It is not every day that you run into a personality with a character so bewildering and mind-blowing. One never more relevant than Charles Livingstone Mbabazi, a coach that has his teams playing with a lot of artistry, irreverence, joy, and enormous skill.
The public opinion however renders him an enigma of sorts. Quite easy-going on the eye but difficult to comprehend, more so when you take a closer look at his managerial career in the latter years.
For many though, he is regarded as a football genius with a lot to offer from the technical point of view and in possession of the capability of squeezing a full-throttle performance born of grit and determination from even the most amateur of players on the pitch.
His love for football adventure as assessed from his unprecedentedly rampant nomadism across clubs in the Ugandan topflight league doesn’t however rate well with his admirers and the fans themselves.
How then does one explain his movement (to and fro) with different clubs without seeming to settle? This traces back to his career as a footballer while on the African content. There was KCCA FC in 1999 and before long came Express FC climaxing with African giants, Egyptian side Al Ahly.
He would later move to Europe, playing five years at Ireland side St Patrick’s Athletic. The longest he played for any European side. During his tenure, he established himself a darling for the fans, scoring 20 goals in 86 appearances and aiding the club to the League Cup.
His health problems would see him temporarily call an end to his career in 2003 after collapsing on the pitch in what would come to be his last game for St. Pats against Bohemians.
A spirited comeback saw him play for two more sporting clubs in Vietnam before making a return to his native in 2011 to play for Wandegeya FC. He would later call quits to his playing career in 2013.
Just like his playing career, his managerial career isn’t shy of short stints. Everything started in 2014 at Wandegeya FC, a club where he hung his sporting boots. No prizes for guessing the acrimonious welcome, he received?
Even during his inception to management, Mbabazi’s belief in the wisdom of his directing hand never wavered and needed little or no invitation to talk about the use of the ball. The importance of recycling the ball in midfield.
He has always been notable for his hostility towards pragmatism in place of fluidity. This dislike partly explains his hesitation in operating with orthodox anchormen.
Many observers consider this as one of the reasons for his short stint as Somalia National team manager during the year 2015.
In a period of just four years since 2016, he has had two spells at Onduparaka, has been with Bright Stars, Mbarara City FC, Wakiso Giants, and currently at a second spell with Kyetume FC.
One of his most reputable works, however, was during the 2018/2019 season with a revamped Mbarara City FC side where he defied all the odds and produced the most amazing season in the club’s history. Only to face disrespectful criticism at the tip.
Despite having such a massive boost from management and the heightened spirits at Kakyeka, nothing was to give as a rather dismal end to what was an unbelievable campaign, marred by poor results alongside standing battles between fans and the club authorities.
This was a recipe for disaster for the forlorn Mbabazi who found himself thrown out of the club hence the brunt of the prevailing turmoil falling on his shoulders.
It was not long after his exit from Kakyeka that he was yet again courting with management; this time in not so perpetual circumstances but at the familiar ground. A return to Onduparaka FC.
He would later quit the job midway through the season for the purple sharks (Wakiso Giants) noting salary arrears. This, in his own words, would turn out to be his worst decision as his team agonizingly lost steam at the hurdles and had him sacked. Lasting only seven games in the job.
Not a beautiful ending to what looked a sweet ‘marriage’ from the off given the structures at the club. This would seem detrimental to his career and forced him into an unprecedented sabbatical.
The aftermath of his short-lived sabbatical saw him return to a familiar venue. A team which through his directing hand got to the FUFA Big League Playoffs in 2018 and ultimately qualified and took part in the 2018/2019 season of the StarTimes Uganda Premier League.
All seems set for a spectacular season with the Slaughters under his stewardship. The fans are excited about what he brings to the table but are concerned about his stay given a two-year contract he signed.
There is a minority group from a school of thought that ‘his is a managerial trajectory that has many of his counterparts lost in admiration’. There is, however, as often said a glaring thin line between greatness and slenderness. One with nothing to do with talent but rather lethargy.
For all that it’s worth, I hope the lethargy doesn’t define his career as it clearly gives one a decent picture of what the calm and laid-back enigma Mbabazi really is.