In Summary
  • SOCCER. Midfield general Tonny Mawejje is tipped to start against Ghana in today’s must-win clash.

When South African referee Victor Gomes reached out for his pocket and plucked the yellow card that will keep Khalid Aucho out of today’s World Cup qualifier against Ghana, there was hardly a scintilla of complaints from the Ugandan dugout at the Borg El Arab Stadium in Alexandria, Egypt on September 5.

Tightropes
As a midfield enforcer, Aucho tends to live on the edge of the precipice. Either acting purely on impulse or perhaps urged by his stodgy build, this bulwark of a player consistently pushes the envelope. While the box-to-box midfielder has showed great mastery over dark arts by walking one too many tightropes, he was not in luck during Uganda’s 1-0 loss to Egypt last month. This, in the assessment of many, has left a gaping hole in Uganda’s midfield.
“Of course, it is not ideal to lose a first team player,” Cranes interim coach Moses Basena said after Monday’s training session, adding, rather defiantly, “We shall not cry about it! Absence of one player gives others the chance to stake a claim for a starting place. Yes, Aucho is absent, but [Tonny] Mawejje has returned.”

Vastly experienced
It is easy to see why Basena is tickled by the impending return. Mawejje is a vastly ex-perienced customer who has a made a career looking at ease in midfield. His ability to keep flamboyance and ego at a minimum has made him a much-loved figure in the Cranes locker room and beyond. After starting all Uganda’s matches at the Africa Cup of Nations finals in January, the midfielder found himself not only unattached to a club but also short of suitors. A return to KCCA - whom he joined from Masaka LC in 2004 - appeared to be on the cards, but a stalemate over personal terms meant that the midfielder couldn’t catch a break.
The goddess of good fortune finally smiled on Mawejje when his pursuit of professional football took him to Albania. Last month, the midfielder scored the winner in only his second game for Tirana.
“Am (sic) so happy for you my role model Tonny Mawejje,” Aucho wrote on his Facebook page a day after the match.

Gut punches
Aucho and Mawejje’s playing styles vary, but not as starkly as some would like to project. Mawejje usually comes off as modest, but still manages to deliver gut punches.
Like Aucho, the Tirana midfielder has never assumed the pretence of casualness. He is always a tireless worker in the engine room who never shies away from fusing combativeness (he is tenacious in the tackle) with creativity (he can pick a pass).
This flexibility has allowed Mawejje to steal a march on other younger opponents. He admits that playing at the World Cup finals will be a crowning achievement for him.
“As players we are looking forward to winning this game because once we win it means that we are brightening our chances of qualifying,” Mawejje said on Monday, adding, “Going for the World Cup is a big dream for everybody. We will go out to win it.”

MAWEJJE AT A GLANCE

Full name: Tonny Mawejje Jr.
Date of birth: December 15, 1990
Place of birth: Masaka Height: 5’11”
Playing position: Midfield
Club: Tirana Favourite shirt number: 6
Cranes debut: 2004 Cranes goals: 8