Ndugwa rises from forced semi-retirement to sparkle.

Update by Kafeero Twaha on

Saturday, June 25, 2022

Finding his mojo. Ndugwa in action for Bul in the Uganda Cup game earlier this year. Photo/John Batanudde


HICGI news agency

He’s back. Bul only signed the ex-Vipers forward and journeyman as a January experiment but he has hit his strides at Bugembe and helped Bul to a historic first trophy
Football can indeed be a cruel game. It has make or break moments that when not handled with extreme concern, can ruin any player’s career.

If anybody can be a first-hand witness to that, then it has got to be Bul reinvigorated forward Karim Ndugwa. He has been to the deepest end and swam back – and now wants to enjoy every bit that is left in his playing chapter.

The last six months have seen Ndugwa, dubbed by many as a journeyman, conjure a scintillating renaissance that climaxed with the Stanbic Uganda Cup victory for Bul a fortnight ago.

Ndugwa netted an exquisite brace against Vipers in Masindi to take his total tally to nine in the tournament to bag the top scorers’ gong.

The first goal, a powerful header off Regan Kalyowa’s cross showed his aerial prowess while his second, a collected finish beyond the goalkeeper from Simon Oketch cross, exhibited his box threat and predatory instinct.

This for a forgotten player that had sunk to playing football with potbellied colleagues before January after a self-imposed retirement, can make a must-watch movie script

Ill-fated move
As the Covid-19 pandemic effects began to bite mid-2020, Ndugwa, then off the books of Wakiso Giants, sought refuge in Somalia with army-owned side Horseed. He would live to regret the switch to the restive nation as the $200 (Shs740,000) leave home package is all he ever received for his services.

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“The club owners only paid the local players and didn’t pay foreigners at all. When I joined, I met my Ugandan colleague Ibrahim Kazindula suffering the same. Our passports were seized and we played the entire season without earning a penny. When we managed to sneak back to Kampala, I decided to give football a break,” Ndugwa told SCORE.

He would resort to playing village tournaments in Nalumunye for fun before Bul coach Alex Isabirye lured him to join Bul after Musa Esenu joined the Rwandan league in January.

“Truth be told I was totally unfit and out of shape when coach Isabirye gave me my first chance in the 3-1 loss to Vipers at Bugembe Stadium. I started picking up in my next game against Wakiso Giants and scored and assisted in the third against Arua Hill at the Barifa Stadium. By this time, the doubters were silenced,” he says with a tinge of satisfaction.

The former Villa, URA, Victors, AFC Leopards and Onduparaka forward has repaid Isabirye’s faith with four league goals and seven assists, as well as the aforementioned nine strikes in the Cup.

Father figure
All the players that have worked with Isabirye agree in tandem that he is a rare breed of a man manager. One that you can chat with as age mates, share a Chapati with but one fella who means business and hurls instructions once the whistle blows on the pitch.

“He knew beforehand that my experience would help the youngsters in the team have courage and learn a lot from me. He built his attacking route through me with the supply coming in from Simon Oketch, Reagan Kalyowa, Ibrahim Kazindula and Richard Wandyaka.

“I feel excited at the moment because I haven’t let him down and he has told me he is proud of me,” he added.

Expiring contract 
The bromance between Ndugwa and Bul is, however, housed on a shaky ground considering the existing contract between the two parties elapses in September.
By then, Bul will hopefully have established a daring bid to compete in the league, retain the Uganda Cup and put up a commendable shift in the Caf Confederation Cup.

Having scored a brace against Busoga United, Booma, Soltilo Bright Stars and Vipers plus a cracker against SC Villa, logic dictates that Ndugwa passed the litmus test for an extended time with the Eastern Giants. Not confirmed yet though.
“When my contract ends in three months, I will eagerly be waiting for a possible renewal. I would have liked to stay with Bul and Isabirye’s rebuilding plus the friendship that I have cultivated with the squad members. 

“The limited experience I have in the Caf tourney (played for URA against Zambian side Nkana Red Devils at Namboole) will be handy,” he stressed.
Isabirye recently intimated to this paper that his club is set to go into a transfer recruitment overdrive and contract renewal process to pivotal stars to sustain the growing expectations.

Milking second chance  
A lean striker from Mityana had tongues wagging over ten years ago whilst playing in the Masaza tournament. He was the proclaimed prize fox in the box and his explosive runs and box awareness had many giving thrilling prophecies.

Indeed, Ndugwa showed shades of potential at defunct Victors, somewhat dimmed at URA and later failed to live to the billing at Onduparaka, Wakiso Giants and Horseed. In between, Ndugwa won the league with Kenyan giants Leopards.
“I suffered nagging injuries at URA. I then played for a Villa side that solicited money in a basket on match days.I’m happy that I showed my scoring instinct at Victors,” Ndugwa reminisces. 
After knocking on the Uganda Cranes door for a while and receiving a cold shoulder, the former Under-20 and Under-23 striker seems to have given up any hope of a surprise call for the pending Chan qualifying duty due in August.
“I’m not so optimistic on Uganda Cranes chances because the picture is not so clear these days. Regardless, we keep on working. George Kasonko recently got called up for the Turkey tour but wasn’t considered in the last two games against Algeria and Niger.”

The working experiment
During the January transfer window, a senior official at Bul intimated to this paper that the signing of Karim Ndugwa on a short contract was help the club fill the vacancy left by the departure of hit man Musa Esenu’s departure and also to give the previously unsettled forward a chance to rediscover his potential.

The official said the Eastern Giants were merely casting nets and hoping the fish in Ndugwa’s potential gets caught in there as some had questioned the logic behind the transfer. There are no doubts now

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