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William Sinsky writes a comprehensive scout report about Farouk Miya, Uganda’s Goal Hunter.
On a bumpy, rain-soaked pitch, the ball skimmed across the grass, reaching the inside of his left boot. With a stutter step, a small bounce, and a thunderbolt of a strike from 25 yards out, Farouk Miya etched his name into African football history, scoring Uganda’s first Africa Cup of Nations goal since 1978, and their only of the 2017 tournament.
While Africa is a celebrated hotbed for soccer talents, Uganda itself has never really produced a world-renowned star in its history. The country managed to reach the AFCON Final 39 years ago, but back then the entire roster was comprised of players from the Ugandan Super League (now known as the Ugandan Premier League), and the national team has failed to return to the competition until this year. Even this year’s squad, which could only muster one draw and two losses in the group stage, claimed just four European based players. One of them, however, could become Uganda’s first global soccer figure. That is 19-year-old Standard Liège attacking midfielder Farouk Miya.
Farouk Miya was born in the village of Bulo, in Butambala, an agricultural district in the Central Region of Uganda. Through participation at school tournaments hosted by the prestigious Airtel Rising Stars program, Miya’s school coach, Edward Golola, suggested he try out for Vipers SC of the Uganda Premier League. At the age of 16 he signed with the club in the middle of the 2013-14 season. In the 2014-15 season, he led Vipers SC to the club’s second-ever UPL title, winning league MVP with 11 goals and 7 assists. Nicknamed “Muyizi Tasubwa”, a Lugandan phrase meaning “hunter who cannot miss”, Miya scored 20 goals in 49 total appearances for Vipers SC over the course of just under two seasons.
In the 2015 Africa U-23 Cup of Nations Qualifiers, Farouk Miya was an integral part of the Uganda U-23 side. He scored in both legs of the nation’s entry round against Rwanda, and scored his nation’s only goal in the final round of qualifying in which they unluckily drew a dominant Egypt squad that would surprisingly go winless in the tournament.
After being scouted by clubs in the Kenyan Premier League, Miya joined Belgian Pro League side Standard Liège in January 2016 on a six-month loan with an option to buy in the summer of $400,000. Standard exercised that option, but with the lack of playing time at the club, he was loaned to Royal Excel Mouscron for the remainder of the 2016-17 season.
He first played for the Uganda National Team in the 2016 African Nations Championship (not to be confused with AFCON) in which he scored one of Uganda’s three goals, though they failed to get past the group stage. Doing all this by the age of 18 however is impressive in all eyes. In the span of just a few months, Miya had risen from a youth hopeful in Uganda’s U-23 squad to an indispensable component of the senior national team. It cannot be understated how much he means to Uganda: he scored the last goal in qualification that got them in to the 2017 AFCON, in which he started all three of Uganda’s tournament matches, and is already a key player in their 2018 World Cup qualifiers, scoring their only goal in the first two matches.
In the Uganda National Team and during his time at Vipers SC, Farouk Miya is the vital cog through which the attack flows, whether it’s flying down the wings, receiving it in midfield and turning towards the opponent’s box, or, most frequently, manning a position just underneath the striker. He has a sturdy frame of 1.77m(5’8″) and 74kg(163lbs), giving him good balance and strength, but still holds the explosive speed expected of a wide midfielder. He can play one-touch passes to running teammates or dribble solo runs into the box. Once he passes the ball off, he often immediately runs forward either for a through ball or to create space for his teammate. In addition to his open play ability, he has also taken free kicks and penalties throughout his young career. His finishes are often powerful strikes on target. Farouk Miya has named Cristiano Ronaldo and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as idols he models his play after.
Despite his nickname, Farouk Miya isn’t just a goal scorer. His biggest strengths are his versatility in attack and his vision. On and off the ball, he sees the entire pitch extremely well for his age. This paired with his ability to thread passes, drive between defenders using his balance and strength, and his skill with the ball at his feet makes him a jack of all trades, able to play multiple positions wherever his manager needs him. On top of all his physical skills, Miya is extremely disciplined for a budding youth. He is quick in decision making and excels at creating space for others or himself. Miya is also a leader on the pitch both tactically and mentally, as he was captain of Vipers SC during his time there as well as captain of the Uganda U-23s.
Farouk Miya is brilliant in attack. Where he could improve however is his defending. Unless his opponent has just stolen the ball off him, he rarely presses the opponent, often preferring to position himself to cut off an attempted pass. His poor first touch is occasionally taken advantage of by his marker. Finally, when he flies down the wing with the ball, he will sometimes be dispossessed either by a touch too strong causing the ball to roll past the end line or by an even stronger opponent, as he is still growing. Fortunately, these mistakes can be fixed through continued training.
In conclusion, Farouk Miya could be Uganda’s first European star. If Standard let him freely work in the attacking half, his creativity and knack for goal will develop with his young age, giving him the potential to succeed at the highest levels of the sport.
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