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Charles Ogwang: On football, engineering, and dining with presidents

By The Independent team

He played for the national team, The Cranes, and when his football star burned out; he knew it was time to quit. Today he is the Health and Safety engineer at Kolin Construction Company, contracted by the Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) to build the Hoima-Kaiso-Tonya road. What does his experience reveal for the other footballers who when their stars burn out remain hanging onto the sport?

Who is Charles Ogwang?

Mr Ogwang Charles was born on March 23, 1970 in Kampala. He is a Langi by tribe and son to Mr. Okello Wilson a retired former Makerere University Librarian and Angom Alice R.I.P.  Charles Ogwang is married to Grace Ogwang and they have four children. I am the third born out of 12 children.

During my early years of education I went to Makerere University Primary School, Kitante Hill School, Kibuli SS, Nkumba University, Greenwich University in London, and the University of East London in England. I am a Holder of a Degree in logistics and supply Chain Management and a Post Graduate Diploma in Occupational Health and Safety and a Diploma in Environmental Science.

You once were a national star in the Uganda Cranes. What are your memories of playing for Uganda Cranes?

My best memory was in 1996 when The Cranes were invited to go to the DRC when the Late Joseph Kabila was to be sworn in as the President. I got a chance of shaking the hands of President Chiluba of Zambia, President Kagame of Rwanda, and President Joseph Kabila after he was sworn in. Such an occasion is very rare for one to have a chance of shaking the hands of three presidents at ago.

I remember going to Rwakitura in 1996 after the Cranes won the East and Central Challenge Cup in Sudan and we were hosted by President Museveni. I felt great dining with the president of my country and many other presidents. I have to just thank God for the talent that he gave me which made me shake hands with presidents.

How many goals did you score during your time in the National team?

First I played as a goalkeeper for the national Youth teams under 19, 20, and 21. I then shifted positions to a striker from 1995 to 1998.  I played for Wandegeya F.C as goalkeeper, Uganda Commercial Bank F.C both as striker and goalkeeper and Uganda Electricity Board F.C as a striker.  While playing in the National team, I scored six goals for the Uganda National team The Cranes. I was the Uganda national league top scorer in 1997 with 18 goals, second scorer in 1995 with 21 goals and in 1996, I scored 20 goals.

Many footballers hang around the fields when they are long retired. Why did you opt to take a different career all together? What interested you most into joining the engineering world?

I thank my father Mr. Okello Wilson who was a defender for Wandegeya F.C. He told me that  football is just a stepping stone; it opens doors for some but you have to plan for the future as you can only play up to the age of 33 and then no more. During our days there were no chances of playing PRO (professional) as we used to call it because there were no scouts. So that’s why I also decided to concentrate on both studies and football.

When did you join the engineering profession?

I joined the engineering world in 2001 when I was in England working as Safety Officer for O’Ruoks construction Company. I came back to Uganda worked for Roofings Rolling Mills Namanve as the Health Safety and Environment Officer.  I am now the Health and Safety Engineer for Kolin Construction Company working on the Hoima -Kaiso -Tonya road Project. I have been working in the field of occupational Health and Safety for about 14 years now.

What advice would you give to the young footballers?

Football now has changed; you can have a chance of playing professional but always remember to have an academic qualification.  You must have discipline no matter how talented you are because no coach in the world can work with indisciplined players. On planning for the future, don’t waste your money in enjoying life, `outing’ as it is called these days.

Today football is more of a profession than a national calling; would you advise young people to take it on as a full time job?

Yes I would especially when one gets a chance of playing professional. In Uganda you will never make money playing local football that can help you in the future. That said, young players should develop other talents or skills and not to base all their lifetime on playing football because one reaches an age where he can no longer be hired to play however good he may have been.

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