“Mike Mutebi talks like he created football,” wrote former Daily Monitor contributor Nelson Muhanguzi about the KCCA manager in 2011.
By then, the gaffer, as he prefers to be called, was an analyst on the famous 4-4-2 sports show on NBS TV where he divided opinion on football management in Uganda.
Arrogant? Maybe. Controversial? Depends on which side you are judging him from. Whatever you think of him, Ssalongo Mike Hillary Mutebi gives a veracious account of players, administrators and opponents alike. But he stands out as Uganda’s finest coach. On three consecutive years, he was voted as the coach of the year until Shafiq Bisaso, who guided Proline to the 2019 Uganda Cup success, controversially broke Mutebi’s dominance in a season when he helped KCCA to lift the Uganda Premier League, the team’s first CECAFA Kagame Cup since 1978 and the FUFA Super Cup.
Mutebi’s best days as coach have been on KCCA’s third stint. At Maroons in 2007, he won nothing so was his role at Villa Park between 2011 and 2012.
Mutebi’s most defining qualities; passion, commitment, local knowledge and tactical nous have breathed life into KCCA, who are now three titles away from matching SC Villa’s record of 16.
Throughout his career, Mutebi has had a poignant relationship especially with the Kasasiro fans and players. But the gaffer has won many hearts too, by bringing order to the club right from press conferences to the pitch. The unforgiving nature of football which demands results every time have seen him excel with flying colours.
KCCA has not only won the league thrice in Mutebi’s five years at the helm but also two Uganda Cups including their first ever league-and-cup double in 2017. The biggest prize has been helping the team to the lucrative group stages of the CAF Champions League – the first for any Ugandan club.
Despite popular belief that he prefers young players, Mutebi has struck the right balance with veteran players. Saddam Juma, Habib Kavuma, Geoffrey Sserunkuma, Vincent Kayizzi, Brian Majwega, Robert Sentongo, Tony Odur, Geoffrey Sserunkuma and Mike Mutyaba, players who had been written off, have thrived under Mutebi. This is due to his desire to get the best out of players sharpening rough edges, building confidence, developing team ethics and a professional mentality.
Mutyaba, who had retired and returned to KCCA after admiration from Mutebi says; “Coach Mike believed in me. It was a miracle when he offered me a contract. I am happy for his guidance and belief.”
Mutyaba had opted to call time on his career by remaining active in futsal and handbags trading.
KCCA has sold the most players abroad in the last five years than any top flight club in Uganda. Players like Timothy Awany, Patrick Kaddu, Derrick Nsibambi, Allan Okello, Allan Kyambadde and Muhammad Shaban, among others secured deals under Mutebi.
First, the enabling environment set by former KCCA Executive Director Jennifer Musisi, club chairman Julius Kabugo, CEO David Tamale, is what Mutebi thrived in. His belief in youth has enabled the team have the next best players while dominating the national teams.
Asaph Mwebaze, who worked as deputy to Mutebi at Maroons describes the manager who has restored KCCA’s style as “a special man”.
Mike is a stickler for details and very organised in his working methods. He reads a lot and watches a lot of football on DVDs. No detail is too small for him when it’s football.Asaph Mwebaze
Mwebaze spent 11 years at Maroons as coach changing the team’s approach to football in a similar way Mutebi would admire. In 2018, Mutebi acknowledged that teams that play beautiful football like Maroons is what Uganda needs in the league. He actually played more training friendlies with Maroons than any other side.
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Since 2003, Mutebi was the head of talent identification at the Copa Coca-Cola Schools Cup until he was replaced by Matiya Lule recently. It took the convincing of the former National Council of Sports General Secretary Nicholas Muramagi, Kennedy Mutenyo and Copa chairman Raphael Bwire to convince Mutebi to work in the arrangement.
Mutenyo, the former Promotions Manager of Coca-Cola, was the big brother of the most productive grassroots programme. He describes Mutebi as a “unique coach”.
“People like Mike are hard to find nowadays. He does what he believes in,” Mutenyo, said. “He believes in young talented players. But one thing I know is that he cannot be bulldozed. He likes working independently even in situations when people would bend their principles,” he says naming Sam Ssimbwa and Lule as the other principled coaches in Uganda.
Mutebi would select the best players and train them about the basics of football before the select team would play exhibition games.
Mutenyo, an ardent KCCA FC fan is happy that Mutebi has restored ‘kawowo football’ at Lugogo.
Our team is exciting and as he promised, we play our way. As a fan of Arsenal under Wenger, what defined our game was entertainment and to a great extent KCCA remains the most entertaining side in Uganda’s football.Kennedy Mutenyo
But things have not improved on the pitch only. A quick google search of KCCA under Mutebi brings close to 1,000 results compared to other so-called big teams in Uganda.
Mutebi’s magic has been the regular press conferences. He is the most quoted sports coach in Uganda.
Moses Magero, the KCCA media manager talked of the conducive environment Mutebi has left to sparkle.
“He will honour any media interview even on phones. When we lose a game, he will put away his frustrations and face the media. You can imagine some coaches lose at Lugogo and refuse to come. Mutebi takes communication seriously and he teaches his players regularly to respect the media. I will tell you there is no KCCA player who cannot eloquently talk to the media professionally. It is something he has built as a culture,” Magero says.
When Mutebi was unveiled by former KCCA Executive Director in June 2015 on an initial three-year contract, he was the opposite of a chubby sophisticated man many see at the KCCA touchline today. Donning a grey suit, dark blue shirt and matching tie, his wry smile showed a relieved man. Yet this was a self-imposed exile.
Mutebi was returning to the club for his third spell having been in charge of the same side in 1997 and 2004 while former SC Villa boss, Sam Ssimbwa played for KCC from 1987 to 1995 before returning to the club as coach for two spells, in 2002 and in 2009.
A self-confessed purist, Mutebi is the model coach of Uganda’s coaching. For being abused, ridiculed, insulted and un appreciated, he abandoned coaching and went into private business in the late 2000s.
Aldrine Nsubuga, a former KCCA administrator, who persuaded Mutebi to return to coaching said the tactician had been hurt and felt cheated after working without pay.
In December 2011, while attention for football fans had been turned to the CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup action in Tanzania, Mutebi was appointed to replace Serbian coach Srdan Zivojnov at Villa for a three-year Ush 120M contract.
It had been an unusual appointment which Mutebi personally admitted was because Villa had “big plans for football”. This is the time Villa was resuscitating under ambitious lawyer Fred Muwema who had been instituted in July 2010.
Mutebi had taken a break from coaching top division clubs after leaving his role as Director of Football at Maroons in the 2007/08 season.
Since then, Mutebi has been involved in the scouting of players in the Copa Coca-Cola Schools Cup.
It was through this arrangement that he had established an academy in Lugazi where he trained his chosen players. Earlier, he had been credited for grooming the likes of Ibrahim Sekagya, Morley Byekwaso, Hussein Ssali, Wilson Ggayi and Lawrence Musoke, among others at KCC where he had resigned with five games to go in the 1997 season.
One man who faced his stinging comments as a TV pundit was current FUFA boss Moses Magogo who sighed relief when Mutebi returned to coaching. But Mutebi has also been involved in rows with players. At SC Villa, his first test was a player revolt led by club captain Denis Guma and Simon Sserunkuma.
Guma, who later controversially joined SC Victoria University, then a Big League side, was particularly unhappy with Mutebi’s training tactics which players considered too complex. Guma and his ilk accused Mutebi of outright arrogance. A tabloid once described Mutebi’s training regimen as one which could “even put world beaters FC Barcelona to shame.”
When Mutebi was particularly infuriated by defender former Villa Joseph Muhindo, the coach asked: “Muhindo! How many miles did you travel from Kasese to Kampala? Is that the kind of football you brought along?”
The players too complained of him being a stickler for proper etiquette. Telling players to place utensils in their right places earned him criticism. He took players through English and soccer lessons twice a week. His rigorous training regimen involves two sessions a day. It must be a day job with the first session running from 9:00 -11:00am and the second at 3:00 – 5:00 PM. This is the particular reason why a senior player left KCCA recently claiming he was being overworked on an artificial turf.
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According to Mutenyo, Mutebi has tough love for players. The gaffer plays no favourites game.
Mutebi insists that discipline on and off the pitch is what makes the modern football player. “I do not play or entertain indiscipline among players. The pressure they are feeling right now just shows that I am on the right path of turning them into future professionals the country will be proud of. Some will only realise when they make it,” he says.
Mutenyo explains that the key to understanding Mutebi is to be patient. “We understood him at Copa as a family. You must be patient with him,” Mutenyo says. But Mwebaze argues that mediocrity is the number one sin to Mutebi. “His values may repulse some people because he is straight forward and says it as it is. But he forgets faults quickly and moves on without a grudge. But because he tends to treat players alike, kids and adults, the older ones don’t take reproach well,” Mwebaze explains.
MIKE MUTEBI AT A GLANCE
Education: Namilyango Junior School, Kibuli SS and Nkumba University
Clubs coached: Miracle (1993-1995), KCC (1996-1997), Simba (1998-2003), KCC (2004) and Maroons (2007-2008), SC Villa (2011), KCCA (2015-to-date)
National teams: Under-20 (1999) and Cranes (2004)
Coaching qualifications: Uefa ‘B’ License from the German Football Association (DFB)