Isaac Kirabira: successful at club level, a grade below the national team


Many players have had instrumental contributions to their clubs but failed to make the cut for national team football. Some never get called-up completely through their careers, while others make it to the youth teams, but never graduate.

While the likes of Allan Okello, Joseph Ochaya started at a pretty younger age to feature for the Cranes and Fahad Bayo had his first (against Malawi) after a lot of struggle, Isaac Kirabira has not been that lucky.

While some players have successfully moved from the youth teams and graduated to the National team, Kirabira last made the grade at the youth level. Could it be that he has been just unlucky?

“Kisco” as known to his peers has featured for a number of clubs in Uganda including 16-time Uganda Premier League Champions Sports Club Villa, Kampala Capital City Authority Football Club, The Saints, and currently Kyetume FC.

However, it’s very unfortunate that the central defensive midfielder has never made a senior national team grade, regardless of how consistent he has been at club level.

A born of Mulago to Sulaiman Ddamulira and Naim Nabukenya, Isaac Kirabira is the firstborn of the eight children, five of whom are girls.

Kirabira grew up in a Kampala suburb of Katwe, Makindye division. He started school at Katwe Noor Primary School where his father has been a teacher to date.

He joined Katwe Noor Secondary School for his O’ level before finishing his A’ level at APAS Secondary School, Nsambya in 2008.

Kirabira started playing football at Katwe Young stars in the ’90s and that’s where he came from to join SC Villa’s Jogoo Young as an under 16 alongside Isaac Muleme.

»Related: StarTimes UPL 2020/21: no shortcuts for VILLA in the season to come

Kirabira and Muleme played for Jogoo Young for 6 years before being promoted to the senior team in 2008.

Kisco stayed at SC Villa for close to seven seasons between 2008 and 2015, and he remains proud of having helped the club lift their last title.

“While at SC Villa I captained the team for my last 3 seasons after taking over from Tony Ndoro and managed to lift the Uganda Cup in 2014,” He recalls.

From Villa, he joined The Saints for a season, from 2015-2016 and later moved on to work with Mike Mutebi at KCCA FC for two seasons from 2016-2019.

Kirabira wears his boots before one of the training sessions at KCCA

At the end of the 2018/19 season, ‘Kisco’ moved on to the Mukono based Uganda Premier League side Kyetume Football Club where he has been plying his trade to date.

While speaking to The Touchline Sports’ Tom Matovu on why he has never broken into the national senior men’s team, he says,

“I really can not tell why I have failed to break into the senior level, but I have been working hard and still working hard to see this dream come true.”

He was fortunate enough to play at all the underage national team stages that include; U17, U21, and U23, but has since lived to see only the players he was with at those respective levels progress.

Kirabira played with the likes of Sadam Juma, Joseph Ochaya, Hamis Diego Kizza, Ivan Ntege, Luwagga Kizito, Chrizestom Ntambi, Benjamin Ochan, all of whom have at least featured in the senior men’s team.

He says he might just be “unlucky.”

On the reason for leaving KCCA FC for Kyetume, Kirabira says that his contract at the club had expired and both parties failed to agree to terms that would see a renewal.

Kirabira unveiled at Kyetume after leaving KCCA in 2018

However, he can confirm that his time at Lugogo was the most successful so far in his career.

“I had a dream of playing continental football which I achieved at the club and I won 6 trophies with them,” he says.

“My time at KCCA FC was the most successful in my entire career,” he adds.

»Related: KCCA FC: Reminiscence of their golden 2017/2018 continental prowess

Kirabira regards Ibrahim Kirya as a special individual in his career because it was the former Wakiso Giants coach that gave him the first chance to play top-flight football.

He says if it was not for him, [Kirya], he wouldn’t be where he is now.

He also says Mike Mutebi made him understand football better especially the technical and tactical aspects of the game have since helped him remain afloat in Uganda football.

He is not tied to the defensive midfield though.

“By the way, I am regarded more as a defensive midfielder but I can also play at right-back and as a number 8 (Central Attacking Midfielder). At Kyetume, I have mostly played as an attacking midfielder and managed to score 4 goals in the league,” he says.

Kirabira also took off a moment to share his best XI players for all the teams and the players he has played with so far. He did not leave out his former Villa and KCCA FC teammate Muleme.

Here is Kirabira’s best XI:

Yasin Mugabi, Derick Walulya, Isaac Muleme, Timothy Awany, Micheal Azira, Isaac Kirabira, Vicent Kayizi, Muzamir Mutyaba, Geofrey Sserunkuma, Robert Ssentongo, Steven Bengo.

Isaac Kirabira says if there is an opportunity, he would wish to play for KCCA FC and SC Villa once again, or Express FC at a certain time.

Tom Matovu

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