The current standoff between Fufa and Vipers in regards to the Uganda Premier League deal reminds me of similar incidents in the 1980s, where top-flight clubs and the federation engaged in cold wars.
So heated were the tirades that league kick-offs were postponed at times until common sense prevailed. Many times, it took the intervention of wise heads to settle the differences. So, when I heard about the death of Mzee George ‘Nungi’ Sebuliba on December 9, my heart sunk for obvious reasons.
Having been at close proximity to him for many years, I learnt quite a number of things from him, top of which is having a positive mindset. In fact, his Nungi nickname was actually his favourite catchword when greeting people. Therefore, his passing should be celebrated and we have to thank the Almighty for his life.
Nearly 92, Sebuliba was an exceptional man, dedicated to football even at old age. The formidable structure of SC Villa, especially during the formative stage, was a result of Sebuliba’s hard work and dedication.
Even in his later years, Sebuliba, together with the late Balamaze Lwanga, were the only officials the club turned to when almost everyone lost his head. For starters, Sebuliba’s two sons Fred ‘Guy’ Kawuma and Dan Lule also served the club with dignity for decades.
Dumping Express for SC Villa
Before the infamous ban of Express FC in 1977, Sebuliba and his family were keen supporters of the Red Eagles. After the banishment, Sebuliba shifted allegiance to Nakivubo Boys along with many Express supporters. At the time, Nakivubo Boys had just been promoted to the second-tier division.
His sons Kawuma and Lule had just retired as Nakivubo Boys players and became club officials. The Jogoos were facing financial hardships. So, Sebuliba’s arrival boosted the club financially and he was appointed club patron. He joined hands with club boss Daniel Kiwalabye, George Faison Damulira and Edward Mugalu Luyimbazi to help SC Villa qualify to top-flight in 1979.
Being the oldest official at the club, he was highly-respected and played an integral role to instill discipline in a club which was dominated by youngsters and, more so, from Kampala’s biggest slam of Kisenyi. When Patrick Kawooya joined Nakivubo Boys and became its chairman in 1979, Sebuliba relinquished his post of patron and handed it to Ddamulira but remained a member of the executive.
However, his sons Kawuma and Lule were elected as vice chairman and treasurer respectively. Not even the ‘resurrection’ of Express FC in 1979 changed his support to SC Villa he instead intensified his love to the Jogoos, which had strengthened to compete favourably well with the best in the country.
It was around that time that I got to know Mzee Sebuliba and on the many occasions we interacted, he always talked about how to organize the sport for future generations of success. He disliked cliques and intrigue, was always objective and took criticism without bitterness.
Early in the 1980s when the Jogoos were undergoing the process of evolution into a formidable side, the club faced the huge challenge of keeping players employed. At the time, the topflight clubs such as Coffee, KCC, Maroons, NIC, Lint, Police, Nytil, Tobacco, Nile and Bell offered jobs to players, something which SC Villa lacked.
Sebuliba, who owned a furniture company [Kawempe Woodworks], offered jobs to the likes of Wilson Nsobya, Moses Ndaula, Godfrey Kisitu and Sula Kato, among others. Villa players greatly associated with Sebuliba because of his generosity.
As a member of the club’s disciplinary committee, he always gave players pep talks about life after football with the aim of inspiring them to save for life after retirement. It was also rare for Villa to travel to any international engagement without Sebuliba.
However, his biggest test came in 1993, when the club took a big decision to drop his close friend Kawooya. Being a straightforward person, he did his best to persuade Kawooya to accept a seamless handover before boldly rooting for Franco Mugabe.
In his later years, Sebuliba had scaled down his involvement in football affairs but always remained a unifying figure during hard times that require soul-searching.
Indeed, this was evident during the vigil at his home in Najjeera as the old and new leaders of the club united to give him a resounding sendoff. From Mugabe to Eriab Kamya to Omar Ahmed Mandela and the current club president Ben Missaga, the late Sebuliba was eulogized as an inspiration.
Sebuliba fact file
Born to late Nekemiah Lule Lubuto Kyoto and Nakku Milini of Salama Munyonyo.
Studied at Namirembe PS, Kibuye PS and Makerere Demonstration School
Served in the army during the 1940s and was part of the Ugandan soldiers that participated in the World War II.
Was one time a trumpeter in the Army brass band.
He is survived by 11 children.
The author is operations director of The Observer Media Ltd.
Source : The Observer