Uganda's biggest football transfers to Europe that didn't happen

A photo montage showing Mike Mutyaba, Allan Okello and Saddam Juma

SPORTS GIST Uganda's biggest football transfers to Europe that didn't happen

Moses King 17:21 - 22.06.2023

Uganda has seen its fair share of talented football stars come close to securing lucrative transfers to top European clubs, only to have their dreams shattered.

From failed moves to renowned English Premier League teams like Liverpool, Ajax, and Nottingham Forest, Pulse Uganda Sports looks at the most significant football transfers that never materialized.

Issa Sekatawa to Liverpool -1986

Issa Sekatawa was known as the 'Golden Boy' of Ugandan football. A celebrity in the 1980s, Sekatawa came close to joining Liverpool.

One notable case is that of Issa Sekatawa, who was hailed as Uganda's "golden boy" and dominated the football scene in the 1980s.

Sekatawa, a skilful and deadly striker, caught the attention of Mbarara FC while attending Mbarara Army School.

He later moved to Nytil FC and Express FC, where he scored an impressive 22 goals and gained celebrity status.

Sekatawa even became the first Ugandan footballer to appear in a television commercial promoting Bata shoes.

In 1986, Sekatawa was invited for trials at Liverpool FC, where he outscored the legendary Ian Rush.

However, according to The Observer, his much-anticipated move to Liverpool was allegedly sabotaged by local authorities who wanted him to stay and support the Uganda Cranes national team and Express FC.

Furthermore, his employers were said to have conspired to block the issuance of his International Transfer Certificate (ITC) required for the transfer.

Today, Sekatawa works as a cleaner at the National Mosque in Old Kampala.

Sekatawa cleans the mosque as his day job. Courtesy Photo

Analysts believe his transfer would have paved the way for other Ugandan footballers to join top European clubs.

Saddam Juma to Nottingham Forest -2010

Saddam Juma claims his move to Nottingham Forest was so close that the club was very interested in his services but contractual loopholes failed him.

Another unfortunate case is that of Saddam Juma, a creative midfielder currently doing his coaching badges at a Juventus Academy in China.

Juma had the opportunity to realize his European football dreams while playing for Bunamwaya FC (now Vipers Sports Club).

At 17, Juma had trials at Fulham FC but couldn't make the cut.

However, Nottingham Forest showed interest and took him on, but the move has yet to materialize.

Juma blamed Bunamwaya FC for hindering his move to Nottingham Forest, claiming that the club refused to let him go.

"I was about to be put into the system, but something happened in between."

"There was some miscommunication between Bunamwaya and Nottingham Forest," Juma revealed in a candid interview with NBS Sport in 2022.

"I was not 18 then, so I had to get out of my contract with Bunamwaya and go as a free agent to sign for their reserve team, play some games, and then secure a sports merit visa."

"But these guys [Bunamwaya] couldn't accept that. They failed me," Juma narrated.

Juma had hoped that once he obtained his professional contract, compensation would be provided to Bunamwaya FC. Unfortunately, the move fell through, disillusioning him with his chances of joining a European club.

Allan Okello to FC Zurich -2019

Allan Okello was heavily linked to several football powerhouses in Europe and on the continent.

One of the most significant transfer near-misses involved Allan Okello.

The talented 19-year-old forward was poised to make a big move to FC Zurich, which sent shockwaves through the football community.

Okello had trials with the Swiss club, but the deal has yet to materialize.

However, much to everyone's surprise, Okello ended up signing with the Algerian side AC Paradou instead.

Despite attracting interest from several top clubs on the continent, including Mamelodi Sundowns, Wydad Casablanca, and Al Ahly, Okello's anticipated move to Zurich FC has yet to materialize. There were also reports of interest in Sassuolo in Italy.

Okello is expected to return to AC Paradou as the new season approaches, still eager to pursue his unfinished business and prove himself on the European stage.

Mike Mutyaba to Fulham -2005

Mike Mutyaba, as a teenager with Kampala Kids League came close to joining Fulham but the deal collapsed due to his immigration status at the time.

Mike Mutyaba, a talented young player from the renowned Kampala Kids League, made a name for himself during his time with the 2005 squad.

His exceptional skills and performance in the Tivoli and Gothia Cup tournaments held in the Netherlands, Norway, and Denmark earned him widespread recognition. Mutyaba left a lasting impression by netting an astonishing 36 goals.

Among those who took notice of his talent was Patrick Gyambadde, a friend who played a crucial role in introducing him to Yeovil Town Football Club in the UK.

Yeovil Town FC, recognizing Mutyaba's potential, offered him a weekly pay of Shs1.5m as a minor.

His impressive displays on the pitch soon caught the attention of Fulham FC, who became interested in acquiring his services. Unfortunately, there was a hurdle to overcome since Mutyaba was residing in the UK without legal documentation.

To address this issue, Fulham planned for his return to Uganda, intending to sort out his immigration status.

However, their efforts were met with resistance from the immigration authorities, resulting in Mutyaba being handed a five-year ban.