KAMPALA. Very few people have the courage to practice football coaching. Those that have persisted and managed it both on the local and international level at least know how it feels to be in the hotness and coldness of that seat. Take coach Sam ‘Bamweyana’ Ssimbwa who is a household name in Ugandan football.
He has not only shone at Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) where he currently acts as the head coach but he has also been at the National team Cranes before, deputizing Hungarian László Csaba Bobby Williamson and Muhammad Abbas whom he started with in 2005. But, do we really know him?
“Growing up with high profiled people starting from my childhood has been so crucial to my success,” starts Ssimbwa as he takes down his cell phone for this interview at Hormisdallen Nursery School playground, Gayaza, Kampala also the official training ground for URA.
“I know how to respect people, my players and of course holds enough football coaching experience in Ugandan football,” adds Ssimbwa, also the CAF Licence A holder which he attained in 2016.
Ssimbwa, 52, loved and played mostly for KCCA that currently has Mike Mutebi as the head coach.
“I think my parents knew that one day, Ssimbwa will become a football star. They bought for me a ball and while we were at home (Bweyogerere) I used to play it until when I started school,” added Ssimbwa who played soccer in schools; Jinja Kaloli, Kitante Hill School and Kibuli SS.
Born in December 1967 to Mrs Milly Nanteza Nakibinge and the late prince William Nakibinge, Ssimbwa is married to Hajjat Sophie Nantongo, a musician and also a father with many children.
“While at Kibuli SS, I was a lethal midfielder known by all and sundry. I used to take free-kicks as well as penalties. This excited the games teacher back then, Mr Badru Ssentongo who was also a friend to Mr Jack Ibale, the KCCA Club chairman back then,” shares Ssimbwa before his phone momentarily interrupted the interview.
“Mr Ssentongo later convinced Mr Ssali Bidandi and Mr Ibale that my boy has the passion to play for KCCA. They accepted and that’s how I ended in garbage collectors.”
According to Ssimbwa, Bidandi also the father to Uganda’s celebrated musician Moses Ssali aka Bebe Cool was his hero in his football career.
He holds him with high regard and speaks highly of him because he loved him so much more than his son.
“Most of the time he would call me home and advise me how to improve on my performance as a player. Today, if I say that am a brother to Bebe Cool don’t get me wrong,” he shares in a comical tone.
Before, Ssimbwa had played in Cosmos FC in Mini-League in 1987 but that was amateur football to him. When he joined KCCA and played the midfield role with Jackson Mayanja under coach Paul Ssali for him that was his breakthrough.
“They had loads of players and many thought it would be hard for me to penetrate through. But I tell you what, Ssimbwa became an integral name in KCCA,” he says.
As for memories, it’s hard to forget some by the time Ssimbwa played for KCCA.
“Heheh….. one thing I cannot forget was when we went in Rwanda and played friendly games with teams; Mukuba and Mukungwa Football team. Mukungwa alone was a household team in Ruhengeri City when it comes to football in Rwanda. That was 1988.
I played better and after the game, Rwandese took me to Nyabugabo market and bought me clothes,” reminisces Ssimbwa who was called by fans ‘Onzi’ throughout the game.
The word Onzi is loosely translated in English as Shirt No.11. Since they didn’t knew his name, Rwandese were delighted by Ssimbwa’s orchestra play and ended up chanting his shirt Number.
Much as he was a darling player at KCCA and more so among some Rwandese, Ssimbwa was at one point discouraged to play football due to injuries.
“I faced the problem of knee injuries most of the time. At one point I went to Cyprus for treatment. What I remember during those days is that I had little money but KCCA and Mr Sam Kiwanuka who was the United Nations financial controller helped me a lot,” he shares.
While in Cyprus, Ssimbwa utilised that chance and even attended a training course for coaches.
Even at KCCA, Ssimbwa had his ups and downs both as a player as well as a tutor. Most of the time Ssimbwa was hardworking at the pitch but emotionally he was sometimes weak to let go of some things.
“While playing Nile Breweries FC in 1995, I told coach Paul Ssali that I want to be substituted. The performance of the entire team was poor. We had spent some good time playing goalless draws. Being a captain, I told Mr Ssali; please coach take me out of the game. He refused and later I walked out from the pitch,” shares Ssimbwa in a laughter tone.
In 1995, he decided to quit playing football completely. The team KCCA, had Mr Frank Kyazze as the assistant manager but later Ssimbwa replaced him.
“From there I switched from being a player now to a manager. I was so creative and innovative that’s why I’ve benefited a lot in football,” he says.
When he entered football management, Ssimbwa was quick like a wink to enroll for a coaching course in Germany in 1996. They went with the late Paul Hasule who played mostly for SC Villa and later died in 2004.
“Football is not all about playing or coaching and get applauses from fans and your bosses. No. It goes beyond that thinking. Getting rigour trainings in this field is crucial,” said Ssimbwa currently, a Germany DFB Advanced License holder.
As a football coach, Ssimbwa started at Malela FC led by coach Patrick Nsiagi before switching his training drills in Health FC which he guided into Super Division.
“The competition was stiff. We had teams like; Bell, Iganga, Mbarara and Posta but somehow we managed to become the best,” he recollects.
In 1995, Ssimbwa signed for Eastern Region side Mbale Heroes Football Club also renowned as The Giant Killers founded in 1970.
“I was in my early 30’s. They were short of players, short of creative coach so when I signed for them as a coach they got me a license too as a player,” said Ssimbwa who won Kakungulu Cup as a coach player for Mbare Heroes in 1999. After that triumph, most of the new born babies in Mbale ‘Bagishu’ were named after Ssimbwa.
“After wining Kakungulu Cup, I resigned. The Bagishu in Mbale were contrary to it. They blocked me from travelling back to Kampala during the day. Many wanted me to stay at the team and what I did was to travel back at night in a taxi to settle with my family,” he adds.
By the time the Cabinet Minister of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries Vincent Ssempijja used to be the Masaka District Chairperson, Ssimbwa was convinced to return back to football coaching.
“My wife back then Samali Namayanja negotiated with Mr Ssempijja and later she advised me to join Masaka LC,” shares Ssimbwa who used to earn a monthly salary of shs: 1m as head coach Masaka Local Council FC.
“When I joined them, they had the late Rogers Ssemere as their coach. A lot was at stake, had poor players but I changed everything. We went on and won Cowadisa FC 2-1 in the Min League finals and we got promoted in super league,” said Ssimbwa who later resigned in 1998.
He thereafter signed for Police FC. Since he wasn’t independent when exercising his duties, Ssimbwa narrates that again, he was forced to throw in the towels at Military Police FC and went in KCCA.
Still his stint was short lived at KCCA and later switched to Top TV FC.
In 2005, Ssimbwa walked his way in the National team Cranes thereby deputising the Egyptian Muhammad Abaas.
“We worked with Abaas and he was a good man. He was very knowledgeable on the game and I learnt a lot from him,” he says.
In 2007, he went in Atraco FC formed by the Association of Transport Companies in Rwanda where he also won the club’s only Rwanda Premier League. The same season he was also crowned the head coach of the year.
In 2008, Ssimbwa signed for Express before winning them Kakungulu Cup.
“I tried my best. I saved the team from being relegated because during coach Keneddy Lubogo’s reign, they were left with only six games to be relegated,” recollects Simbwa who was later was recruited by SC Vipers owner Lawrence Mulindwa, back then the FUFA President as the assistant coach of Laszlo Csaba on the National team Cranes.
He later went in Kenya’s Sofapaka Football Club popularly known as Batoto ba Mungu where he served as a head coach, finishing second in his first season.
“I failed to stay long in Sofapaka. Why? Some players were unruly which forced me back in Express,” Ssimbwa who won the Super League with Express in 2011/12 season garnering 54 points shared.
“I also served Victoria University but later I got misunderstandings with my bosses and left. They compensated me shs: 25m which money helped me buy some of the things I have today,” Ssimbwa who later switched to Rwanda’s side Police FC in 2012 said.
“At the start the environment was good. Later, the Rwanda government passed an order that no foreigner is allowed to participate in any football team’s affair, so I had to return back home,” adds Simbwa who later replaced Steven Bogere after his sacking as SC Villa head coach in 2013.
“All together, football has not disappointed me. I‘ve benefited a lot. However, disappointments are everywhere. I’ve had disappointments with FUFA after banning me for eight months when I was still at KCCA,” concludes Ssimbwa who joined URA in May last year.
Ssimbwa at glance:
Name: Bamweyana Sam Ssimbwa
Date of Birth: 13/12/1967
Schools attended: Jinja Kaloli, Kitante Hill, Kibuli SS & Kampala Business institute
Parents: Prince William Nakibinge Brasio & Mrs Milly Nanteza Nakibinge
1986- KK Cosmos
1987- 1995-KCCA FC
1999-2000- Mbale Heroes
1998 -Health FC
1999- Mbale Heroes
2001- Masaka Local Council
2002- Police FC
2003- Top TV FC
2006- Atraco FC
2009- Sofapaka FC
2011- Victoria University FC
2012- Police FC (Rwanda)
2013- SC Villa
CAF A Licence holder (2016)
Germany DFB Advanced License holder
2011-2012- Super League (Express)
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