16 December 2012

Uganda: Chris Mubiru - Likeable, Generous but Moral Disgrace


Christopher Mubiru is the hottest topic in Ugandan football at the moment.

Unfortunately, it's not for his endless financial bailouts or for his sociable nature. Instead, the former footballer-cum-administrator is the subject of an x-rated video that exposes his sodomy acts.

The said graphic content, which is said to involve several football figures, has gone viral within the media (I declined to have a look) and has laid bare what many in football circles have long known and accused Mubiru of doing.

However, the lack of concrete evidence had kept Mubiru prowling - to the extent of being untouchable - until the unraveling of his disgusting actions.

Who is Chris Mubiru?

Born in 1955 to Stanley Kitaka, Mubiru is a grandson to former Buganda regent Zakaria Kisingiri. Mubiru was one of Ugandan football's shining stars right from the late seventies to the mid-nineties. However, contrary to the common poverty-ridden path to a football career at the time, Mubiru grew up in a wealthy family and joined football simply for the love of the game.

He dropped out of school at Rubaga Boys SSS to concentrate on football as well as the family farm at Mutundwe. Mubiru would later become heir to his late father's massive estate that includes vast land in Mutundwe, Mengo, Bombo town council (including the military barracks) and Bweyogerere among others.

Such is the colossal estate that Mubiru quickly became of the wealthiest people in Ugandan football. Over the last three decades, Mubiru has bankrolled several players' education, financially backed teams on top of holding many administrative positions.

The 57-year-old is popular with footballers and on many occasions mingles with them freely even when the shadow of homosexuality has been hovering over him all along.

Joining football:

Mubiru took up the game upon joining then football powerhouse Rubaga Boys SSS, which is renowned for grooming star players like Frank Kyazze, Fred Kayemba, Rogers Nsubuga, Charles Masiko, Fred Mukasa, Jimmy Kayemba, Moses Kayanja, and Charles Temaliggwe among others.

"He quickly exerted himself as box-to-box midfielder for the school team and had boundless energy in supporting offensive and defensive play," says former Cranes player Fred Mukasa, who is also a former schoolmate at Rubaga.

After dropping out of school, coach Robert Kiberu, a well-known admirer of hardworking players, convinced the versatile Mubiru to join his topflight side Lint Marketing Board in 1974. Lint was a star-studded side but the stoutly-built 20-year-old didn't take long to get the first team football and formed a formidable midfield quartet with John 'China' Matovu, Duncan Kamulegeya and Jimmy Muguwa.

Hard tackling and a no-nonsense approached earned Mubiru the nickname 'Kiyovu' [the Elephant]. In 1978, bigspending newcomers National Insurance Corporation (NIC FC) raided Lint and snapped up Mubiru along with Asumani Lubowa and Edirisa Kakembo (RIP).

UCB forever:

Mubiru's game greatly improved at NIC and attracted the attention of the top sides. In 1982, Express team manager Abdu Mawejje tried to recruit Mubiru but the midfielder, who was a longtime supporter of The Red Eagles, opted to move to Uganda Commercial Bank (UCB FC).

The Bankers won the 1979 league title but had lost almost the entire first team to rivals and in the rebuilding; Mubiru was an assured starter alongside veteran Emma Kalanzi. He netted his first goal in a league game against Nytil. His curling effort left Nytil's custodian Patrick Lukalu glued on the line.

Later in the season, his late in-swing corner was headed in by Sam Okiror to dump Express in a 2-1 win. When the club got relegated in 1987, several players left but Mubiru remained loyal in the lower division. UCB regained Super League status in 1992 but their long-serving coach Ben 'Big Ben' Omoding resigned, paving way for Mubiru to take over as coach/player.

He steered the club well and it finished in a respectable fifth position. Leading by example, Mubiru scored some important goals including a brace against Nile in a 3-0 win plus the stoppage time equaliser against Express in a 1-1 draw. But in 1994, the club was relegated again and the parent company also scrapped it. During the club's last days, it is reported that Mubiru took over all duties from personally financing the players' welfare, allowances, transport and basic training needs.

It's then that Mubiru hung up his boots and became some sort of philanthropist for several clubs, which including the likes of Miracle FC, Nakivubo Boys and State House.

"Mubiru is a football person and helped us in everything from coaching to paying players' transport allowances even when he didn't have any attachment to us," recalls Yusuf 'Chuni' Kyeyune, who was a State House FC official.

Mubiru's generous contributions endeared him to several football stakeholders and his down to earth mentality had him mingle freely with anyone - particularly the footballers. It was common sight for him to move along with players and many times they drove his cars.

The flip side:

I first got to learn about Mubiru's homosexuality allegations back in 1982 while at KCC FC junior side City Cubs. The accusations came from UCB players but it was unimaginable and due to the gravity of the claims, no one dare came out.

Then a year later, several players in the national youth team that was preparing for Sudan in a World Youth Cup qualifier made similar allegations but still, no action was taken.

Come 1998, some Cranes players confirmed to me about Mubiru's habits and I wrote the story in Daily Monitor. Days later, then Fufa general secretary Chris Rwanika promised to set up a probe to investigate but still nothing was done until recently when the press landed on his videos.

Rise in football administration:

After hobnobbing with several clubs, Mubiru joined the SC Villa executive in 1998 as a member and in 2001, the club appointed him assistant team manager despite protests from a section of the club that disapproved of his moral standing. When Villa experienced financial difficulties in 2004, Mubiru stepped up as one of the top financers and gained more influence.

In 2005, he replaced Tusher Ruparelia as team manager. This was also coincided with his appointment by Fufa's Normalisation Committee as Cranes team manager replacing Asumani Lubowa. However, Lawrence Mulindwa dropped him in 2006 after taking over at Fufa and in 2009; the new Villa board and fans forced him out of the club after accusing him of sodomising some players.

He briefly went to Bunamwaya before leaving last year. Of recent, he has not been directly involved in football but concentrated on facilitating former players' training sessions every Wednesday and Saturdays at Nakivubo..

But before his disgrace, Mubiru was a likeable character in football circles; friendly to everyone regardless of their club affiliations and always put on a smile. However, it remains to be his soft-hearted approach and generosity was fueled by sinister motives but the bottom line is he wouldn't have had his way all this long without his massive wealth.

The author is Director Marketing & Promotions of The Observer Media Ltd.

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