwin, Simeon Masaba, Hakim Magumba, Edgar Watson, Augustine Nsumba, Morley Byekwaso, Joseph Kabagambe and Emmanuel Balyejusa. Most of the moved on not long after 2005.
In 2006, Mutenza went back to KCCA and played two seasons before crossing to Kenya’s Tusker. There, he won the Kenya Premier League title in 2008.
Mutenza spent four seasons with Tusker, having his best spell that resonated with so many fans there. On two occasions, Tusker finished in the top three in the league.
There was a group that took Kenyan football by storm at the same time in Daniel Muzeyi Sserunkuuma, Musa Mudde and Jimmy Bageya.
He returned in 2011 and signed for Victors. At the peak of his club career in Uganda, Mutenza was sought by most of the top clubs in Uganda.
Sam Ssimbwa, while coach at Express in 2011, said good things about Mutenza whom he referred to as the right choice that would bring the magic wand to the club.
“The Red Eagles left wing has been dead for a while now and Mutenza’s return from Kenya is expected to inspire the team and our young players,” Ssimbwa said.
Mutenza was first capped for the national team during the Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup in 2003. The beat Rwanda 2-0 in the final to lift the trophy in Khartoum, Sudan on December 10.
Mutenza fact-file (achievements)
* He played for Iganga TC, SC Villa, KCCA and Victors
* He spent four seasons playing for Tusker in the Kenyan league
* He won the league with SC Villa in 2003 and 2004
* He won the 2003 Cecafa Kagame Cup with SC Villa
* He played for KCCA on three different occasions
* He won the league with KCCA in 2013 and 2014
*He won the Cecafa with Cranes in 2003
Talk of the 1999 star-studded Uganda Kobs team that participated in the All Africa Games in South Africa and the name Ssebalinga will ring a bell in one’s mind.
This team, coached by Leo Adraa was dominated by players from the three top clubs namely SC Villa, KCCA and Express.
These included names like Sam Kawalya, Hussein Ssali, Ibrahim Ssekagya, Tabula, Andy Lule, Aggrey Bigala, Byekwaso, Magumba, Ssozi and Andrew ‘Fimbo’ Mukasa.
There was a few players summoned to the squad from smaller clubs and among them was Ssebalinga who was then playing for Nile.
The ‘dwarfs’ also provided David Obua (Police) , Robert Kabanda (Scoul), David Lukwago (Simba) Alex Isabirye (Nile), Sam Jjuuko (Scoul) and Eugene Ssepuya (Mbale Heroes).
Like them, Ssebalinga beat the odds to make the trip to South Africa. As it later turned out, it was this 1999 U-23 squad members that were to rule Ugandan football for the next generation.
On his part, Ssebalinga was a natural left footer who made up for his deficiency in size with skills and speed.
Soon after the All Africa Games, Villa snatched him from Nile and he brought that joy to the capital. A dribbler of repute, he added crossing to his resume. While his peers rose faster, size always played against him and it wasn’t until 2008 that he was called to the national senior team during preparation for the 2010 World Cup/Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Benin.
Cranes coach Bobby Williamson was about to return from holiday when his assistants Ssimbwa and Jackson Mayanja named the squad to start preparing for the match.
Ssimbwa was confident that Ssebalinga would make a strong impact after an impressive run of form at Atraco in Rwanda, then coached by Sam Timbe.
“He has played for Uganda youth team before and should be enthusiastic to play again. He is the star of Atraco and has scored many goals this year,” Ssimbwa argued. “We have been monitoring him and if he turns up in the right shape as we expect we shall include him in the starting lineup.”
Keen for more pace in attack, the Cranes assistant coaches opted for Ssebalinga. On the other hand his inclusion in the Cranes squad was received with anger from the Atraco who were due to face rivals Kiyovu Stars in a crucial league that coincided with qualifiers.
Atraco’s assistant coach, Emmanuel Ruremesh, made it clear that the absence of both Ssebalinga and Johnson Bagole would be a major blow to the club.
“It won’t be easy to play without them and there is nothing we can do about it,” he said. This shows the trust Atraco had in Ssebalinga. Uganda beat Benin 2-1. But, Ssebalinga didn’t make a long career with the national team.
Mike Ssebalinga fact-file (Achievements)
* In Uganda he played for Nile and SC Villa in the league
* In Rwanda he was an instrumental player for Atraco
* He was a member of the U-23 Uganda team for the 1999 All Africa Games
* He played for the Cranes in 2010 Africa Cup of Nations/ World Cup qualifiers
Kadogo’s career started out at Iganga Young. He was so gifted and in 2000 attracted the sharp eye of the SC Villa technical team that moved to sign him.
He became part of the young Villa team that was originally assembled by former coach Paul Hasule and later inherited by Serbian coach Micho Sredojevic.
To guide the youngsters were Posnet Omwony, Timothy Batabaire, Robert Tumusiime, Edgar Watson, Phillip Ssozi, Ekutchu Kasongo, Hannington Kalyesubula, Alex Isabirye, Hakim Magumba and Manfred Kizito.
At Villa, Kadogo went on to win three league titles in 2000, 2001 and 2003. He was also in the SC Villa squad that won the 2003 Cecafa Club Championship though he missed some games due to injury.
The latter fate also befell Hakim Magumba and Dan Obote. The next time Kadogo appeared in the Cecafa Cup was in the 2005 finals. This time, he was on the opposite side – playing for Rwanda’s APR against Villa.
Villa had since acquired the services of veteran coach Sam Timbe and went on to destroy the APR side then coached by Kenyan Jacob ‘Ghost’ Mulee 3-0 convincing in Mwanza, Tanzania.
Apart from Kadogo, APR had other Ugandans in their line up like Abubaker Tabula, Ssozi, Kizito and James Kayimba, all of whom had once played for Villa.
Not only did Villa beat APR, they also went on to sweep all the individual honours that included producing the top scorer in Benard Mwalala, best goalkeeper in Denis Onyango (didn’t concede a goal) while Andy Mwesigwa was named the best defender. Sam Timbe was coach of the tournament.
At APR, Kadogo’s lethal cross won him three league titles in 2005, 2006 and 2007. While in Rwanda he was one of the much sought after players and also played for Atraco and Police.
He helped Rwanda Police finish second on the table in the 2011-12 league season and thereafter won qualification to the 2013 Caf Confederation Cup. They were consequently eliminated by LLB Academic of Burundi in the preliminary round.
Upon his return to Uganda, Kadogo also played for KCCA alongside Tabula, Asan Bajope, Noah ‘Babadi’ Kasule and Tony Mawejje winning the 2004 Uganda Cup.
At the age of 34 in 2016, Kadogo still had some steam that compelled Fufa Big League side Busia Fisheries to seek his signature.
“His experience remains a key factor towards our target of progressing to the Ugandan Premier League,” Busia Fisheries chief executive officer Ivan George Wamalwa remarked then.
In the national team, Kadogo first played for Uganda Kobs before progressing to the senior team, featuring between 2004 and 2007.
His Cranes debut was the 2006 World Cup qualifier played away to Cape Verde June 19, 2004. Uganda lost 1-0. He also featured in group B qualifying games against Ghana, DR Congo, South Africa and Burkina Faso.
Alimansi Kadogo fact-file (Achievements)
* In Uganda he played for Iganga young, KCCA, SC Villa and Busia Fisheries,
* Outside Uganda he played for APR, Police and Atlaco all in Rwanda
* He won the 2004 Uganda cup with KCCA
* He won three league titles with APR in 2005, 2006 and 2007
* He played for Rwanda Police in 2013 Caf Cup
* He played for Uganda Kobs (the national U23 team)
* He played for Cranes team between 2004 and 2007
* His Cranes debut was 2004 World Cup qualifier against Cape Verde