If Nkemba were to be an animal, he would definitely belong to those endangered species like the White Rhinos, Pandas or even Mountain Gorillas. Nkemba belongs to that special witty category of players that excelled both in classroom and on the pitch.
He completed the enviable double of playing for Uganda Cranes and attaining the Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering (BSEE) degree that ensured he got a well-playing job at Umeme Limited – the largest energy distributor in Uganda.
The only other sports personality that can possibly be compared to Nkemba is Dr. Olivia Aya Nakitanda, a former freestyle swimmer who represented Uganda at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and was recently appointed on the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) Health Committee.
Nkemba’s football exploits started during the 1980s at St. Mary’s College Kisubi (Smack), the very place where he scored magnificent eight in eight at O-Levels and a triple ‘A’ in PCM (Physics, Chemistry & Mathematics) science combination.
Of course, Nkemba had earlier played some soccer at Mugwanya Preparatory School, Kabojja and at Savio Junior School, Kisubi as a pupil.
At Smack, Nkemba joined the school team in 1982 while a Senior Two student and played alongside others like Richard Galabuzi (formerly of KCCA FC) Richard Kyaterekera and goalie Charlie Lubega – the proprietor of Guvnor Uganda – who was a class ahead of him.
Nkemba was so gifted and he proved a utility back. There is one friendly match yours truly will never forget between Smack and Kisubi Seminary where Nkemba played a great game spearheading his team to a deserved 2-1 win over the seminarists.
Like most upcoming stars, Nkemba’s serious soccer was to start at a small club and it was during his Senior Four vacation in 1984 that he started training with Nsambya FC.
Later Nkemba’s mother developed a feeling that her son deserved a better deal at a bigger club. She approached an unnamed bigwig in SC Villa who accepted to give the stalwart a chance. Nkemba got his first taste of life at Villa Park in the reserve team.
His Ngeye clans links with SC Villa chief Patrick Kawooya reportedly also made it easy for him to find a spot in the club as his father also shared the Kawooya name with the club’s supremo.
As the norm at the club, the SC Villa management paid Nkemba’s school fees for A-Level.
Indeed, like some people say in local dialect; ‘Bijja bigereke’( to be born lucky) it turned out true to Nkemba as his well-off family had previously never experienced any troubles catering for their son’s education.
Nkemba was only 18 when he made his first senior appearance for the Jogoos. He played as a left full-back in the 1986 Villa side that defeated Buikwe Red Stars in the Ugandan topflight league. The SC Villa team of the time boasted of highly talented and experienced players such that not every Tom, Dick and Harry could easily fit into the Starting XI.
The team’s defence line had no nonsense players like Paul Hasule, Geoffrey Higenyi, John Jumba and Yusuf ‘Kabazo’ Ssonko, who had defected from KCCA FC. When Nkemba finally settled in at Villa, he won everything that there was to be won.
He was a mainstay when Villa clinched the Council for East and Central Africa Football Associations (Cecafa) Clubs Championship title in 1987 under the guidance of coach Polly Ouma.
A league and Uganda Cup double was to follow in 1988 and 1989 when Nkemba featured as a sweeper and used to exchange roles with Paul Hasule, thus making the team’s defence both impregnable and a joy to watch.
The arrival British-born coach Geoff Hudson at Villa Park helped Nkemba improve further. In 1991 and 1992, he was instrumental in the Villa team that reached the finals of two major continental championships.
He won seven league titles with SC Villa; 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1992 and 1994 in addition to three Uganda Cups; 1986, 1988 and 1989. In the national team, Nkemba was first summoned to the Uganda youth team of 1986 and later went up the ladders when Cranes coach Barnabas Mwesigwa invited him to the 1987 Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup squad. In 1989, Nkemba was part of the memorable Cranes side that won the regional Cecafa title, ending a 12-year-old hoodoo.
He made the starting line-up against Malawi which they beat in the final; the full line up composed of Sadiq Wassa, Paul Hasule, Richard Mugalu, Isaac Nkaada, George Nsimbe, Sam Ssimbwa/ Twaha Kivumbi, Stephen Bogere, Magid Musisi, Robert Aloro and Ronald Vubya/Sula Kato).
Nkemba was also in the Cranes team that retained the title in 1990. He also converted a penalty in the semifinals shoot-out against Tanzania. A recurring knee injury forced him to retire from the team in 1993.
Played for Nsambya FC (Trainee) and SC Villa (1984-1994).
Won the league in 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1992 and 1994.
Won the Uganda Cup with SC Villa in 1986, 1988 and 1989.
He was in the SC Villa team that reached two consecutive continental finals in 1991 and 1992.
Played for youth team in 1986.
Played for Cranes; 1987 to 1993.
Voted 1989 Footballer of Year.
Won the Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup with Cranes in 1989 and 1990.
He once had trials with FC Nantes and Stade Rennes of France and Kaizer Chiefs of South Africa.
Part of the Ngeye clan team that lifted the Bika By’Abaganda Soccer titles of 1991 and 1992.
Regarded by many as Uganda’s best sweeper and one of the most successful footballers of all time. He was born in a family that had a soccer gene. His father, the late Stanley Mutimba, is said to have featured for the national soccer team during the 1940s before it was given the ‘Cranes’ tag name.
Mutimba also played many matches for Buganda in the regional Madhvani Cup. It seems that in these series we shall never get tired of mentioning the Kampala outskirts of Mulago, the Santos team and Maracana playground.
Just like the many great players of Ugandan football we have featured before, Lwanga, too, originated from this football-rich area and was nurtured by the village team given the name of Santos after the famous Brazilian club. Before he full embraced football as a toddler, Lwanga remembers spending most of his time running up and down the wards and lifts of Mulago Hospital where his mother Mary Nagadya (RIP) worked as a nurse. He suddenly hated going there after something strange happened one day.
He once found himself alone in the lift with a dead patient’s body which was being carried from the ward down to the mortuary. Since that day Lwanga abandoned the idea of going to the hospital and his interest switched to watching those playing soccer at the nearby Maracana grounds.
He attended Makerere Church of Uganda Primary School and later Bashir High School in Wandegeya in Kampala. Lwanga credits his early school days mentors like former Fifa referee Kizito Mubanda and Games Master Kalibbala for making him fall in love with football. He was not born a defender as he preferred playing on the forward line so that he could dribble opponents – something he loved a lot
His football abilities soon attracted the attention of American Insurance FC which he briefly played for before joining Fiat FC where he also spent a short spell. It was in 1973 that the football loving youth joined KCCA FC alongside Phillip Omondi at the time the club was playing in the lower division and being coached by ‘Mister’ Jaberi Bidandi Ssali. At the time the club consisted mostly of old players who were not amused seeing young players like Lwanga, Omondi and Nsereko being signed.
Some were heard warning that such young players would take the club nowhere. On the contrary, it was the youth that later spearheaded the club to topflight league promotion in 1974.
On joining, Lwanga was more of a winger and midfielder than a defender, who easily strolled into the national team – Cranes. Because Bidandi preferred speedy strikers, he converted Lwanga into a defender, something he didn’t seem to like at first.
He gradually accepted his new unfamiliar role and began to enjoy it after playing some friendlies and getting praises from the older players. Because he was used to dribbling upfront, Lwanga used to do the same in defence – many a time causing his teammates and officials to panic.
“I was very good at dribbling and used to do it in defence as well,” recalls Lwanga. “I remember being surrounded by three strikers at one time whom I easily dribbled before making a pass amid deafening cheering from the fans.”
Lwanga was in the KCCA FC team that won promotion to the Uganda Premier League in 1974 and the one of 1976 that won the league for the first time. He played a part in all 22 league matches then. In August 1979, he signed and became a professional soccer player for Oman Sports club in the Emirates where he stayed up to 1984. On returning to Uganda, he rejoined his old club KCCA FC. At the national team level, Lwanga first played for Cranes in 1974 after he was included in the team that toured the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for a series of friendly matches.
In 1975, he captured the No.4 position from veteran Ahmed Doka making it his for the next seven years that included the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) of 1978. During that memorable tourney, he also played all the matches without being substituted.
Lwanga says his best match for the Cranes was during the 1975 Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup in Zambia. Uganda played and defeated Zambia before its own fans including President Kenneth Kaunda who reportedly shed some tears after the match. During the match, Lwanga seriously man-marked Zambia’s most dangerous striker Godfrey Chitalu with the latter ending with no goal-attempt. “He was such an idol that whenever he touched the ball the crowds would roar something like Uhaaa, Uhaaa which I later learnt to be a powerful type of dry cell in Zambia.The more they cheered Chitalu, the more determined I became in keeping him at bay,” adds Lwanga about famous man who later became his good friend. “You can’t enjoy the game apart from working extra hard to contain those strikers playing No.9.”
Played for American Insurance, FIAT, KCCA and Oman Sports Club.
Won the topflight league with KCCA FC in 1976, 1977 and 1985.
Won the Uganda Cup with KCCA FC in 1984 and 1987.
Won league as KCCA FC coach in 1991, 1997 and Uganda Cup in 1990.
Coached KCCA FC for two stints; 1987-89 and 1990-1992.
Won the regional Cecafa title with Cranes in 1976 and 1977.
Part of Cranes side at Afcon 1976 (Ethiopia) and 1978 (Ghana).
He played in all Cranes matches enroute to the final in Ghana.
Lwanga holds both a Germany ‘A’ and CAF ‘A’ coaching licenses.
Mention that great and dominating Simba FC team of the early 1970s and one name you can’t avoid is definitely one of Ahmed Doka at No.4. He was a giant of a man and so strong that a few opponents could dare advance forward by his side.
In 1971, when Simba went on to win the Ugandan league for the first time Doka played an influential role featuring in literally all games. His defensive role is explained by the fact that Simba conceded only nine goals – one of the lowest tallies in the league’s history.
The following season in 1972, Simba made history by becoming the first Ugandan club to reach the finals of Africa’s most prestigious clubs championship and Doka was at the forefront as one man that had diligently done his job at the heart of defence. He will forever be remembered for the starring role he played during the semifinals against big talking Ghanaians from Hearts of Oak.
Mzee Charles Lwanga of Lubaga who has supported Nsambya for over 50 years remembers watching many of the Simba matches enroute to the final.
“Doka, Ouma, John Dibya, Francis Kulabigwo, Godfrey Kisitu and Swalleh Wasswa were all outstanding in most matches. But particularly Doka was one player that used to superbly control Simba’s defence,” recalls Lwanga.
Lwanga, the player who replaced Doka in Cranes for the No.4 position says this was one player he used to admire a lot during his youth days when he had just started playing serious soccer.
“I admired Doka a lot and he was my idol and best defensive player. Doka was so strong and fast on the ball. When it came to passing the ball, he was always accurate,” reveals Lwanga about some of the factors and lessons that he learned from Doka and helped him capture the No.4 position in Cranes.
Apart from sustaining a serious injury around 1975, Lwanga points to other factors that could have been considered by Cranes coach of the time David Otti to give Lwanga the No.4 jersey.
“Otti must have realised that I used to partner well with Jimmy Kirunda at club level as we used to understand each other so well. Our combination at KCCA was better than that one of Kirunda and Doka in the national team,” he explains. “Besides and again at club level I used to partner well with Phillip Omondi at No.6 and Moses Nsereko at No.8 and Otti understandably thought we would do the same in the Cranes team.” Besides, by 1975 Doka had already reached his peak and the Cranes team was undergoing a revamp with a lot of young blood being injected into it,” concludes Lwanga.
Part of the Simba team that won the Ugandan topflight league in 1971.
Was part of the Simba team that became the first Ugandan club to reach a continental clubs championship final in 1972.
Was part of the Cranes team that president Idi Amin Dada (RIP) rewarded for beating Tanzania to win the 1973 Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup by Uganda.
He was part of the Cranes team that played in the Africa Cup of Nations tourney of 1974 in Cairo.
What others say;
Emmanuel Ssempiira (Ex Coffee & Simba), “I played for Simba FC a few years before Ahmed Doka joined. Later on I watched him in action and felt that his giant size and good game reading made him stand out in central defence at No.4. Tom Lwanga was indeed a suitable replacement and Uganda misses such players.”
Tom Lwanga (Ex-KCCA FC & Cranes player), “Ahmed Doka was my idol during the early days of my footballing career. He was someone I admired a lot and I aspired to play like him. I liked his playing style especially the wonderful ball control. It is both good and bad that I ended up replacing him in the national soccer team Cranes.”
Charles Lwanga (Nsambya FC Fan), “Though I supported Nsambya FC, there were players elsewhere I admired and Doka was one of them. He had stamina and was so instrumental in the great Simba team of 1972 that beat all teams to reach an African clubs tourney final. Lwanga was also excellent but Nkemba was a tad lower in class.”
Douglas Nsubuga (Veteran soccer journalist), “Lwanga had urgency I had never seen before. During one league match in the 1970s when time was running out for KCCA FC, he worked like a donkey and almost knocked journalist at the touchline while collecting the ball for a throw in that resulted into a goal and saved KCCA FC’s blushes.”