PETER Otema, also known as Peter Kagabo, was once one of the most influential players and prolific strikers in the Rwandan football.
His scoring instincts, incredible speed and dribbling skills saw him rise through the ranks and playing for different top clubs, starting from his humble beginnings at former topflight league side Kibuye FC before he was signed by Atraco FC in 2008, another now-defunct side.
The former Rwanda international Uganda-born striker also featured for Rayon Sports, Police and Musanze FC before he rejoined Police FC a fortnight ago.
In today’s issue, Saturday Sport profiles Otema and his football career, which in his own words, has been a “long and tough” journey.
Who is Peter Otema?
Born in Masaka, Uganda on November 11, 1995, Otema is from a family of five children.
He attended Bugolobi Primary School but later switched to Mbuya Primary School before going to St Charles Iwanga Riverside Academy for his secondary school studies, which he finished from Masaka Secondary School.
After earning his secondary school completion certificate, Otema enrolled to Makerere University Business School, where he graduated with a diploma in business management.
The player, who once had a dream of becoming a doctor or a teacher, largely influenced by his family background, loves reading novels and listening to music, especially gospel melodies. The striker says he used to sing in church choirs.
Besides being a footballer himself, Otema is a fan of Liverpool in the English Premier League and Barcelona FC in Spanish La Liga.
Otema can play as a full-back, winger, or a striker.
“During my early days in secondary school, I began to enjoy the benefits of playing football and that is how my love for football continued to grow. I was paying half of the school fees and the school paid the rest. So I decided to take it a bit more seriously and not long after I was drafted in Sports Club Villa Academy,” he recalls.
The then 18-year old youngster landed a call-up to train with the Ugandan U20 national team in 2004, however, he was not drafted in the first XI.
Just like any other player who was determined to take his game to another level by all possible means, Otema crossed to Rwanda to try his luck, and immediately attracted the attention by former league side Kibuye FC, which he would sign for on a two-year contract.
After two seasons with Kibuye, his spackling form compelled then champions Atraco to sign him in 2006, where he went on to play for three years – through the end of the 2008-2009 season.
Three seasons with Atraco, lifelong memories
“My best moment is when we brought Cecafa Kagame Cup from Sudan to Kigali. I will never forget that. I would say I enjoyed my best football at Atraco,” Otema reminisced on Thursday.
While at Atraco, his attacking prowess forced archrivals APR FC and Rayon to sign some of the then best defenders in the region to stop him.
Soon after, the winger was called to play for the national team, Amavubi.
In what remains as one of the biggest shocks local football, Atraco FC withdrew from all competitions, and the club ceased to exist at the end of the 2019/2010 season.
“No one thought that would happen but it did. It was shocking news to all of us” he recalls.
After enjoying a remarkable 2008-09 campaign with Atraco, Otema was immediately signed by Rayon Sports, and played there for two seasons – till end of the 2010/2011 season.
While at Rayon Sports, Otema was a key member of the squad despite the club failing to break the dominance of archrivals APR.
After finishing his two-year contract with the ‘Blues’, the Uganda-born forward turned down contract-extension offers from Rayon to join Police FC in July 2011, a side he would play for till he was released at the end of the 2013/2014 season.
Things sharply went downhill for him mainly as a result of the club’s new policy to only use homegrown players.
Otema, who was playing for the law enforcers under the name of Peter Kagabo, was released along with Fredrick Ndaka, Jerome Sina and former skipper Fabrice Mugheni who was playing under the name of Fabrice Twagizimana.
They were all shown the exit door because they illegally carried dual citizenships.
Following his unceremonious release from Police, Rayon quickly re-signed him on a 2-year deal.
But just after one year, Otema forced his way to Musanze FC in August 2015, in a transfer that saw him paying for his buyout clause worth Rwf1.5m.
“I had some issues with the club management, so I decided that a move away was a wise choice for my career.” Otema was always inspired by Brazilian player playmaker Ronaldinho Gaúcho, as well as former Liverpool skipper Steven Gerald, he told this publication.
Return to Police
Earlier this month, his vast experience and their trophy drought forced the law enforcers to invade Musanze FC in order to ship the player back to Kicukiro.
Though he still had a season left on his contract, the sensational forward who plans to venture into coaching once he hangs up his boots, inked a two-year deal with Joel Mphande’s side after a settlement between the two Azam Rwanda Premier League sides was reached.
In April this year, Otema was one of the five players – along with Meddie Kagere, Hussein Cyiza (Mukura), Jimmy Mashingirwa ‘Mbaraga’ Kibengo and Andre Fils Lomami – who were provided with Rwandan citizenship after completing their naturalisation process.