On a day that Uganda failed to reach the 2021 Africa Cup of nations, KCCA FC announced that they had parted ways with tactician Mike Mutebi in a shocking but long-expected move.
With the gaffer understood to have been living on borrowed time for a while, it was inevitable that he would be leaving but the timing was what shocked the football fraternity as he left mid-way through the campaign with 15 matches to play.
It seems most likely that he will take a sabbatical of sorts and evaluate his options before bouncing back into management at the start of next season.
It is a move that will divide opinion at Lugogo as some wanted him to stay while others, for a while, thought he had over-stayed.
Despite the divided opinion, it is hard to ignore the fact that in just-over five years, Mutebi became the most successful coach in KCCA history as he won seven titles.
Most important of all, he did it the KCCA way: playing the beautiful football that has earned the club respect and admiration from managers, players, fans and pundits from around the country and the continent at large.
Will KCCA ever have a manager as great as Mutebi? Will KCCA’s relatively-incredible dominance over the last five years end with Mutebi’s departure from Lugogo?
These are just a few of the questions that KCCA’s management and fans will have to face in the near future following the gaffer’s exit.
And even though it will not influence a change in decision, i can’t shake the feeling that it is a mistake that KCCA have let Mutebi go.
Here are five reasons why KCCA should have stayed with Mutebi for at least another season, if not longer.
Mutebi’s Success Can Not Easily Be Matched
Last season, KCCA did not win any silverware as the lost the league to Vipers SC and the Uganda Cup was nullified due to the Coronavirus outbreak.
It was the first time, under Mutebi, that the Lugogo based club were not reserving space in their trophy cabinet for an incoming honour.
Mutebi set the standards so high that during the long break, largely due to COVID-19, fans were calling for his exit because they are accustomed to winning all the time, something that has not happened in the 2019/20 campaign.
Before his arrival, KCCA had won only two trophies (both league titles) in eight years and were somewhat used to ending without silverware.
He now departs the scene with everyone associated with the club, thinking that they must win almost every competition they take part, in, at least locally.
Mutebi did not only set the bar high locally but also so, people started to believe that Ugandan clubs can compete on the continent.
During his four-full season (2019/20 excluded) at Lugogo, KCCA reached the group stages of both the CAF Champions League and Confederation Cup (once each) and some point, they beat Al Ahly, the most successful club in African football, convincingly.
As Byekwaso comes in, he will be expected to maintain the standards that Mutebi has set but it will be extremely hard to match them, let alone try.
Mutebi’s Belief And Confidence In Youth
KCCA has won plaudits for their willingness to use youthful players during Mutebi’s tenure.
The former SC Villa and Uganda Cranes tactician has continuously insisted on graduating young ‘educated’ teenagers to the first team and later playing them in high-profile matches.
The most iconic of them is Allan Okello and Mustafa Kizza who have now moved to bigger clubs and currently feature for the senior national team, the Cranes.
When the Kasasiro Boys beat Al Ahly 2-0 in that famous game at Namboole, their first XI featured four academy graduates, Okello and Kizza inclusive.
The desire to use such players was criticised by many at the start but Mutebi insisted that it was the way to go as he saved KCCA transfer money that would have been used to recruit already established stars and most importantly, those players knew how to play the club’s way.
Byekwaso has been his right hand man for a while and many argue that he is a key factor in those young players graduating and getting a kick-in in the first team but that all could not have been possible if Mutebi was not willing to use them.
A strong believer in total football and tiki-taka, two of the most famous brands of possession based-attacking football, Mutebi has always ensured players in the academy are taught how to play a brand that is closely related to the two.
By the time of his departure, the senior side features several players from the academy and many more are in line to graduate to the senior team.
Will Byekwaso be brave enough to continue Mutebi’s philosophy regarding young players? That will be one aspect to look out for especially at a time when the former number two is expected to maintain the standards that Mutebi has set at Lugogo.
The Beautiful Expansive Brand Of Football
While Mutebi has without a doubt been a success at KCCA, he has done all that playing football that has become an envy to other sides in Uganda and Africa at large.
The football played by the 13-time UPL winners requires a manager that is not afraid to experiment. One that has gone a long way to master it and clearly knows how to execute it on a field of play.
Byekwaso may know how Mutebi has always set out to play the KCCA way but he does not have the luxury of the gaffer’s mind, one that is oblivious to the outside opinion and is what some describe as simply ‘genius’.
Throughout Mutebi’s reign, teams faced KCCA knowing that they were somewhat underdogs as no one expected them to dominate the Kasasiros.
Much of that has been down to Mutebi’s knowledge and understanding of the game where he changes the system several times during a game so as to get the best from his players.
Surely, Byekwaso or any other coach that will come in after, does not have the mind and understanding of the game that Mutebi possesses and it will be difficult to ensure such dominance at Lugogo again.
Abdallah Mubiru and his Police FC side are the only side that has tried to match KCCA in terms of playing the game the ‘right way’ in recent years, but not even the mind of Mubiru ever got the better of Mutebi in a duel in those five years.
Byekwaso is taking over but one thing is for certain, KCCA fans will most likely miss Mutebi’s beautiful brand of football that they have become accustomed to, sooner than later.
The Competitiveness Of The UPL Currently
Mutebi is departing KCCA at a time when the league is at it’s most competitive, in the last two decades or so.
Vipers SC who have been KCCA’s rivals for the title in recent years, look stronger than ever. Express FC have finally put their house in order and URA look to have stepped up and are finally competing.
The coaches at those clubs are all above Byekwaso in terms of experience and will cherish the fact that it is not Mutebi at the helm at Lugogo and will clearly fancy their chances against KCCA.
The respect that he accords in the game is something that Byekwaso does not attract and it will take him years to even come close.
Fred Kajoba, Sam Simbwa and Wasswa Bbosa must be smelling blood at the moment and will feel Mutebi’s departure gives them a better shot at winning the league title.
The rest of the league will also now face KCCA knowing that they are facing a side that has lost an integral figure in the dug out, one that has masterminded several thrashings at Lugogo.
In a short period of time, the Kasasiros will not be able to dominate those sides like they have done into he past and believe me or not, the sides currently above KCCA in the league standings know they have a better chance to maintain that status now that Mutebi is gone.
Mike Mutebi Being Mike Mutebi
As KCCA prepared to take on Esperance in 2018, Mutebi was quick to tell the media that they would go all out and attack the Tunisian giants, something that many thought was suicidal in every sense of the word.
But that was Mutebi, a man who would never go against his principles, in search of a single result.
At the end of the game, KCCA lost 1-0 and also had a Charles Lukwago sent off.
However, everyone associated with the club and Ugandan football, seemed to be satisfied with the performance of the Kasasiro Boys who gave a good account of them selves even after going a man down.
In his post-match interview, Mutebi echoed out his disappointment that his team, who were clearly underdogs in the contest, failed to beat up on one of the best sides on the continent. A side that works on an annual budget that KCCA can only dream about.
That is the sort of man Mutebi is. A perfectionist, a dreamer, a genius, a purist and simply the best of his generation. A man that KCCA have clearly let go of at the wrong time.