By Allan Damba
Forty-five league goals a season? Four league championships? What does that sound like? Yes, you are probably thinking these numbers are only acquainted with the world’s very best.
And yes, you are rightly thinking someone capable of amassing such numbers had a stellar career or perhaps a near-perfect life on and off the pitch.
Forty years ago, Uganda had her goal machine born in the Kampala suburbs in Wakaliga to Grace Namuguzi.
Despite coming from a very impoverished background, Andrew ‘Fimbo’ Mukasa Kalyango’s amazing talent caught the eye right from a very tender age.
According to the Daily Monitor, boyhood coach Simon Kirumira talks about a young Mukasa so fondly, describing him as a rare talent even as a kid.
“I first saw him in 1990 at Martin road playing with other kids. He was 11-years-old, the tinniest, the shortest yet the most gifted among them all.”
He is a gem that got away. At only 15 in 1994, his goals helped his side Baggery FC gain promotion to the First Division.
Yes, you read that right. Mukasa was his team’s star man at 15. He, later on, joined First Division side Puma FC, notching a whopping 36 goals in 1996.
The goldmine was there for valuable exploitation. Soon, giants would come knocking, and despite training with KCCA FC, the young assassin sealed a move to rivals SC Villa.
In 1998, coach Paul Ssali called him for the U18 national side to play in the Central African Championships in Ethiopia. Despite early concerns about rushing him to the national level, he shined and scored thrice at the tournament.
Mukasa had the world at his feet. He was the country’s hotcake destined for greatness. He put the ball at the back of the net every time he wished.
Senior Journalist John Vianney Nsimbe recalls; “He was a superb player in terms of his ability to score, confidence and technique. I have not seen a footballer in this country with a better first touch.”
“His ball control was second to none; he was exceptional. When Mukasa got one on one with the goalkeeper, he was always going to score. I do not remember ever seeing him miss with the goalkeeper to beat.”
Villa teammate Phillip Obwiny says; “Mukasa would say I will score two goals today, and he did. When he did not promise, he would not score. He would score every time he wanted.”
Mukasa was lethal with the goal in sight. He was the marksman every team was envious of. Mukasa was a pernicious forward, a plague to the goalkeepers.
Obwiny further adds; “Mukasa was a perfect finisher. He had excellent control of the ball, incredible technique and would score with so much ease.”
In 1999, he went on to break Jimmy Kirunda’s 32 league goal scoring record with a sensational 45 goal return. “Fimbo” (whipping rod) was on everyone’s lips.
Uganda had pure diamond at its disposal until – so many things hit: attitude and mentality issues, indiscipline and mental illness.
In the 1999 All Africa Games in Johannesburg, during a semi-final game against Cameroon, Mukasa was put through on goal by Jamil Kyambadde with the custodian well beaten. He stood with the ball and refused to score.
It was in retaliation to a disagreement with Ibrahim Ssekagya. Such was the player Mukasa was turning into.
Mukasa had become hugely affiliated with abusing drugs, and with his temperament, he became almost impossible to manage. Yet still, he kept banging in the goals for fun.
Mukasa would then rapidly keep on losing it. At a Uganda Cranes camp in the early 2000s, he failed to show up after his street kid ‘kitman’ was denied residence with the team.
A whole lot can be said about him, and no one can ever exhaust what kind of a player this nation missed.
With the national team struggling for goals over the past 20 years, what would it have been like with a fully fit Fimbo?
You can talk of the continent’s very best over the years, their achievements, their glittering careers, and you will be thinking, Andrew ‘Fimbo’ Mukasa should have competed favourably.
Obwiny boldly stresses his teammate would easily have matched legends like Didier Drogba, Samuel Eto’o, Nwankwo Kanu had he gotten the chance to play outside the continent.
“No doubt, his finishing matches theirs and maybe, even better. He scored 45 goals in one season. The problem was that the officials then were mean and selfish. It was hard for players to go abroad,” Obwiny opines.
Another legend and former teammate Phillip Ssozi, asserts that Mukasa was better than the continent’s all-time bests.
“I was around when the likes Kanu (Nwankwo) played. I saw Adebayor (Emmanuel), Samuel Eto’o and Drogba (Didier) play, and I can authoritatively tell you Mukasa was a better finisher than them,” Ssozi says.
“He had incredible energy. He would score from 30 yards with ease: Kanu and Adebayor could not. His brain and muscles worked very fast. He knew where to put the ball the moment he received it. I have moved around the world, and I will tell you again, no player was like him,” he stresses.
Nsimbe asserts; “Absolutely, if he had the right people and environment he would have (competed with the best). If the authorities had an interest in the game, if there was funding like today, Mukasa would have made it far.”
Over the recent years in Uganda, it has been hard to find a striker that makes half of his 1999 record-setting 45 goals.
The Mukasa case is one of a legend who left himself thirsty and his nation hungry for more: a world-beater that only stuck in the making.
Like Phillip Ssozi and Vianney Nsimbe conclude; “If our country had an interest in talent, like many more, Andrew Mukasa would have been one of Africa’s greatest.”