Football

How COVID-19 agonisingly ended Brian Kayanja’s semi pro dream before it kicked off

Kayanja has found comfort working with Kefa Kisala but he has not given up on his dream to play abroad

Danito NSUBUGA 

He was just into his 5th month of a 24 months contract with Kenyan Giants Sofapaka FC when the deadly virus hit the world.

New recruit Brian Kayanja was ready to take the Kenyan league by storm, determined to follow in the footsteps of fellow country men like Dan Mzee Serunkuuma, Khalid Aucho, Shafiq Batambuze, Godfrey Walusimbi, Hashim Sempala and a host of others who had made their name in the league.

Comparisons had began to be drawn by the Kenyan media between Kayanja and Harambee stars legend John Baraza.

” He had taken me on to be honest, he welcomed me as his son and was ready to improve my game. He gave me drills on how to move on and off the ball. Timing my runs and how to deal with tough defenders ”

After only four matches, the former Bright stars striker had scored two goals in four league matches.

“Everything was moving to plan and I had began to love life in Kenya. I found Ugandan players who gave me a perfect reception. My teammate Nicholas Sebwato and Peter Lwasa (former URA FC winger) of Kariobangi Sharks. We shared an apartment. “

When a national lockdown was announced and sporting activities put on a hold, Kayanja and his mates went close to 5 months without any pay which made life so hard for them.

” Through my agent, we contacted the club president and asked him to cancel out contracts and let us go back home which he understandably adhered to. I was cleared to return home and start afresh.”

Despite the short spell, the striker admits that he realised how much the Kenyan league is superior to the one in Uganda.

Kayanja guided Bright stars to the finals of the Uganda cup in his maiden season in the topflight

“In terms of competition, they are miles ahead. There are many players from different nationalities which is not the case here. Most of the players target to move abroad and their technical understanding of the game is a lot better than us here.

“I got a few challenges because we were many strikers from different countries. We used to discuss and always learnt from each other.

Socially, I learnt how Kenyans behave plus their language though it disturbed a lot in the beginning because the coach used to communicate in kiswahili”

The return to home

East, West…. Home is best, after the struggles, Kayanja decided to return home and coincidentally, the Uganda Premier league was in the process to open for the 2020/21 season.

” My agent got into contact with coach Kefa Kisala who was in search for a striker and that’s how I ended up at UPDF FC”

“I think despite the early knee injury that I suffered in our match against Kitara FC in the first round of the league, I have managed to improve my numbers. Coach Kefa granted me enough playing time and I hope to get even better.”

“It was tough playing with injury but I had to sacrifice for the team because initially, only 12 players had attained clearance to play and I had to soldier on.”

Before the league was dealt a stand still due to the outbreak of the second COVID wave, Kayanja was joint top scorer for UPDF with 7 goals alongside Brian Kalumba. He also scored one goal in the Uganda cup.

“Oh yeah I have also benefited a lot from my time at UPDF FC, coach Kefa welcomed me with both hands, guided me on how to behave as a professional on and off the pitch and always offers day to day guidance”

Before moving to Kenya, Kayanja had guided Bright stars to the finals of the Uganda Cup which they lost to Proline on penalties in 2019.

That final remains as his lowest moment to date “I will never forget that day, we were in cruise control of the final until the 90th minute when we conceded a penalty and ended up losing on penalties. I need to win something to erase that memory ”

His current contract at UPDF still has 12 months and the striker aspires to see it off and plan on something bigger.

“Of course I haven’t given up on my dream of playing professional football, I want to also be called up to the national team. So I need to work extremely hard to get there.

Before joining Bright Stars, Kayanja had featured prominently in the prestigious Masaza cup tournament with Busiro and also played for Kampala regional side SC Lamancia in the 3rd division.

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