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The big Interview: From scratch to stardom, Uganda Cranes goalkeeper Lukwago tells his footballing tale

By Allan Damba
Charles Lukwago goes airborne to tame an aerial effort from Rwanda on Matchday three of the 2022 FIFA Wold Cup Qualifiers at Nyamirambo / FUFA Images

In the aftermath of the retirement of long serving goalkeeper and Uganda Cranes captain Dennis Onyango, the majority of the football faithful were unshockingly worried about whether a worthy successor was ever going to surface.

However, months later, the Cranes goalkeeping department has not had too much to worry about in between the sticks.

The younger lads have bravely and diligently taken up the task, most notably St.George custodian Charles Lukwago.

The former KCCA FC skipper has stepped up to fill the void left by Onyango and has as of now passed the test with flying colours.

KCCA FC players led by goalkeeper and skipper Charles Lukwago during a game at Lugogo | KCCA FC photo (Robert Mulamule

His three impressive performances from the four 2022 FIFA World Cup qualification campaign games have had him in pole position to be the man for a permanent Cranes slot.

Football256 caught up with the jolly but extremely humble shot-stopper and talked through his life, most notably as a professional player. This interview covers all with journalist, Allan Damba.

Football256: Good morning ‘number emu'(loosely translated as number one), it’s a cold morning, thank you for honouring the invite.

Lukwago: Good morning, it’s cold but it’s always a pleasure talking to the world.

Football256: First-forward, two amazing wins against Rwanda, you must be buzzing?

Lukwago: (Cheekily smiles): Yes, not easy at all but we are happy.

Football256: Going back, briefly tell someone out there who Charles Lukwago is.

Lukwago: I am a Lugazi born and bred, it’s where my parents reside too. I play in Ethiopia at St.George. I have previously played for Proline academy and the senior team. I also played for SC Victoria University, Lweza and KCCA.

Football256: There must be some others in your family who have played football.

Lukwago: (Laughs) Not really, it’s just me who has taken up football in a professional sense.

Football256: How do you rate your spell at KCCA?

Lukwago: (Hesitantly) It’s not entirely up to me to judge but I am sure had a good time there. I won the league, the Uganda Cup and played at the continent, things I had only dreamt about growing up. KCCA became a home to me and they are family.

Former KCCA goalkeeper Charles Lukwago makes a timely save during the 2019 CECAFA Kagame Cup in Rwanda | KCCA FC photo

Football256: What’s your fondest memory at Lugogo?

Lukwago: I have three or perhaps four moments that stand out. Winning the club’s first ever double (the league and the Uganda Cup 2018/19), playing in the CAF champions league group stages, beating Al Ahly against the odds in 2018 and beating Vipers in the Uganda Cup final in 2018.

Football256: How do you rate the current goalkeepers at KCCA?

Lukwago: They are very good goalkeepers, mixed with youth and experience. Benjamin Ochan has been at Lugogo before, experienced and knows what to do. I am confident they will carry the team and bring success back to Lugogo.

Football256: How did you receive the news of St.George’s interest?

Lukwago: I was calm when my representatives told me to take the deal. It’s every player’s dream to play professional football. Football is a career, it’s not just about having fun. And it is an opportunity I really want to grab with open arms.

Football256: How were you received in Ethiopia and how easy or hard was it for you to settle in?

Lukwago: I was received well and have settled in quite easily. The people who played there first represented us pretty well, the likes of Onyango, Hannington Kalyesubula and Robert Odongkara. So it’s easier when people already believe in you.

Football256: How do you compare football in Ethiopia and Uganda?

Lukwago: (Assuringly) They (Ethiopians) have much better facilities than us here. They invest heavily in facilities and human resources. Fans there are more passionate and stadiums are almost always filled to capacity. We can get there with time.

Football256: In terms of talent?

Lukwago: With the talent, we are ahead of them. I can honestly tell you Uganda is more endowed with talent than so many African countries. But they beat us with the other things that you need to improve and polish your talent.

Football256: Let’s talk about the national team, did you think you will be number one after Onyango’s retirement?

Lukwago: (Smiles) With football, you only have to work hard and leave the rest to the coaches. It’s not guaranteed that I will start every game, the coach may give Isma (Watenga) the chance next time or Alionzi Nathian or Joel (Mutakubwa). But I am determined to take my chance every time I am given an opportunity.

Uganda Cranes goalkeeper Charles Lukwago during a training session in Cameroon | Photo Credit: FUFA Media/XtraTimeSports (Darren McKinstry)

Football256: What is your relationship with Watenga given the fact that he is your competitor?

Lukwago: The national goalkeeping department is a family. Coach Fred Kajoba has done a good job at building togetherness. But, outside football, Isma is my very good friend and we talk almost on a daily.

Football256: How has Onyango helped you gel into the setup?

Lukwago: As I have told you, we are a family which Dennis (Onyango) is still part of. He always offers advice here and there. He is always helping the rest of the team as well, he is a top professional.

Football256: Do you feel we, as a country have a chance of making it to next year’s World Cup?

Lukwago: (Laughs) Of course everything is possible with football. We have put ourselves in a good position. As players, we shall keep working hard and do our part, the rest will come into place.

Football256: Where do you see yourself in the next five years?

Lukwago: You can not really tell what the next day will bring. At the moment, I am fully focused on St.George, if a good deal comes, it’s the work of the representative and the club to see what is best for me.

Football256: Who among the coaches you have worked with do you attribute your success to?

Lukwago: Quite many but coach Dan Kiwanuka always aimed at making me better in every session. Also, Mike Mutebi always believed in me and gave me a chance to show what I was all about at the biggest stage.

Football256: Do you have any role models?

Lukwago: Yes, Dennis Onyango. Everything he has done and achieved in his career, leadership and professionalism. He commands a lot of respect across Africa.

Football256: Internationally?

Lukwago: I admire Manuel Neuer’s (Bayern Munchen goalkeeper) style of play and leadership.

Football256: Any last words to your fans?

Lukwago: To the fans, I will always be grateful for your continued support amidst the ups and downs. You have always supported me and the national team. Let us have hope that anything is possible in football.

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