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Flashback: Peter Wandyete, the tough Umbwa Kali

By Football256 Team
Peter Wandyete (circled) together with other members of the KCCA FC squad that won the CECAFA Club Championship in 1978 | Photo courtesy of the Observer

By Hassan Badru Zziwa for The Observer

Peter Wandyete was a colossus, humble and diligent servant to KCCA FC. He breathed his last on May 24, 2021, and will be laid to rest at his ancestral home in Mbale district.

Legendary journalist, Director Marketing & Promotions at The Observer Media Ltd, Hassan Badru Zziwa produced a recap of his playing career from Gangama to representing the Uganda Cranes.

A few weeks ago, I bumped into him along Kampala road but he was unrecognisable, Zziwa wrote in his article produced on January 2, 2012.

Awkwardly lean with unkempt hair, he shockingly looked frail. “When are you writing about me?” he asked as I greeted him.

“I deserve to feature in your paper going by my status as a forgotten legend,” he added.

After a few minutes, I noticed some of the things he said did not add up and I later got to know he is steadily recovering from a mental disorder he suffered some time back.

Welcome to the life of Peter Rogers Wandyete, a KCCA FC and Cranes star from the 70s and 80s.

Back then, he was well built and strong defender fittingly nicknamed “Umbwa Kali,” in reference to his no-nonsense approach to the game and for following the coach’s instructions to the book the way a dog follows its master.

He was a cog in the golden KCCA side which won several trophies including back-to-back league titles and the CECAFA Club Championship in a space of three years. His partnerships with Tom Lwanga or Jimmy Kirunda created probably the meanest central defensive pairing in the history of KCC defence.

From Gangama to KCCA FC

His tenacity, aerial power and will to win all proved to be valuable assets when Gangama United joined the top flight in 1975. At the time, Wandyete was just 20 years.

Together with the likes of Clement Baraza, goalkeeper Rashid Bwire, Charles ‘Kalailai’ Namakoola, George Osilo, Abdallah Hussein and John Akena, Gangama was dubbed the “Giant killers” for turning tables against some Kampala giants.

Gangama’s excellent performances opened doors for some of their top players and at the end of the 1975 season, Wandyete defected to KCC FC.

Uganda Cranes coach David Otti was one of the admirers of his tough approach and handed him his Cranes debut during the Nations Cup qualifier against Zambia in Lusaka as Uganda lost 2-1.

At KCCA, coach Bidandi Ssali was reluctant to field him and instead maintained the experienced back four of William Mindrea, Sam Musenze, Tom Lwanga and Jimmy Kirunda.

He finally made his long-awaited debut on February 3, 1976, as a late substitute in a 2-1 win over Police FC. He became regular when Mindrea, the right full-back tore a ligament in a league game against Kilembe in April 1976.

Wandyete was impressive and KCCA went five games without conceding a goal. That season, he made 15 appearances as KCCA won its first league title.

KCCA FC was known for short crisp passes—yet Wandyete’s rugged approach was not pleasing to the eye and in a way did not fit well in the team. So, the emergence of Cloves Segujja and Gerald Kabaireho forced Wandyete down the pecking order.

However, as he progressed, a wiser head grew on his broad shoulders. Bidandi switched him to the centre half, where he partnered with Tom Lwanga. He took his chance, playing 21 games in the side that retained the league.

At the 1978 CECAFA Club Championship, Bidandi benched Wandyete in favour of Rashid Mudin as KCCA beat Tanzania’s Simba to win the regional title.

Bidandi’s rotational method brought back Wandyete in the first team when he switched Kirunda upfront. Wandyete cemented his place in the heart of the team.

Mr dependable

The departure of Kirunda and Lwanga to paid ranks in the United Arab Emirates automatically freed him. It also helped the likes of John Latigo, Yusuf Ssonko and Charles Masiko settle in the team.

Wandyete, who had then lost his Cranes place, was part of a back four that kept seven clean sheets en route to the 1981 league title. His versatility was vital in the 1982 season; when he moved to the midfield to enable youthful Kent Lutaaya to play in the central defence.

In arguably his finest performance for the Kasasiro Boys, Wandyete kept Wilberforce Mulamba and Joe Masiga quiet in a 3-0 win over Kenya’s AFC Leopards in the Africa Clubs Championship and then repeated the trick to see KCCA progress at Nairobi City Stadium in the return leg.

A torn thigh muscle kept him out for crucial Uganda Cup games against SC Villa and Express but returned in the final against Nile FC to win KCCA their third Uganda Cup title.

Following the kidnap and murder of Lutaaya, Wandyete returned to centre half partnering Latigo. He played a game of his life in Cairo when KCCA held fancied Arab Contractors 2-2 in the Africa Cup Winners Cup.

However, he turned villain in the return leg in Kampala, conceding a penalty in the stoppage time after handling Ssonko’s back pass. The resultant penalty forced the game into a shoot-out and finally, KCCA bowed out.

Disappointed KCC fans spared Wandyete but blamed Ssonko for playing a back pass at that crucial time. The youthful defender didn’t take it lightly; he crossed to SC Villa the following season.

Despite that mess, Wandyete was summoned back to Cranes and featured in a friendly game against Ethiopia but that proved his last appearance for the national team.

In 1984, Wandyete’s influence had grown, after Nsereko brought the curtain down on his fabulous career. The club turned to Wandyete to partner Fred Mugisha in the midfield.

With his battling and enthusiasm still in abundance, KCCA put a stiff challenge for top honours, winning the 1984 and 1985 Uganda Cup and league titles respectively.

Coaching career

Wandyete was never prolific – indeed, he barely registered a goal in KCC’s jersey until his 29th birthday in 1984 when he rammed a stunning header against Lufula and a thunderous strike against Nile (1987) all spring to mind.

The emergence of some youth players like George Nsimbe and Jackson Mayanja forced Wandyete to return to defence where he paired with Tom Lwanga.

However, Wandyete was increasingly side-lined but he returned to guide KCCA to the 1987 Uganda Cup title after a 1-0 victory over SC Villa.

He was dropped alongside Fred Mugisha and joined Bell FC in 1988. Later, the pair replaced Ouma as joint coaches but they left the Luzira-based side to return to Lugogo, this time as coaches.

It was a memorable return as KCC pipped Dairy FC 2-1 to lift the Uganda Cup but after that victory, the team posted mixed results in the 1994 season.

The first victim was Wandyete who was knifed as an assistant coach at the beginning of the 1995 season. To make matters worse, he had also lost his job as a draughtsman in the City Engineer’s department.

What followed next was those bizarre stories of rape that led him to Luzira and upon his release, he suffered from a mental disorder that plagued him in the later years until his death on May 24, 2021.

All in all, Wandyete left Lugogo on a high note. He was no superstar but he remains one of the most underrated – and highly decorated – players in KCCA FC’s history.

Wandyete fact file
He was born on August 4, 1955
He went to Police Children School, North Road Primary School and Mbale SSS
He played for Gangama United, KCCA FC and Bell FC.
At KCC, he won five league titles, five Uganda Cups and one CECAFA Club Championship
His favourite jersey was No.6 and tagged Umbwa Kali because of his toughness
The stoppage-time penalty he conceded against Arab Contractors proved to be the biggest blot on his 11-year career at KCCA FC.

This article was initially published by Observer Media Ltd in January 2012, written by Hassan Badru Zziwa. It has been reproduced under consent from the writer.  

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