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Zambian 2014 U-17 stars join EPL sides, what happened to their Ugandan counterparts?

By Football256 Team
Frank 'Zaga' Tumwesigye (R) tries to beat Gift Sikaonga of Zambia at Nakivubo Stadium during the U17 AFCON qualifier at Nakivubo | Photo by Ismail Kezaala

By Allan Damba

Frank “Zaga” Tumwesigye versus Enock Mwepu, Patson Daka versus Bashir Asiku; who recalls the days? Or rather, who does not reminisce 2014?

The 2014 Africa U-17 championship qualifiers witnessed a host of youngsters that respective countries regarded as future world-beaters.

And even though the young Chipolopolo eliminated the Cubs courtesy of a 4-1 aggregate victory, the talent was there for everyone to see at both ends.

Whereas Uganda had a then young prospect in Eric Kibowa, Zambia had their raw custodian in Danny Sinkanyika.

The key battles however lay between Uganda’s key forward Muhammad Shaban and Zambia’s deadly marksman Patson Daka and then midfield prodigies Zaga and Zambia’s Mwepu.

Such was the competition, and much more to it was the visible anticipation among the respective faithful; Ugandans could not wait for what lay ahead for these promising stars.

Seven years on, there has been mixed progress on different fronts, snail-paced development on some and no advancement whatsoever with others.

The past weeks have seen two members of Zambia’s 2014 generation, join English premier league sides. 22-year old Patson Daka completed his move from Austria’s Red Bull Salzburg to Leicester City FC. 

This followed a successful spell at Redbull Salzburg, where he scored 54 goals in 82 matches.

Midfielder Enock Mwepu on Tuesday also signed for Graham Potter’s Brighton and Hove Albion from the Austrian giants penning a four-year contract. 

This is wonderful progress for the players who are yet to make it to the peak of their careers.

What about the Ugandan corner? How far have some of our 2014 generation faired? Who has gone the farthest in terms of advancing their careers? Where are they, seven years down the road?

One player who never left everyone’s lips was Zaga. The boy had it all; the control, the technique, the movement, the slick passing, the stamina and of course, the swagger. He was to have the world at his feet.

Zaga was an absolute joy to watch every time he had the ball at his feet and rightly earned him the battle with Mwepu in the middle of the park. 

Seven years later, and after struggling with attitude problems that limited him to the bench at boyhood club Vipers SC, he moved to Police FC for the 2020/21 season.

At Police, he relatively impressed especially, in the first half of the season, meanwhile, Mwepu is the latest signing at Brighton.

Another of the stars in the Cubs team was defender Bashir Asiku, his intelligence to read the game had everyone that watched him talking. 

Despite failing to deal with Daka, who netted three of the four goals in the tie, including a brace at Nakivubo, Asiku’s potential was visible, and the future looked bright.

Currently, he is struggling with himself at Vipers, his attitude and indiscipline have cost him and missed the biggest part of the 2020/21 season through an internal suspension.

Shaban is another who will never cease from every fan’s talk, his ability in front of goal has never been doubted, his only problem is himself, just like Asiku.

Despite having stints at KCCA FC and Raja Casablanca, the 23-year-old has spent two disappointing years at Vipers that have been hampered by injuries, attitude and indiscipline.

Julius Poloto is another that has failed to make significant progress despite being only 22, he has spent the past seasons at KCCA.

The other player who the fans held with expectation was left-back Alex Komakech. Now at Wakiso Giants, “Koma” as his staunch fans called him looked destined for greatness.

His confidence on the ball, calm demeanour in defence, well-timed overlaps, slickness and intelligence were his best attributes.

The list can go on but you will not find a member of that team that is yet to stamp his name as a consistently outstanding player. 

Eric Kibowa and Charles Ssebutinde spent last season at UPDF FC whereas Emmanuel Olinga and Pius Obuya feature for second-tier side Maroons FC.

Hassan Ssenyonjo spent last season at Wakiso Giants while Andrew Isiagi Okiring who captained that team is at Proline FC in the second division.

Kato Samuel and Ashraf Mugume were all at KCCA’s books for last season, but the former’s playing time was so limited due to unknown reasons.

With everything said, all these players are still below 24, age is still on their side and with chances of progressing to greater heights. 

The right systems need to be put in place as so many others have suffered similar fates. As for the players, they should have the right attitude and mentality if they are to emulate the likes of Daka and Mwepu.

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