KAMPALA- Celebrated Ugandan star Ibrahim Sekagya was planning an earlier start to his coaching career after six years at Red Bull Salzburg when the Austrian club informed him of the need at sister side, New York Red Bulls. In his half a dozen years at Salzburg, the former Ugandan captain and defender helped the team to three Austrian Bundesliga titles.
He also served as captain for the club and in 2008-09 was named the Fans Player of the Year. Sekagya had successfully shaken off the heart-breaking 2012 Afcon qualification failure with Cranes on the final day in 2011 to captain his club to the Australian Cup.
Fresh challenge Yet, that never blurred Sekagya’s vision from the truth that he was not growing any more speed out there with the youngste at Salzburg, and thoughts of retirement were wearing heavy on his mind now. But in that mist of thoughts presented another opportunity for yet a fresher challenge. “It was in my last year and I was thinking of retirement and then I get to sit with the people of Salzburg and they told me about New York Red Bulls,” said Sekagya, who was speaking in an interview with American media at his club. “I think they wanted a centre back, and when we sat to talk about everything, family-wise stuff, to come here (New York), and I came here for a week to see how it is and I liked the place and the way things were done. So my decision was so easy.
“I knew where I was gonna stay, and I knew where I will be. Of course, the experience was different because I think the time I came here I had one month where I was not playing. We were off season.” Sekagya, joining from Salzburg in the summer of 2013, went on to help solidify the back line at New York. “It was exciting but you know how the league here is, and to know the rules. The first time I came here I didn’t know about the Supporters Shield.
“In Europe (Austria) you play just about the same format till the end, but here you go for play-offs. But to do all those things, it was exciting and to be part of the first Supports Shield (winning team) it was so important for me and my career.” Sekagya made 25 appearances, including 23 starts, as well as starting all five playoff games during the team’s run to the Eastern Conference Championship.
He also played in eight games during the late season push to win the 2013 Supporters Shield. “I liked the way things were going, and you know when you are around these people, and you know this experience you have to be around – it was easier for me,” he said.
Player to coach One and a half seasons at New York Salzburg and Sekagya finally announced his retirement from professional football in February 2015, paving way for the American club to integrate him in their coaching staff. “Ibrahim had a great playing career and is also a great person. He is a true professional,” said Red Bulls sporting director Ali Curtis at the time. “His successes for both club and country speak for themselves, and the length of his career is a testament to his character and work ethic.
“We thank him for his service to the New York Red Bulls, and we look forward to working with him and integrating his knowledge and experience into helping both our coaching staff and our young players at all levels.”
Sekagya was to later be named assistant coach to John Wolyniec of the B team. Just how easy was the transition? “It wasn’t easy,” explained Sekagya, “I first thought that it would be easy, but playing and coaching are different. You can’t compare. “But being around people who are experienced, I knew that I was gonna be working with John, he was my coach here for a little bit of time, and then being transitioned as assistant coach, I think he is a guy who can listen to you, being with him am growing every day.” The growth is evident.