Muguwa: From Cranes superstar to cleaner

For some reason, Jimmy Muguwa has kept a low profile, despite a great football career. In fact, some see him at Nakivubo stadium but fail to recognise him.

Muguwa, like other sports stars of his generation, became famous for his displays, especially at Nakivubo Stadium. And going by Lucky Dube’s Going Back To My Roots song, he is back where he belongs-Nakivubo stadium-but this time as a cleaner.

Early career
Born in 1954, Muguwa’s long journey started in Mombasa, Kenya. As a child, he picked interest in football which saw him join Hudson Bay FC, his village team. He would later join Faisal FC, whose signing fee he used to facilitate his move back to Uganda in 1971.

He settled in Mulago suburb with his extended family. One evening, while moving around Mulago, he saw young boys enjoying a kick-around at the Mulago grounds. This is where the likes of Jimmy Kirunda and Tom Lwanga, all honed their football skills.

“When I asked to join them, they first teased me because I was short and small, yet they were “giants”. They kept me on the sidelines for a few minutes but when my chance came, I wowed them with my skills and they took me on,” he says.

In 1971, Muguwa joined Lint FC and became one of the most sought-after players in the league and big clubs such as Express FC courted him, but he rejected them for Uganda Commercial Bank (UCB FC) in 1973.

“Yes, Express was a big team and they wanted me, but UCB, despite playing in the lower league, had a job to offer,” he explains.
At UCB, he was employed as an accounts clerk. Despite UCB playing in the second tier, Muguwa stood out and caught former local government minister Bidandi Ssali’s eye. Bidandi was the head coach of the Central Province team preparing for the 1975 inter-regional tournament.

Shortly, Bidandi, who also doubled as Uganda Cranes Team Manager, included Muguwa in the Cranes team that played in that year’s Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup in Zambia.

Turning tables at UCB
Muguwa’s stake had by now shot through the roof. In 1976, UCB got promoted to the top division. Coach Ben ‘Big Ben’ Omoding went on a recruiting spree that brought Mike Alere, Dakitali Jalobo and Jimmy Bbosa. Young players such as Fredrick Musisi Kiyingi (Daily Monitor senior sports journalist) and Steven Baluku would also later join to bolster the team.

In the 1978 season, Muguwa finished second top-scorer on 24 goals, which earned him his nickname: ‘The Jackal’. He also guided the team to the Uganda Cup final but lost to Nsambya.
In 1979, he scored twice in the 3-3 draw with KCC, which delivered the bankers a league title.
“That day, I gave KCC defenders a torrid moment. I was mobile on the pitch. Those days, you had to be brave because the gangly players were so intimidating. But I could make them kneel,” he cheekily remarks.

Mixed fortunes in Cranes

Muguwa’s start to the national team career was somewhat sporadic. His first major tournament was the 1976 African Nations Cup in Ethiopia. Uganda was eliminated at the group stage level, but on a personal note, Muguwa scored against Guinea in the 2-1 loss.

When the Cranes returned, Muguwa regained his form at UCB and scored some vital goals in the 1977 season. He would also be included on the Cranes side for the 1978 Afcon tourney in Ghana, where Uganda lost the finals 0-2 to the hosts. Despite not playing regularly in that edition, Muguwa is happy he made the trip.

“It was so amazing because we went to Ghana as underdogs but managed to reach the finals. And I am sure we would have won because we had good players, but some things beyond our control stood in our way and disorganised us.” However, he refuses to discuss those “things”.
One thing he will never forget, he says, is the emergence of Philip Omondi.

Omondi, who was top-scorer at the tournament with four goals, is widely described as the best Ugandan footballer, ever. And Muguwa agrees, rather emphatically “You (pointing at the writer) are still young. You are unlucky to have never watched that guy. For us who played with him in the Cranes, it was a privilege and honour.

“I bet you will never see such a player again in Uganda and Africa. He was special all of us respected him. He could beat you in the air and on the ground with every part of his body,” he says, shaking his head still struggling to find the right words.
After Ghana, Muguwa played in two Cecafa editions and retired from the Cranes in 1982.

Captaining Express
Express had continued to court him. He finally joined them in 1982 and was made captain in 1983 and scored the third goal in the 3-1 win over arch-rivals KCC FC in the 1985 Uganda Cup final. He retired from football in 1987 and started coaching.

In 1982, Federation of Uganda Football Associations (Fufa) requested for technical assistance from the Germany Football Federation.
In 1987, Muguwa and 11 other coaches were invited to Germany for coaching courses. In 1992, he was appointed Express FC assistant coach and assumed full powers in 1995. He led the Wankulukuku-based club to the 1995 league and Uganda Cup double.

Fufa management was moved by this rare feat and appointed him Cranes assistant coach. But when Serbian coach Dragan Popadic joined Express in 1996, Muguwa resigned, only to return in 2002. At around that time, he got involved in a motor accident that left him with head injuries.

In fact, Muguwa finds difficulty in recalling some things. His right leg was also operated on and he now walks with a limp.

“The injuries that I sustained on the head are making me lose my memory. I am so forgetful. The doctors warned me that if I don’t get proper treatment, I may end up a mad man, and I see this coming.”

But what hurts Muguwa is the fact that Express FC still owes him money.
“After the accident, Express sacked me. Kabenge (Kavuma, then club chairperson) just told me that I had not done anything at Express worthy being paid for. I just shook my head and left him to God.

Today, I am suffering because Express refused to pay me,” he adds, sadly. Asked for a comment, Kabenge said “As far as I know, there is no money in Ugandan football. If he wants his money, let him go to the club’s new board and they pay him.”

Nakivubo comes calling

After spending many years jobless, Jimmy Muguwa approached sports state minister Charles Bakkabulindi, to save him. Bakkabulindi recommended him to the Nakivubo stadium board for employment.

There, he was taken on as the office cleaner in charge of washing dishes. This is what he has done for the last four years, and as expected, he is not a happy man. He even refused to be photographed while on duty, because it is so “demeaning”.

“When the minister sent m, he didn’t direct the board on a specific job that I was going to do. He just sent m. So when I got here, they assigned me this job.

“Fellow ex-players at first discouraged me from taking this job but I was desperate. I can’t even disclose my salary. I would request the minister to transfer me to somewhere else. It’s really shameful and degrading.”

Bakkabulindi told us that he has tried to bring the ex-players out of their current plight by getting them jobs, and Muguwa is one of them. “I have assigned Timothy Ayiekho and Paul Ssali posts on the Nakivubo and NCS boards as a way of helping our ex-stars. And I will keep helping others, but it also depends on that person’s track record in employment.

“But still, when I appoint the board, it appoints the staff and assigns them their respective duties, and that was the case with Muguwa. Personally, I did not know that he is washing dishes,” said Bakkabulindi, who also promised follow up on the matter.

Muguwa is living at a family home in Musajj’alumbwa, Ntinda. His plans to construct his own house, he says, were dashed when Express reneged on paying him.
Day by day, his hopes of attaining a desirable life keep diminishing.


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SOURCE: Daily Monitor


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