Arrogant, Dreamer, Gambler, Perfectionist, Controversial, Purist, Academy Coach or Simply the best of his generation. Mike Mutebi has been described as almost everything in Ugandan football.
When he re-joined KCCA FC in June 2015, not so many, especially in the media, believed he was the right choice at a point when the club intended to take a new turn for the better.
Five years down the road and despite some still doubting his abilities, Mutebi has taken KCCA FC to the top of Ugandan football.
In that period, he has won seven titles including three Uganda Premier Leagues, two Uganda Cups, a CECAFA Kagame Club and the Super 8.
His latest stint at Lugogo has without a doubt been his most successful after two dismaying adventures. It is also one under which he has won several individual accolades including multiple Coach of the Year awards.
Mutebi first took charge of the Kasasiros between 1996 and 1997 and despite the team winning the league in the latter year, he had left six games to the end of the season, leaving Tom Lwanga to take credit as the winning coach.
In 2004, he returned but barely made impact and departed that very year to take on the coaching role with the Uganda Cranes which proved to be a mistake as he didn’t last at the helm before he was shown the back door.
Time away from Lugogo
Between his current stint and 2004, Mutebi had became a journey man as he was in and out of the coaching business, at one point, turning out on Sundays on NBS TV as a pundit.
He coached at Maroons FC and also held a Director of Football role at the same club between 2006-07. Was appointed by SC Villa as head coach in 2011 and also acted as a scout at the Copa Coca Cola schools champions during that period.
The time he spent away from KCCA FC did little to change his attitude and philosophy on how the game is supposed to be played and it would make more sense to suggest that those 11 years shaped him into the success he has become today.
A strong believer in Rinus Michels’ Total Football and a man who idolised Johan Cruyff, Mutebi has slowly worked his way into the hearts of many Ugandans as a manager of a beautiful brand of football.
“We came here to try and impose our style of play onto them and we did that excellently despite many advising us to defend, before the game.” Mutebi proudly noted after KCCA FC’s historic 2-0 win over Al Ahly in the CAF Champions league in 2018 at Mandela National Stadium.
For any other person, it would have been suicidal to go all out and try to attack the most successful side in African football (Al Ahly) but the purist and dreamer that Mutebi is, it was just playing the game the only way he believes it should be played.
It is that same philosophy and mentality that has seen him achieve unimaginable success with KCCA FC and ensured they are number one in the country.
On the continent, they have also made a statement as one of the emerging-young teams.
There third place finish in the lucrative Champions League group stages in 2018 sent out loud signals to the big boys of African football and opened doors for many Ugandan footballers who have in turn moved on to continental giant leagues.
Uganda Cranes’ two back to back appearances at the Africa Cup of Nations (2017 & 19) must have had a big deal to do with it too but, do not be fooled, KCCA FC also have a massive say in process.
Having won everything there is to win in Ugandan football, Mutebi also brought back the CECAFA Kagame Club cup to both Lugogo and Uganda.
In 2006, Police FC beat Tanzanian side Moro United 2-1 to win what was Uganda’s last Kagame Cup before Mutebi did his magic, like he has always done since 2015.
With some of his players at AFCON 2019, the gaffer led a youthful squad to Rwanda and overcame all odds, defeated AZAM FC in the finals and won the club its second ever regional Championship and the first since 1978.
After the regional triumph, one had to wonder what was left of Mutebi and what more could he do for KCCA FC.
“You did not give me this job and will not tell me when to leave. I am still at KCCA FC and will not leave just because you think it is time for me to leave.” Mutebi angrily replied to a question about his future asked by one of the journalists during a press conference following KCCA FC’s elimination from the CAF Confederations cup at the first round of qualifying, at the hands of AC Paradou in 2019.
The 2019/20 season would be a disappointment for KCCA FC as they relinquished their UPL title to Vipers SC. It was a campaign that was ended five matches before the close of the season, because of the global outbreak of the Coronavirus.
The Uganda Cup was nullified but KCCA were the beneficiaries. Somehow, they were picked to represent Uganda in the 2020/21 Confederations Cup at the expense of the 2019 winners Proline FC.
Just like the previous campaign, this season, they were dumped out at the first round of qualifying by AS Kigali of Rwanda, on away goals.
With the crop of players at Lugogo, it would be hard to think the Kasasiros will be able to achieve similar success in the near future and the struggles in the initial rounds on the continent should be an indicator of what to expect in the near future unless something changes soon.
Questionable transfer policy
At his time at the club, Mutebi has signed close to 70 players, a number which is outrageous.
Despite consistently maintaining that he prefers ‘well educated’ youth, the gaffer has signed several experienced players season in and out.
The likes of of Denis Okot, Ceaser Ochuti, Harman Wasswa, Geoffrey Sserunkuma, Erisa Ssekisambu, Vincent Kayizi, Robert Ssentongo, Kezironi Kizito, Brian Majwega, Isaac Muleme, Isaac Kirabira, Mike Mutyaba and Denis Iguma have all been brought in in the evening of their careers.
While some have flourished, others have failed miserably. Some will tell you that Mutebi was a big reason to their failing and to some extent, that is true as the gaffer publically skins these players which clearly takes away their confidence and desire to continue playing for the club.
Mutebi’s transfer policy is one that contradicts his philosophy trying to win and play beautiful football with a young team.
The biggest hindrance to his side’s consistency in terms of maintaining a squad is the fact that players keep on leaving Lugogo for either greener pastures or a place they can play regular football without pressures exerted onto them by Mutebi.
On past evidence, KCCA can not hold onto their good players. Some leave because bigger and better offers come in while other claim they are pushed out by Mutebi.
With the annual exodus likely not to end any time soon, it is hard to see Mutebi eclipsing his previous achievements and chances are close to none, that he will in the near future.
Worst start to a season
Many including me anticipated KCCA would struggle in the 2020/21 season and how true that is, so far.
Seven games into the campaign, the Kasasiros have already lost three games and have just 10 points in 8th spot.
All this (points, losses, wins and league position) is a worst in the opening seven games of the season, under Mutebi since his return to the club in 2015.
In the process of enduring their worst start to a campaign in six years, they lost three back to back games before the 1-1 draw with Express FC at Wankulukuku, also the first time Mutebi has lost that many-on the trot, since 1997.
To sum up the struggles he is currently enduring with his side, Mutebi nearly came to a fist fight with one of his assistants during a training session in the build up to the Express game as they disagreed on player selection.
With the likes of Express, URA FC and Vipers SC looking stronger than KCCA, it is hard to see the Kasasiros winning this year’s crown and it would take a miracle for them to compete at the levels we have grown accustomed to because the personnel in terms of players are also not available at their disposal currently.
The current squad may not be the worst we have ever seen but clearly not as good as the ones that brought him decent success.
The best they can wish for is a good finish in the league and probably a decent run in the cup but anything above that would be too much of an ask.
Mutebi scared to move on?
If Mutebi is unlikely taking KCCA FC to another level, why is he still at Lugogo! Does he think he will do any better than he has done or is Mutebi just scared to venture into another club which will most likely not offer him the freedom he enjoys at KCCA.
The situation at Lugogo suggests the board is not equipped with the ‘balls’ to let go of Mutebi, even if the club performed poorly and for Mutebi, he keeps on reiterating that he does not intend to put an end to his time with KCCA FC.
But one thing is for certain, both parties can not get anything better from one another, than they already have.
However, there is also a question of who comes in after Mutebi. Is there anyone better around, equipped to take over from Mutebi? Some would argue that no one can do any better than the ‘Omulangira’ has done at Lugogo, let alone improve their style of play and winning abilities.
Whether Mutebi stays or leaves at the conclusion of his current deal-in the summer, i am certain there is nothing more left for him to do at KCCA FC and he should have walked away a few years ago. It is indeed already time up for him at Lugogo.