NAIROBI, Kenya, May 24 – Departing Tusker FC left-back Shafik Batambuze has disclosed he turned down an offer to join 13-time Kenyan Premier League champions AFC Leopards as they could not match the offer put on the table by promoted Tanzanian side Singida United.
The Ugandan international will play his final match in Tusker colors on Sunday when the Brewers host Ingwe at the Kinoru Stadium in Meru before he leaves for Tanzania to link up with his new employers.
“I am a journey man and for me what is important is the offer the team has for me. I will be honest, AFC Leopards approached me but once I saw what Singida offered it was an easy decision for me. I have been in Kenya long enough and I know what each club is capable of financially. They couldn’t match what Singida had given me,” Batambuze said in a candid interview with Capital Sports.
AFC Leopards are currently in the market looking for a left-back that can comfortably play in their 3-5-2 formation and Batambuze perfectly fitted their need especially with his offensive quality which is a major component of the system.
However, Ingwe who are struggling despite a positive start to the season, will now have to look elsewhere with Thika United’s Sammy Mejja and Western Stima’s Wesley Onguso touted as prospective replacements.
Batambuze has been an integral part of the Tusker fold since he joined from Western Stima at the beginning of last season and head coach George Nsimbe has admitted it will be a tall order to replace the defender.
The Ugandan was Tusker’s best player last season when they went on to win the double for the first time in their history and he will be remembered mainly for scoring the goal that secured the Premier League title in Nakuru against AFC Leopards.
“It would be hard for us to prevent him to leave though he still has 18 months left on his contract. It is a huge blow for us of course and we will miss him. As a team the only thing we can do is wish him all the best,” Nsimbe said.
“We have already started looking for a replacement, but our eyes are on a local player,” he added.
Batambuze now hopes he will make as much impact in Tanzania as he has in Kenya, maintaining he made the right decision to join Singida despite the side having only been promoted to the top tier this season.
“I know it might look like a smaller challenge, but I would want to go and make a name there just like I have done in Kenya. That is not my final destination though, I want to work harder and probably play in other top leagues as well,” Batambuze stated.
Batambuze started off at Western Stima before joining Sofapaka where he played for one season, then returning to Stima.
He says he feels developed after his stint in the Kenyan Premier League where in the process he earned call ups to the Ugandan national team, making it to the Cranes squad for January’s 2017 African Cup of Nations in Gabon.
“It has been a great time in Kenya and I have enjoyed playing for all three teams. I will say my time at Tusker is the most memorable because we won two trophies. I don’t regret even a minute I played here,” he added.
The Ugandan believes the Tusker squad is strong enough to retain their two titles, having fought back from a poor start to the season to move to within two points of leaders Gor Mahia.