Kataka defender Stephen Namaisi has earned himself a place in the FUFA Big League story book, thanks to his now famed long throws.
His rare skill has proved to be highly a effective tactic for coach Godfrey ‘Toldo’ Awachango and the Lufumbi boys, who have benefitted from it since he joined them in 2020.
For the past three years he has been at Kataka, Namaisi has directly assisted a teammate to score from a throw-in 16 times! Also, for 13 other times, his throw-in has resulted into a goal, atleast as a fourth or third last touch on the ball before it crosses the goalline.
The current Kataka captain’s story can be related to that of famous retired Irish international midfielder, Rory Delap who also made a very big name for himself at Stoke City, widely known for his long throw-ins that produced a number of goals for his club.
Unlike Delap, who was a talented javelin thrower in his youth, and hence found throwing so fun and flexible, it was rather by chance that Namaisi discovered a ‘weapon’ he’d later utilise to cement a position at his club and make his name known allover Mbale and elsewhere.
“I tried it once and saw that it worked so I wanted to do it again,” says the soft-spoken but hard-tackling defender.
“He adds: “Like Messi scores from free-kicks, I also assist goals with throws. We’re both important players for our teams and that’s what matters the most.”
Football players, save for goalkeepers are known to be so lethal with their feet, but it’s in his arms that Namaisi discovered his ace in the hole.
The footballer is a believer who perceives it that the Lord has blessed the work of his hands, so through them he should thrive. In training, he does extra sessions to religiously practice his long throws.
“The moment I realised I have a lethal weapon, I started working on perfecting it to maximize the advantage.”
“I think it’s special because I have created so many goals from throwing. It’s the same like delivering a good free-kick and we score. The team wants goals, and there are many ways to score, throwing a ball into a crowded 18 yard box is just one of the many ways you can end up scoring a goal.”
Namaisi’s Long throws have already taken him a long way, and they will take him even further.
Besides his defending and attacking abilities on the right flank, the right back is also counting on his ‘assisting hands’ to take him a step further.
“I believe many coaches in the Uganda Premier League and even outside the country would like to make good use of a defender who can also create goals, and change games,” Namaisi lightly noted.
It’s his same skill that caught the attention of former Uganda National Team head coach Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojevic.
Speaking after a regional tour in which the resilient defender was an opponent against Uganda Cranes as he turned out for Eastern region at Mbale Municipal Stadium in September 2021, Micho admitted that Namaisi’s long throws ‘disturbed his defence alot’ he had to design a quick plan to deal with it.
In that match, Micho resolved to putting up a one-man wall, like it is done in free-kicks, to block the taker, this time in a throw-in, to disrupt the thrower.
Subsequently, Micho would in 2022 go on to invite Namaisi into the Cranes camp in another one of the regional tours after the one in which he got to see him first.
Top-hole Thrower: Difference Maker
It is very common for Namaisi to take more throws in a game than he attempts passes or crosses. This is so because he takes all throws on his right flank, and on the left hand side too, whenever they get any in the opponent’s half.
Playing at right back, Namaisi is a difference maker at Kataka, he’s a player that can change a game on his own because of his long throw-ins.
He has assisted more with his hands, than he has with his feet, not because he’s a bad crosser, or that he can’t use his feet well, he actually has some good footwork, technique and power in his feet, but more lethal with his arms.
“If anyone thinks I’m only playing because I can throw, they could be so wrong, because I go through alot of hardwork to maintain my position in the starting lineup. I’m a defender, and my primary role is to defend, helping the team in attack is only secondary.”
Obviously, the right back is a lot better at defending than people give him credit for.
Easier To Defend A Corner Kick Than Namaisi’s Throw-in?
“You’d rather defend a corner, than a Namaisi throw,” an honest defender intimated. He added; “His throws are almost better than corner kicks.”
He understandably thinks so because the trajectory Namaisi has got on the throws is just so amazing.
He further explained; “He just throws the ball flat and straight and it just keeps going!”
That causes alot of problems in the box because even if it doesn’t come off one of his teammates, it can still come off one of the opponents and just end up anywhere.
Apparently, in the ball’s flight, it’s much easier to pick out an exact target at a shorter distance with the arms, than it is with the feet.
After one or two throws, you’ll find a defender putting himself in a very awkward situation, struggling to put the ball out for a corner other than a throw in their third. In most cases, you’d expect that it should be the other way round.
That little edge clearly makes a big difference. As soon as Namaisi’s team gets a throw-in anywhere near the opposition 18-yard line, you can see the panic. Opposition players crowd back in the keeper’s box, shouting at each other to make sure they are marking correctly to avoid conceeding, like is usually done in defending corner kicks.
As well as providing scoring opportunities, the throws are also just psychological weapons to mentally torture the opponent.
The opponents clearly become so obsessed with stopping the throws to the point of neglecting other areas of operation and preparation.
How To Defend The Long Throws?
Different sides try to defend Namaisi’s long throws in different ways;
Some chose to pack the six-yard box with defenders in order to maximize their chances of making a clearance. Meanwhile, others pull and push Namaisi’s teammates in the box to create some space for the goalkeeper to try and claim it – which could also result into a foul in the box, and a penalty!
During a throw in, mostly in the opponent’s own half, Namaisi’s presence causes unrest amongst his fellow defenders, of the opposite side.