Livingstone Mbabazi.File Photo
He rarely speaks in public but his aura says it all; self-assured and supremely confident.
From Onduparaka Football Club to Mbarara City and back after just one season, welcome 39-year-old Livingstone Mbabazi.
A gem as a player, enigmatic as a coach.
He rarely speaks in public but his aura says it all; self-assured and supremely confident. His ego as big as his talent and his ambition as high as the standards he
set for himself as a player.
Those around him call him aloof and arrogant; wrong. He is shy, reserved and principled. Some of his players call him harsh; he just demands high standards with strict training
As a player, he qualified his elite class by adding great physical conditioning and work rate to his outstanding talent.
As a coach, he expects no less from his less gifted players. It’s a Ugandan players thing to dislike highly demanding coaches.
He led Onduparaka, to a 5th place finish, while last season, he guided Mbarara City to their highest ever finish in the top division; 5th position.
From the north to the west, where football facilities and means of livelihood for coaches are far removed from the comforts of teams in Kampala, Mbabazi has confounded reason. He is shaking trees and fruits are now falling.
His rise as a coaching talent has been a total surprise. He was among the crème de la crème in the late 1990s midfield generation that had Jamil ‘magic’ Kyambadde, Hakim
Magumba, Morley Byekwaso, Alex Isabirye, William Odoch, Peter Onen, and Noah ‘Babadi’ Kasule.
With the exception of Kyambadde; arguably the most gifted playmaker of his generation, Mbabazi was the stand out central midfielder.
He oozed so much talent with a repertoire of technical skills, authority, and command.
A sublime full range passer, an artist, a dribbler, creator, a ball winner, a goal scorer, a dead ball specialist with a cannon-like shot in both feet.
His eloquence in possession, sublime ball control, intelligent movement, and class on the ball made him an easy cut out for professional football.
When Ivory Coast, Tunisia, Egypt, and Irish clubs knocked on his door, few begrudged him. It was a call of destiny. Unknown to him and the many fans who mobbed him, his promising professional career was to be cut short by the worst news; he was found with a heart problem and advised to cut short his career.
Beyond his talent, his larger than life ego was the closest I ever saw to current KCCA coach, Mike Ray Mutebi’s.
How was he ever going to react to the life-threatening diagnosis that dictated a premature end to a career he loved with a passion?
This anti-climax left a bitter taste in the mouth of many a football lover. Few though would have predicted the kind of return that the ex-international would make on the local football scene.
His forced retirement left a lot of unfinished business, a business which he would return years later to finish as a coach.
After playing for elite clubs Villa SC and KCC, one would have expected Mbabazi to earmark the same for a return to the big time. The decision to work and live in West Nile region before switching to his home region and now back in Arua is one that affects the opinion on Mbabazi.
He has genuinely taken on coaching as a full-time career.
Before and after Onduparaka, Mbabazi took his chance with Bright Stars and later Big League Kyetume FC on the way to Mbarara.
Working largely with second rate players, Mbabazi’s teams play with freedom and self-belief. They are singled out for character, aggressiveness and a good work ethic.
His departure from both Onduparaka and Mbarara, no wonder, was for the same reasons; dressing room anarchy with the so-called senior players.
Holder of a CAF B – UEFA coaching certificate, Mbabazi is making a case for attention.
His passion for coaching is similar to Byekwaso, Isabirye, Onen and Odoch’s.
He leads a youthful generation of ex-players now cum coaches who have done enough to encourage the support of FUFA with sponsored advanced coaching courses.
The employing clubs too, must give them a chance.