The date is March 17, 2018, and we are in the 46th minute at Lugogo. KCCA FC fans looking restless as Ethiopia’s St George is proving to be a hard nut to crack. After a goalless draw in the first leg, KCCA FC just need any win to write history by becoming the first Ugandan Club to qualify for the CAF Champions League group stages.
Muzamir Mutyaba starts a short corner to Mustafa Kizza’s path, and the roving left back whips in a lofty delivery in the crowded box. Muhammad Shaban senses the opportunity and makes his move. The forward rises highest to nick in a glancing header that leaves goalkeeper Robert Odongkara stunned.
The young striker wheels away in celebration as all players join him in the corner amidst wild celebrations from the fans. And KCCA FC holds on to seal a 1-0 win, thanks to Shaban’s goal, to storm the lucrative stage of the Competition. A Ugandan had been beaten between the posts but most importantly Ugandan football and Shaban were moving forward on the continent.
About six months later, after the deal to join Orlando Pirates FC hit a dead end, Shaban secures a deal to join Moroccan giants Raja Casablanca.
The move, was expected to be the start of the striker’s journey to greater things, may be a deal to one of Europe’s top five leagues. The 19-year old had already proved his worth having led the scoring charts for KCCA FC a season back with 18 goals that included hitting four against URA in a 7-2 demolition.
The wonder kid from Arua was also the top-scorer at the 2018 COSAFA U20 Championship that included a double against Zambia. But the move to Raja turned out to be one of Shaban’s worst decisions. His only goal for Raja was the fifth on the day against Gabon’s Mberi Sportif in a CAF Confederation Cup first leg played at the Stade Mohammed V in Casablanca, where he had seven appearances.
On August 7th 2019, the striker was unveiled by Vipers SC via their website in a story where he appeared having a handshake with club President Dr. Lawrence Mulindwa as a featured image. In a subsequent interview, Shaban whose debut was delayed for a season due to a knee ligament injury, said that the fans should expect more from him.
It took just eight minutes into his debut for Shaban to make his long wait worthwhile as he nodded in a Dissan Galiwango corner against Wakiso Giants FC at Kabaka Kyabaggu Stadium on December 12 2020. But that proved to be his only goal in a Vipers SC shirt, going on to play just seven more games at the club before he was shown the exit door.
Arua: East or West – Home Is the Best
When everything seemed beyond repair for Shaban, the striker went by the old adage and returned home at Onduparaka FC. He fired blanks in the opening six games of the season against UPDF, Bright Stars FC, Arua Hill SC, BUL FC, Vipers SC and SC Villa, not to mention the other match with Police which he missed due to yellow card accumulations.
It was indeed tough for him but he was planning and sharpening his boots for goals. On November 30, he finally got his first. It came against Express FC, in the 8th minute of the game. He showed instincts of a real goal poacher when he arrived in the area to bundle in from close range after Express FC goalkeeper had spilled an initial shot from Emmanuel Oketch. He ran to celebrate in the corner and made a summersault with relief and joy after getting a monkey off his back.
The fans had waited for so long. Shaban, started to play with more purpose and drive, and went on to notch 14 more goals in the Uganda Premier League. His tally included a hat-trick against Police FC at Lugogo, three braces against Mbarara City, Busoga United FC and Express FC. And hit single digit goals against SC Villa, URA FC, Gaddafi FC and Tooro United FC.
His goals were timely throughout the most part of the season, Onduparaka FC were on the edge of the abyss but it was not meant to be as a massive show from striker Shaban opened the door for the Caterpillars resuscitation as the striker wreaked havoc on some of the league’s elite defences.
‘First of all I want to thank the Almighty Allah…. starts Shaban in an interview. ‘Secondly I thank the fans of Onduparaka FC, management plus also my managers at the Sepuya Agency of course we have been working with them hand to hand,’ he started before adding, ‘The fans did a good job welcoming me back at Onduparaka FC. My fans have loved me even though things have not been well. They have been with me together with my family motivating me to work harder, promising me that one-day God will make things go through.’
Speaking about the Morocco spell, he explains: ‘There were challenges. What affected me mostly in Morocco was the injury and that is the major reason I had to come back to Uganda to rebuild myself so that I can go elsewhere. I joined Vipers SC when I was still injured then they took me to surgery. I was not feeling fine but you know Vipers SC is a big club that comes with pressure of winning trophies. They could not wait. I had to talk to the club chairman and the club President to release me so that I can go and start afresh. I went home and the people in Arua were also waiting for me to go back to reunite for a new start to work together again. I embraced the return, and started scoring though at first things did not work out well according to plan but I knew I would improve.’ noted Shaban.
Shaban’s targets, just like any other local player, is to become a mainstay on the National team and get bigger deals may be where his parent club can also get some money to buy more players.
The Onduparaka FC forward and captain is part of the Uganda Cranes provisional squad summoned for the forthcoming 2023 TotalEnergies Africa Cup of Nations Qualifiers against Algeria and Niger.
“It is everyone’s dream. Every player is working hard to get there and also go abroad. Being called back to the National team makes me a happy player. When a player joins the National team, he needs to work harder to see that he stays there because you are not representing yourself but the Nation.”
Shaban says, ‘I am a changed man because when I went to Morocco I had not yet matured, but at least now I am a different Shaban. I have learnt a lot, so any deal which comes through, I will make sure that I do not repeat the mistakes. You know those deals come with a lot of challenges; you become home sick, new food, different weather, but I was not patient enough. The injury frustrated me even though the team wanted me to stay but I had to request for my release to come back home and rebuild myself.’
Coach Dudu Bosco hails Shaban
Without doubt, Shaban Muhammad and Onduparaka FC Technical Director make a perfect fit. No one else understands Shaban more than Dudu.
Dudu engineered Shaban’s return to Onduparaka FC as it was the case with Ceasar Okhuti seasons back. Okhuti had struggled to hit the ground running while playing for Bunamwaya FC (now Vipers SC), and Dudu who was coaching El Nasir (Sudan) then decided to sign the struggling striker.
‘So many people in Arua called and told me Caeser (Okhuti) was facing challenges and needed help. I took the striker to Juba and transformed him. He went on to score 13 goals in 11 games, finishing as the second top scorer. By the time he left Juba, Express FC had already secured his signature and ready to join the red army. He later joined KCCA FC and we know the amount of money they paid him.’
For Dudu, transforming Shaban back to his best, is not by coincidence or luck but rather a strategy. He describes Shaban as a hard working player who wants to win always and has not disappointed him this season.
‘It has not been very easy, the most important thing is that when I started working with the club, I had a meeting one on one with the club chairman and we drew a strategy aimed at helping the players and those key ones who were struggling outside Arua. Shaban was one of such players and this has not happened only to him but even other players elsewhere.’ He recalls.
During preseason, Shaban and Dudu were in Kampala the latter indicates, ‘we made sure we trained well and got someone who was helping us with fitness of the players. The form you saw with the players was not by mistake. We prepared them during preseason.’
‘He came back home, the fans and club welcomed him very well and showed him love. The entire team showered him with love. The Technical team worked with him and the good thing he listened and that was the genesis of his success.’
With Shaban’s contract set to expire, Onduparaka FC wants their prodigal son to stay.
‘We have come up with the decision to discuss about his possible stay for another season at Onduparaka FC because we are planning to do better than last season. Shaban should be part of the team.’
Shaban would be enjoying his off-season but for now National team duty is calling and his fans will be excited seeing him in action. The 2016 Airtel FUFA Player of the year is hoping for the best.
Report by: Fufa Media team