Augustine Nsumba, Uganda's Messi
Augustine Nsumba.

Augustine Nsumba, Uganda's Messi

His love for the game dates back to when he was only three years old.

By Ramathan Kasozi
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First published: July 18, 2007

At only 19, Augustine Nsumba is destined not only to become Uganda's youngest professional footballer ever but also to break the country's transfer fee records. He is set to emulate the likes of Ibrahim Ssekajja and the late Magid Musisi, as he totters on the verge of ascending to the greener football pastures in Iceland for a record 45 million Uganda shillings. Nsumba, whose talent reminds one of FC Barcelona's entertaining star Lionel Messi, has established a sizeable fan base, not only at Villa Park, but also amongst Uganda's Super League followers.

The 1980's saw the reign of the great Phillip Omondi, succeeded by the era of the likes of Paul Hasule, Magid Musisi and Jackson Mayanja before the arrival of Kyambadde in addition to the "Mu-Mu-Ma " partnership of Mubiru, Mukasa and Magumba on the Ugandan football scene. But as the hey days of the last three seem to be departing, I hear bells alerting me that the Uganda Cranes and SC Villa teenage, pint-sized dynamo will soon take over this mantle. No wonder then, that even the national head coach Laszlo Csaba concurs by describing the talent possessed by the Uganda Christian University, Mukono student as extra ordinary. "The boy is extra good. He is a rough diamond that needs only to be polished a little. With him, the future of the country is bright, football-wise." 

Csaba's Assistant Jackson Mayanja, one of the greatest talents Uganda has ever produced and exported, describes the wonder kid as real professional material that can take the country to higher heights. Nsumba's Cranes teammate Geoffrey Massa describes him as rare talent in Ugandan football. Nsumba, an admirer of the French football legend Zinedine Zidane and the FC Barcelona's trio of Ronaldihno, Messi and Deco, is one of the latest talents to emerge from SC Villa's nursery. He is a modern, deadly attacking midfielder who can play on either wing and as a half nine as well.

Augustine Nsumba(left)
Augustine Nsumba(left).

He is a son to Sarah Namanda and Kyeswa Alex of Mukono District and was born 19 years ago. According to him, his love for the game dates back to when he was only three years old. He recalls that by that age, he had already started turning any available space into a football field. He usually employed balls woven out of banana fibres for lack of proper balls. "Even at four years of age, I preferred playing football to missing a meal. I remember I used to carry my banana fibre ball to school and whenever the break time bell rung, my mind ran straight to football.." he reminisces.

He has just enrolled at Mukono Christian University to pursue a bachelor's degree in Computer Science, after seeing off his A-Level worries at Old Kampala Senior Secondary School. He treasures SC Villa's former tactician, Yugoslav Micho Mullitin Sredojevich (now with Tanzanian giants, Yanga Africans) for having turned him into what he is now. "I leant a lot from coach Micho, both on and off the pitch. I was much younger then, smaller and shorter, but he got me licensed me in the Super League and gave me the chance to feature in that strong squad that had the likes of Hakim Magumba and Philip Obwiny. This helped me learn some more and gain confidence," explains the stout, entertaining player, whose fans dotingly refer to as Uganda's Messi.

Like many rising stars else where on the black man's continent, Nsumba's dreams rotate around making it to the greener pastures of European football. Nevertheless, does he have what it takes to make it? Let us have a look at his awesome skills.

In the local league, he is Uganda's pass master. His passes are superlative, neat, precise and killer. Nsumba often serves short passes, the kind that can split an entire defense. In short, it seems the boy uses a ruler to measure out his passes before executing them. They are so exact!

This is his strongest ability. He uses this tool to take on any defense, no matter how high it is rated. His left foot is as deadly as his right, probably the reason why few defenders would covet to come face to face with him. His former club captain Andy Mwesigwa (with whom he may reunite at IVB FC in Ice Land) confesses: "The boy is small and short but has a lion's heart. You would rather mark two other strikers together than mark Nsumba," Mwesigwa is a no-nonsense defender himself.

Overwhelming the opponent: Nsumba sees off another defender
Overwhelming the opponent: Nsumba sees off another defender.

Ball control
Boy, isn't he currently holding the entire super glue tournament under his boots in this respect!

Initiating attacks and scoring
He is SC Villa's Messi, an excellent modern playmaker with the capacity to decide the results of a game. He makes very quick decisions and that is why, despite often playing as an attacking mid-fielder or a half nine, his name regularly gets on the score sheets. He scores the kind of goals that Ugandans used to see only on international pay TV. Any one who regularly watches SC Villa's matches may have noticed how vulnerable the team turns out whenever Nsumba is missing from the line-up. He is a very confident and comfortable player, who can keep his opponent's defensive department sweating from the initial to the final whistles.

Surely, he has some weaknesses!
Of course, he does have a few. Despite possessing all the above good qualities, this Ugandan gem is sometimes dysfunctional, especially when his team is at the receiving end. At times, just like the former SC Villa legend Hakim Magumba, Nsumba plays to himself and the crowd since he tends to play best when fans are cheering. His excessive dribbling cannot go unnoticed.

Like most talented players, committing chronic acts of indiscipline seem not to have spared Nsumba either. Most of his incidents, though, happen off field. Isn't it to early to forget the 2005 saga? He absconded from the SC Villa camp at the 11th hour, just before the team's departure to Mwanza, Tanzania for the CECAFA Club championship.

He needs to be reminded that excessive love for the bottle partly accounted for the pre-mature down fall of Kyambadde's golden talent.

His size and height militate against him sometimes (especially when trying to win aerial balls).

Whatever the case, this wonder kid's days in the local league are numbered, as international opportunities come knocking. If his talent is well nurtured, Uganda should start celebrating the resurrection of Willy Kyambadde in the form of Nsumba. This could not have been more timely - soccer is going through a period of renaissance in the country. This time though, Augustine Nsumba is the man to watch.

By Ramathan Kasozi
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First published: July 18, 2007
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Ramathan Kasozi is a member of Ultimate Media Consult (U) Ltd. . A graduate Journalist, Kasozi has more than 5 years experience reporting on sports in Uganda for different print and broadcast media houses.