Jonathan “Gava Weele” Kanagwa Atenyi shields the ball

Ugandan born left footed midfielder Jonathan “Gava Weele” Kanagwa Atenyi, 18, recently joined the Virginia Common Wealth University (NCAA-Division 1) in the United States of America (USA).

The teenager has confessed his love to work diligently as he becomes a better player.

In a detailed question and answer interview with Kawowo Sports, Kanagwa clearly outlined his background, family, education, life in the US including the current lockdown period, opportunities, challenges as well as the dreams of playing in one of the best English Premier League clubs.

Jonathan “Gava Weele” Kanagwa Atenyi passes the ball

Here is the detailed interview:

Kawowo Sports: Who are you?

Kanagwa: I am Kanagwa Jonathan Atenyi. Some people call me Gava Weele which means blessed or lucky.

Kawowo Sports: Who are your parents?

Kanagwa: My father is Mr Erisa Kanagwa Akiiki( now deceased) and Miss Monica Wekyali.

Kawowo Sports: When were you born and where?

Kanagwa: I was born on the 18th February 2002 at Entebbe Grade B Hospital in Entebbe Municipality.

Jonathan “Gava Weele” Kanagwa Atenyi gets past an opponent

Kawowo Sports: Where did you go to school?

Kanagwa: I went to Lake Victoria Primary School in Entebbe for my elementary education. I joined Boston High School Mpala up to S4, from where I had to move to Our Savior New American School in Newyork. Currently, I am now committed to Virginia Common Wealth University (NCAA-Division 1 )

Kawowo Sports: When and where did you start playing football?

Kanagwa: I started playing soccer when I was 6 years old at the Kiwafu Playground in Entebbe Division B.

Kawowo Sports: Who inspired you as a budding footballer?

Kanagwa: I was inspired by my daddy (Rest In Peace) and the elder players who used to play in Entebbe Young Football Club. My daddy kept pushing me to play soccer because he loved soccer. He was an Arsenal fan so I remember him taking me to watch the Arsenal games most of the time and then take me to Kiwafu for training. At Kiwafu playground, I was inspired by many great talented players.

Jonathan “Gava Weele” Kanagwa Atenyi in celebration with the rest of the teammates

Kawowo Sports: What would you regard as your highest moments as a footballer?

Kanagwa: My highest moment as a footballer is when I was called to start training with the Newyork City Football Club first team before all this pandemic (Coronavirus) started.

Kawowo Sports: And the lowest moment?

Kanagwa: My lowest moment is when I missed my penalty shoot in the US National League finals.

Kawowo Sports: How do you manage to balance education with a football career. Who has encouraged you since?

Kanagwa: Must people back in Uganda used to say that soccer players tend to lazy in school. But, once I got here in USA my coaches always said that players with no books can be great but with books you turn genius. I would say the people around me and my family, they always have pushed me and we had to make a deal with them, no good grades in school, no school. So I have always pushed myself in both. And back in Uganda it was kind of different because school in Uganda starts at 7:30 AM and ends at 4 PM but in the US, school starts at 8 AM and ends at 3 PM and then my club training started at 7-10 at night. Sometimes, during good days with no snow at 3 PM to 6 PM. So I have always had some little time to do my school work and soccer. Only for the games, because we travel and most times spend 3-4 days so my school always help me through online.

Kanagwa gets the better of an opponent

Kawowo Sports: What have been your challenges since your travelled to the US?

Kanagwa: When I had just travelled I knew cold but not freezing, so I came with a few warm clothes and yet here you always have to train they don’t care about the cold that much, so my first days I couldn’t play well.  My first challenge was the cold weather. They gave me the training kits for the cold but still I was freezing, I remember my first game with the club, I only played for 20 minutes and I called for the substitute because I couldn’t feel my body, I couldn’t talk, I had frozen totally. Then the second challenge was the food, my club team doctors had to change me to the daily diet so i had no idea of what I was eating but I had to eat it. Then the language. Thanks to God I knew a little of English but the USA (New York) accent is so different but slowly I had to pick up. But all in all it was hard for me at my young age away from home, but I had my goals and I always had to call my family talk to them and also the care and support my coaches and teammates here showed me, it changed my mind and made me stronger and more focused.

Kawowo Sports: Share your favourite dish

Kanagwa: Back home, it has always been rice and beans but here I do not have yet I like everything though. I am always on a specific diet so I don’t get time to explore all the foods.

Kawowo Sports: What do you miss?

Kanagwa: Back home, I really miss my family, friends and some foods.

Kanagwa celebrates with teammates on the podium

Kawowo Sports: You might be having a rich trophy cabinet and medals to boast about. Take us through some of your personal milestones

Kanagwa: I have won a couple of championships ranging from ENY state Cup (2018-2019), Jefferson Cup (2019), US club Regional title (2019), Potomac Cup (2018). We were bronze winners in the national league (2019), US Club national finalists (2019). On a personal note, I won the NACA Dayton best player award.

Kawowo Sports: You have played a number of matches. What would you regard as your most memorable match?

Kanagwa: My best match was when New York City played against Philadelphia Union Football Club. In this game I played great experienced players from different countries and I thank God that I shone. I performed great and I was called to train full time with the New York City first team in the Major League Soccer (MLS).

Kanagwa prepares to shoot

Kawowo Sports: What is that match that you would like to forget in a quick flash?

Kanagwa: It was when Lake Grove Football Club Club lost to Salor Strikers FC. We held the match moments after a three hour flight to Texas.

Kawowo Sports: The goal for most footballers world-over is play for their national teams. I guess you have it in mind?

Kanagwa: Playing for my country (Uganda) is a dream but right now it’s not that I am focusing on, am focusing on getting better as a player.

Kanagwa takes on the opposition

Kawowo Sports: Do you have any specific superstitions before and after a football match or training session?

Kanagwa: No I don’t believe in superstitions but the closest I have come across is that when they hit the post twice, you may end up not winning but basically I believe in God not superstitions.

Kawowo Sports: The Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) is everywhere in the world. Do you have a specific training regime?

Kanagwa: Yes in this pandemic, the New York City Football Club has a specific training schedule. They always give us for a week and on this we get days to video chat and do some technical training. But me as a person I am a very hard working person and here at home, we have a gym so I make sure I do my extra work for a better tomorrow.

Kanagwa with a teammate during merry-making

Kawowo Sports: Any key lessons from this lockdown because of the Coronavirus pandemic

Kanagwa: This lockdown has taught me how to appreciate and respect our normal life. It has taught me to know how much soccer is loved, taught me on how to use each and every minute of our normal life positively for a better tomorrow and not to take life for granted. Finally, the lockdown has taught me on to always be prepared for the unexpected.

Kawowo Sports: How do you envisage yourself in five years’ time?

Kanagwa:  In five years’ time, I dream of playing in one of the best clubs in the English Premier League.

Kanagwa leaves the opponents grounded

Kawowo Sports: How would you compare football in Uganda and the United States?

Kanagwa: In the USA, football is very fast and more tactical than in Uganda.

Everything in the US is done with a purpose.

Kawowo Sports: Which players have you loved to the brim?

Kanagwa: There are a number but I will mention out Gio Reyna who now plays for Burussia Dortmund in Germany. Dante Sealy, features for Philadelphia Union and Joe Scaly of New York City first team.

Kawowo Sports: What is would you regard as your best goal scored?

Kanagwa: My best goal was when I scored in the US Club National League semi-finals against BGC Football Club.

Kanagwa in action

Kawowo Sports: Do you have any specific celebration after scoring?

Kanagwa: I don’t plan for a celebration it just comes at that moment.

Kawowo Sports: Shout out your last message aloud to the populous

Kanagwa: Stay safe, we are going to go through this soon (Coronavirus Disease pandemic). Please keep the social distance.

David Isabirye is a senior staff writer for Kawowo Sports where he covers most of the major events.

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