It took Mustafa Kizza months to join his Montreal Impact teammates, but the young defender hasn't wasted any time in thriving with the club.
The Impact signed the Ugandan full back to a two-year contract in August, knowing that the COVID-19 pandemic would make getting Kizza to North America a lengthy endeavour.
"The process was hard for me to come here," Kizza, 21, said on a video call Thursday.
There was a months-long wait in Uganda, where he trained alone, waiting for the paperwork that would allow him to travel and move overseas. Montreal's coaching staff sent him specialized training programs to help him get up to speed with the rest of the club.
Once the paper work arrived there were flights — lots of flights. Instead of going directly to meet his Impact teammates, Kizza had to travel up to Toronto to get his visa, then back down to Harrison, N.J., where Montreal's players and staff have been living and training since mid-September.
“It wasn’t an easy process but finally I’m here," he said. "And I’m just grateful to be here.”
Kizza finally began training with the Impact on Nov. 5. Just three days later, he played his first game, coming on with 19 minutes left in Montreal's must-win match up with D.C. United.
Kizza was quick to prove himself, sending a nice long ball down the left-hand side of the field to Mason Toye in the 88th minute. The pass set up the game-winning goal by Rommel Quioto, and the win clinched Montreal's spot in the playoffs.
Getting into a game so soon was a great opportunity, Kizza said.
“It motivated me as a player," he said.
Being on the scoresheet is nothing new for the six-foot-one defender, who had five goals and 12 assists in 19 games for KCCA FC in the Uganda Premier league in 2019-20. He's also scored four goals in 10 games with the Ugandan national team.
“I play mostly offensive football. I want to go forward," Kizza said. "That’s my kind of play.”
The Impact believe his style of play can add a lot to the club.
When the signing was announced, sporting director Olivier Renard said in a release that Kizza is "a modern attacking left-back with great crossing abilities and huge potential. He is good on free-kicks and his height will also help on set pieces."
“We are really happy to acquire one of the best young players from Uganda,” Renard said.
Kizza will have at least one more opportunity to play this season when Montreal faces the New England Revolution in playoff action on Nov. 20.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 12, 2020.
Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press