A look at Jinja’s football through Lwanga’s eyes


From a distance it seems like the former goalkeeper drags his feet to get from one place to another.
However, as you approach him, you realise he is able to support himself albeit without ease.

He is still energetic and enthusiastic enough that he keeps cattle at his home in Walukuba Church Zone – Jinja. A home inside what would used to be staff-quarters for those working in government-owned industries.

He is a fairly imposing frame so it is easy to believe he was a good goalkeeper during his short career stretching from 1976 to 1984.

The strain in his limbs is an after-effect of injuries he took for granted in his playing days. His spinal code is also affected. He is not able to do much with the left leg.
“Maybe when I was playing I got an effect on the back that I did not take care of,” Patrick Lwanga, 61, says with regret.

It is school holiday time and he has one of his grandsons around to support him through daily errands.

These include tending to three heads of cattle he keeps for milk. He believes that keeping around them is good therapy for him.
“I love to work so I try to do anything I can. Treating this ailment can cost a fortune but this up and down movement helps me feel better,” Lwanga, who has been able to fend for and educate his six children, shares.

Lwanga’s life symbolizes the journey of football in Jinja. He was a strong pillar during its glory days in the 1980s, watched as it fell apart in the 1990s and now, even with a goalkeeping coaches’ certificate to his name, sits helplessly at a distance as others rectify the ruins.

He started his football journey as a 17 year old student at Kololo SS in 1974. At the time it was common to find school boys in clubs and he represented Tobacco FC in the second division of Ugandan league football in 1976.

Tobacco played where present day Shoprite – Lugogo stands and was as a feeder club to Kampala City Council (KCC FC).
KCC coach Jaberi Bidandi Ssali invited Lwanga to play for his side in that year’s Idd Cup and Mayor’s Cup that had Tanzania’s Young Africans (Yanga).

Joining Nile
In another preseason tournament, Lwanga played for Nile Province alongside former Fufa president and personal mentor Dennis Obua. Obua asked Lwanga why he was committing to KCC which had established national goalkeepers in Hussein Matovu and George Mukasa.

“Dennis asked me; when will you play?” Lwanga recalls the career changing question. Lwanga and three other students; Richard Makumbi, Rogers Ssemere and Pali, from Kololo quickly joined Obua, then coaching at Police for the 1977 top division season.

Ahead of the 1978 season, Jinja Hot Stars, who were rebranding to Nile Breweries FC signed Lwanga. They had just been promoted to the first division and were setting base at the now dilapidated St Jude Church pitch in Jinja town.
Makumbi joined Nile too. Ssemere and Pali went to Coffee and Nytil respectively.
“I do not know who was behind the arrangement but every factory had a football and netball team then and were also into drama,” Lwanga recalls.

“For us, the main motivation to leave Kampala was the jobs we were promised. We were attached to a department in the factory that ensured we got paid,” adds Lwanga, who was born in Nakawa in 1957. Lwanga, who holds a diploma in business administration, was attached to the administration department where he worked if he was not whetting his indefatigable appetite for football. Such is his passion that even when he struggles to remember lots of things, memories of his playing career are vivid like they happened yesterday.

With that arrangement, Nile and Nytil changed Ugandan football forming a rivalry whose stories will be told for many generations.

In their debut season, Nile finished third behind Simba and KCC while Nytil was sixth. Nile managed to better that position when they finished second in the 1979 season but the best was yet to come. In 1980, they won the first division title. No team from Jinja has repeated the feat. Before that, the Kakira-based Coffee had won the league 10 years earlier than Nile.

This earned Nile a place at the 17th edition of the African Cup of Champions Clubs the next year. They beat TP USCA Bangui from Central Africa Republic (CAR), 2-1 at Nakivubo in the first leg of the first round.

The second leg, however, did not happen as General Andre Kolingba ousted then CAR President David Dacko in a coupe. Caf’s attempt to have this game replayed in Cameroon did not materialize as Bangui failed to travel.
Nile earned a 2-0 walkover and a date with Al Ahly in the second round. Again Nile won the first round; 2-0 this time. But Al Ahly were unplayable in a 5-0 win in Cairo.

Short career ends
In 1982, Lwanga was called to the national team by coach Peter Okee but only played friendlies against Burundi and Kenya.
“It was never easy breaking into the national team. By the time I was called, my form had declined.”
Lwanga’s career was short-lived due to injuries and he “effectively retired in 1984.” He phased out gradually to player-coach then to assistant coach at Nile.

He later served as team manager for the U23 national team Kobs in 1999 and briefly headed super division clubs in the early 2000s.

His short career can also be attributed to the waning influence of sports in government parastatals.
“In the 70s President Idi Amin chased away Indians so some companies were taken over by government. As a marketing strategy, they turned to sport as a cheap way to identify with the masses,” Lwanga shares.

However, things changed when Dr. Milton Obote returned, Lwanga recalls.
“It was under Obote that Nile was given back to Madhvani who tried to continue with the spirit but then later sold the company to South Africans (SabMiller).
“They could have continued with the spirit but they felt it was better to sponsor the entire league or national team. They eventually did so and continue to venture into other sports too.”

Nytil, Tobacco, Coffee and Grain Milling among others all ended up giving up on sports after privatization.
Lwanga believes the co-curricular activities could have survived without companies but the economic challenges of the time made fans turn away from stadiums while the English Premier League also become an alternative source of entertainment for most young fans.

“We could no longer get gate fees yet those were the source of our performance bonuses.”
Football in Jinja is not defunct but it had fall to rise again.

A few companies like Bidco and Sadolin continue to bankroll clubs like Bul FC and Sadolin respectively while Jinja Secondary School – Kirinya has morphed from a school team to a topflight club in the Uganda Premier League.

Lwanga and most of his colleagues from the glory days of Jinja have little to do with the new rebuilding process but they set the base for this development.

Steady stopper. He is a fairly imposing frame so it is easy to believe he was a good goalkeeper during his short career stretching from 1976 to 1984.The strain in his limbs is an after-effect of injuries.


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