It took Mustafa Kizza so long to get here, one fan responded to the official announcement of his arrival last week by tweeting a picture of the player holding up his new #12 Montreal Impact shirt, with the words, “He’s not a myth.”
Protracted the Covid-laden process may have been, yet the Ugandan youngster wasted no time in in making a good first impression once he put that shirt on for real.
Selected for a place on the bench last weekend for the crucial Decision Day meeting with DC United, coach Thierry Henry threw him on for Amar Sejdic with 20 minutes to play and his team trailing 1-2.
Victor Wanyama’s powerful header brought the Impact back into the game three minutes later, and then Kizza’s moment arrived when he intercepted a ball in midfield and set Mason Toye off on a run, the construction behind the 88th minute winning goal finished by Romell Quioto.
“I trained with the team for three days. Mason showed me what kind of balls he likes,” said the 21-year-old attacking full-back.
“Getting into a game so soon was a great opportunity. It motivated me as a player.”
Impact fans will be hoping for more of the same as the youngster settles into his new surroundings, and if it’s anything to do with the player, he intends not to disappoint.
“I play mostly offensive football. I want to go forward,” he said. “That’s my kind of play.”
Kizza is no stranger to goals and assists. Before the the 2019/20 season terminated, he’d scored 5 times and provided 12 assists in 19 games for his club, Kampala Capital City Authority FC (KCCA). Impressive figures for a player described as a left-back.
And as displayed on Sunday he’s also the man for the big occasion... Kizza scored the winning goal in the 2019 CECAFA Cup Final, an international tournament for Central and East African clubs, which KCCA had not won in 41 years.
When Montreal’s initial interest was followed up with an offer, Mustafa had some good people to fall back on for advice. Former Impact player and fellow Ugandan international Michael Azira was supportive in advising him to make the move, as was his international coach, Belfast man, Johnny McKinstry.
“I spoke to my international team coach and to Michael. They both felt it was a good opportunity for me as a player. The first thing Michael told me was Montreal is a nice city. And that Montreal Impact is a good team. He said it [the experience] will help you grow as a young player.”
Once the decisions were made and the deal finally done, logistics and paperwork determined the pace of his physical move. And of course everything is that much more difficult during a pandemic.
“It wasn’t an easy process but finally I’m here,” said Kizza.
There was a long wait for travel paperwork in Uganda, where he trained alone under a program supplied by the Impact coaching staff.
Then the flights. Kizza initially had to travel to Toronto to get his visa, then down to New Jersey, where Montreal’s players and staff had been living and training, on and off, since mid-September.
But now he’s here, and last Sunday chose the perfect way to introduce himself and engage his new public.
Quiet, reserved and economical with the spoken word in his first Canadian video-conference, you get the impression that Mustafa Kizza will let his feet do the talking.