For 61 minutes, Zimbabwe had run rings around Uganda Cranes. Ovid Karuru, Knowledge Musona and the impeccable Khama Billiat were having a field day.

Coach Sebastian Desabre had to react lest Uganda were headed for defeat. When he did, he called upon the services of Taddeo Lwanga. It was a surprising option for many.

The Vipers man is known to be a no-nonsense midfielder who takes no prisoners. He loves to tackle. But sometimes he can be clumsy. The fear in the press box was that his introduction was going to create foul trouble for the player and the team.

But Lwanga was the epitome of calm and Cranes was better when he replaced Michael Azira.

Uganda Cranes midfielder Taddeo Lwanga fulfilled a childhood ambition when he made his Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) debut against Zimbabwe on Wednesday last week at the Cairo International stadium.

Lwanga recounts that glorious  opportunity when he limbered on the sidelines before he was eventually  introduced for Canadian based midfielder Mike Azira. 

“Keep it tight and hold onto the ball,” Lwanga recalls the instructions the coach gave him on Wednesday as he prepared to enter the pressure cooker of a packed Cairo International Stadium.

It was his first ever game at the tournament and he coped admirably as he helped Cranes earn a vital point.

“It was a great moment every footballer could have dreamed of,” says Lwanga. 

“My target was to represent my country at this Africa Cup of Nations. And l worked so hard for it since l joined Vipers SC in 2017. You feel so important whenever you put on these colours on the pitch.”

Lwanga knows the magnitude of an appearance at this stage and has credited divine powers.

“Thank God that my dream was fulfilled because l used to watch this level with my family at home without knowing that someday, l will be watched too. I just give the glory to God.”

The engineering graduate from Makerere University is a firm favourite of Desabre but he doesn’t take his place on the national team for granted.

“It’s about hard work,” observes Lwanga. “Whenever you work hard and smart, you are rewarded. Every coach in the world likes a player who gives all on the pitch.” 

Lwanga was also part of the Chan team that featured in Morocco and by featuring in this year’s Afcon together with Allan Kyambadde and Timothy Away, it is apparent that he figures highly in Desabre’s plans for the Afcon 2021 qualifiers and the campaign to reach the Qatar 2022 World Cup.

This article done by our head of communications Abdu Wasike, originally appeared in the Daily Monitor.