The Fabulous Fimbo Mukasa
Uganda's forgotten soccer star.
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First published: May 11, 2007
If you walk the streets of Kampala today, you can hardly miss former football phenomenon Andrew Fimbo Mukasa. However, always travel with enough hand kerchiefs because you will shed tears on seeing Uganda's Super League goal scoring record holder taking his meals from the rubbish bins.
Ultimate Media's Ramathan Kasozi writes that in Uganda if you launched a debate on who the greatest football marksman this nation has ever produced is, eons can elapse before a definite agreement is reached. While a certain school of thought in Uganda's football fraternity thinks that Philip Omondi (RIP), Jimmy Kirunda and the late Magid Musisi are in a class of their own, another contends that Mukasa's talent was extra ordinary. To prove their point, they point out that he is Uganda's Super League goal scoring record holder. No matter the conclusion of the debate, the truth remains that despite his failure to get a chance to join the international paid ranks, Fimbo's wonderful goal scoring memories will take a very long time to erase from the minds of the Ugandan soccer fraternity.
Before former Cranes' and SC Villa's celebrated coach Paul Hasule passed away, he used to describe Fimbo as the best net finder he had ever witnessed locally. Hasule was regarded as the Beckenbauer of Uganda, so his comments were always taken seriously. "He is a rare talent. Give him just a half chance and you will never forgive yourself," Hasule was quoted saying by the now defunct local soccer weekly magazine, The Football in their 18th September 1999 edition.
The sensational Fimbo had every thing in terms of ball skills that are necessary for one to be counted as a modern professional player. The more solid his opponent's defence appeared, the more evident Mukasa made it look shaky. Any one who watched the Julius Berger Vs SC Villa do or die tie in 2000 at Namboole in the African Champions League can testify to this. Right from the word go, it looked like the Nigerians were a class apart compared to SC Villa and there were no signs that the Ugandan champions would have a chance to shoot at the Nigerians' goal.
But in the second half, Mukasa who had until then been playing quietly in typical Fimbo fashion for almost 50 minutes received an aerial cross from Alimansi Kadogo. He incredibly controlled the aerial ball, chesting it down and narrowing the shooting angle before unleashing a scorcher that left Julius Berger's goalie with no other option than collect it from the back of his net and give the Ugandan side a 1-0 victory. After the game, the overwhelmed Berger tactician stayed glued to the bench, shaking his head and finally doing the same to Mukasa's hands.
Fimbo always seemed lazy and his work rate on the pitch wasn't the best compared to his team mates. Additionally, was always a burden to his team especially while they were at the receiving end. What he had mastered, however, was the key purpose of the game - putting the ball behind the opponent's goal keeper. His team mates used to complain about his loose and loud mouth on the pitch but he always laughed them off, claiming he was just misunderstood. All he asked for from fellow players was devising ways of quickly getting the ball into the opponents' net.
Despite being a loud player, it is difficult to recall him being ever sent off or cautioned by the referee. Mukasa's magic was unlimited and he was fond of promising and making sure he lived up to his words. Some of the promises he made prior to the 1999 season kick off included promising to be the top scorer that same season. In addition to fulfilling it this promise, he erased Jimmy Kirunda's Super League goal record that had until then lasted for over two decades. He rewrote history by setting his own incredible 45 goal mark.
The U-23 national team, the Kobs traveled to Lusaka, Zambia in 1999 for the 2nd leg of the All African Games qualifiers with a slim 1-0 cushion. Before the team's departure, he promised the nation that he would, by all means, get Uganda a goal in Zambia and leave the rest to the team's defence department. He scored the promised goal to end the game 1-1 and helped the Kobs to progress.
Mukasa was born in 1981 to Grace Namuguzi of Wakaliga, Natete, a suburb south of Kampala. Grace says that Fimbo's father passed away when Fimbo was still an infant. However some people have claimed that the said father wasn't his real father and this explains Mukasa's mental state. His mother defies the allegation, saying that right from childhood, his son was hard to understand. "He was the kind of person who at one moment would share with you a hearty conversation and then abruptly withdraw and keep quiet the next minute," reveals Namuguzi. It is alleged that Mukasa never saw beyond a Primary Three black board.
Before his mental illness worsened, he used to narrate that during his childhood days, he loved going to Nakivubo Stadium to watch SC Villa's talented trio of Magid Musisi, Ronald Vvubya and Paul Hasule playing as well as to catch sight of KCC FC's Jackson Mayanja. He also claimed this is where he developed keen interest in the game. He started his footballing career at Kyagwe Road Primary School by featuring in small three-a-side games as early as at five years of age. In 1994 he briefly joined Baggery FC; a former 2nd division side that he helped get promoted to the 1st division.
He later joined a Nakawa based 1st division side, Puma FC, where he started his heroics. In the 1995 season, Mukasa was the top scorer in this league with 33 goals. Tom Mawanda, a resident of Nakawa who witnessed Mukasa's days at Puma, describes him as a rare breed of talent in the country and says that Mukasa used to average four goals per game, whether in training or in a competitive match. "He had a habit of arriving late at game venues, sometimes even after a game had already started. However, the moment he was brought on, he would start the scoring business. I remember one time, when Puma was trailing Maroons 2-0; Mukasa arrived late and was brought on in the second half. He managed to single handedly turn the score line to 5-2 in Puma's favour at the end of the 90 minutes," recalls Mawanda.
Because of his scorching shots while at Puma, his fans tagged him 'Fimbo', Swahili for a caning rod. This nickname more or less replaced his surname and very few people up to this day are aware that Kalyango is his surname.
In 1996 Fimbo was invited to Uganda's U-18 squad that took part in the Coca-Cola East and Central African Junior Championships in Ethiopia under Coach Paul Saali. This was very unusual in Ugandan football because summoning a player from a lower division for national duty is quite rare. He didn't only spear head Uganda's efforts into the finals but managed to score three goals in the tournament while he was at it. From then on, it was evident that his days at the Nakawa based side were numbered as the all three Ugandan football giant clubs; SC Villa, Express and KCC FC, started scrambling for his signature.
Despite KCC being the club he supported from childhood, Fimbo opted to cross over to Villa Park under the era of tactician David Otti. This, according to the Football Weekly Magazine increased Villa's ability to win trophies. "Even at Puma, I never liked losing. When I heard that Villa was a winning team I decided to join them," Fimbo was quoted saying.
Although he continued his magical scoring streak at Nsambya, the then 17-year-old net sniper didn't find it easy squeezing his way into the first eleven as coach Hasule preferred the more experienced striking pair of Charles Kayemba (RIP) and Hassan Mubiru. Within a short period, however much Hasule loved Kayemba, he had no option but to play him as second fiddle because Fimbo's scoring skills at the training sessions were above normal. This resulted in the 'MU-MU' (Mubiru- Mukasa) partnership that ruled the country for long.
His career climbed to new heights in 1998 when he tortured Villa's nemesis Express FC in the semi-finals of Uganda's second prestigious competition - the Kakungulu Cup. He scored the two goals that sunk the Red Eagles at Nakivubo stadium a week before he inflicted more damage against the same team, this time in the Nile Special Super League by manufacturing two spade works for his twin striker Mubiru.
At the end of that season, Villa Park had all the trophies that had eluded it for four years and finally regained its untouchable status when Villa emerged double champions. After five years at Villa Park, Mukasa caused panic during the 2001 transfer window. He decided to cross over to Wankulukuku and join Villa's arch foes, Express FC.
His arrival at Wankulukuku meant that the deadly 'Mu-Mu' partnership was revived (Mubiru had crossed over earlier) and unsurprisingly, early the following year, the Red Eagles (who had been dubbed the other Cranes because of its array of stars) went to Mwanza, Tanzania and indisputably crushed every team present to win the East African Hedex Cup thanks to Fimbo's fine finishing skills.
After that, he went downhill. His mental state worsened and he started by refusing to train with Express arguing that the club tactician had no credentials to handle a player of his caliber and opted to do his own drills on the muddy pitch at Wakaliga. In one of the memorable instances during that period, Fimbo locked himself up in his house for some days and rescuers had to break the doors to reach him. Former Villa treasurer Ahmed Mandela and the current FUFA boss Lawrence Mulindwa tried to salvage his talent by hospitalizing him at Butabika Hospital but their efforts prooved futile.
This may have marked the pre-mature end of this great marksman's career and if you want to catch a glimpse of him now, don't go to his home in Wakaliga but just hang around Kampala's garbage dumping areas. Not withstanding his current state, Uganda's record books will always have him down as one of the phenomenal marksmen that this county has ever produced. If you happen meet him, you owe him at least a token.
Some of Fimbo's awkward memories
In 2001, as Villa was preparing for the semi finals of the Kakungulu Cup, he absconded from Villa Park and crossed over to Lugogo to train with their bitter rivals KCC FC.
In 1999, at the Johannesburg All African games, he flexed muscles against his U-23 national teammate Ibrahim Ssekajja in the dressing room soon after their 1-0 loss to Cameroon. The current Cranes skipper had just accused Fimbo of deliberately refusing to tap Willy Kyambadde's killer pass into an empty net. After that match, he was deported and on arrival in Uganda joined his Ngo clan, which he inspired to win the Bika by'Abaganda tournament crown.
In 2001 he went for professional trials in Istanbul, Turkey and returned home loaded financially. He is alleged to have caused near inflation in the city when he started disbursing money to street kids, one by one soon after his arrival.
In 2001 he deliberately refused to pass the ball to his twin striker Mubiru who was in a better position to tap in an equalizer against Nile FC at Kakindu stadium in the Nile Special Super League encounter. Villa lost it 1-0 thanks to Mike Ssebalinga's stunning free-kick. The two are said to have had misunderstandings before the tie.
In 2002, he described one of his best friends' (and teammate), Hakim Magumba's style of football as cartoon-like. The country's vocal press over exaggerated this incident but Magumba played it cool.
In the same year he declined to report to the Cranes camp after FUFA refused to clear his street kid bag boy to stay with him in the residential camp.
4 League tittles, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 (SC Villa)
2 Kakungulu Cups 1998, 2000 (SC Villa)
League Top scorer 1999, 2000 (SC villa)
East African Hedex Cup (SC Villa)
Led SC villa to CECAFA finals (1999)
East African Hedex Cup (Express)
Inspired Uganda's U-23 national team into the 1999 All African Games
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First published: May 11, 2007
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.