Obituaries were already being drafted after just match day three of the Azam Uganda Premier League (AUPL).
SC Villa, the 16-time record champions but who are still waiting for their first league title since 2004, had drawn with Police and lost to Vipers to make everyone forget that their opener at home to Soana was actually a 1-0 victory.
Defending champions KCCA were also still trying to get out of the blocks at the time, and because of the resources and personnel at their disposal, and stability, no one - by default - questioned their ability to correct the situation.
Vipers early victory over Villa - two of the clubs seen by analysts as ones to give KCCA a run for their money - was a psychological statement that sent shockwaves amongst other title contenders.
Yet Abdallah Mubiru’s Police were thoroughly enjoying this elephants fight, the Cops going about the business and eventually topping the table for weeks.
Soon it was Police and resurgent KCCA - who by this time were now scoring for fun - bossing things at the top, the two exchanging leadership as if it were a ritual.
All the while coach Wasswa Bbosa, his assistant Paul Mukatabala and Villa were going about their business with the meticulousness of a tailor, raking up 1-0 wins that finally took them into this three-week break with a five-point lead.
But just how did Bbosa and his men, who few gave a chance to be in the position with just two matches to end the first round, pull this off?
Villa had by this time last year parted ways with coach Deo Sserwadda, who had been in charge of seven matches, winning three, drawing as many and losing only once. His assistant Shafiq Bisaso replaced him that October, taking charge of 12 games in all competitions, winning six, losing one (a Uganda Cup match on penalties) and drawing five before club president Ben Misagga’s knife also wrested into him in February. Bbosa, amid huge reservations from Villa fans, who see him as an Express man, took over for the remaining part of the season to finish behind eventual champions KCCA. Paul Mukatabala has since joined as his assistant and the time afforded to the duo, especially after the first four difficult matches, is testament that stability is necessary if you want to build a strong foundation. “We sat down as a unit and agreed to make the club structure work,” Misagga told SCORE. “But I wouldn’t want us to start counting success before we succeed. This is just a continuation from last season, a moving forward plan. The journey is still young to shout success.”
Villa have the best defence after 13 matches. The Jogoos have conceded just four goals, thanks to captain Bernard Muwanga, last season’s acquisition from Bright Stars, and his defensive generals. Of Villa’s nine victories, six have been 1-0 wins, five of them at home. The skipper, Muwanga, was also on the scoresheet as Villa thrashed Masavu 3-0 on Tuesday to open up a five-point lead at the summit to 28. “It feels good to keep winning and performing well,” he said, “The credit goes to the technical team, management and the players. We have worked hard for this.”
The two former playmates at defunct Victors FC, in the evening of their careers, reunited at the beginning of the season and you cannot over emphasize their impact on the happenings at the club. “I like working together with Paul because he respects and listens to me,” said Bbosa of his assistant.“I brought him as a bodyguard as I was facing a lot of criticism for my Express roots. He has helped bridge the gap between management and the players which gives us hope that we can ride to the title this season,” he added. Mukatabala also speaks fondly of his mate. “Bbosa is my friend of the field and that helped me settle in fast at Villa. “As a former versatile defender, he handles the defensive bit while I work on the striking department because it was my specialty during my playing days,” added Mukatabala, who also heads the Uganda Football Players’ Association (UFPA).
Villa have won all their six games played at Masaka Recreation Grounds, scoring eight times and conceding only once, in the 2-1 win over KCCA. “I would be revealing our strategies if i gave you my inner Masaka plan before our last game at home in the second round,” said Misagga when asked about the secret at home.
Not long ago stories of some players missing training and being verbally suspended because they demanded for their due wages hovered over Villa. It is said that Misagga and management have since worked on that, and the results are evident.
KCCA, Police inconsistencies
While Villa’s undercover resurgence as Police and KCCA relished in the headlines is undeniable, Police and KCCA’s inconsistencies, especially in the last couple of games where the duo have not only dropped points but lost games, have also helped the Jogoos. Villa have lurked around waiting to pounce. And when they pounced, it was a heavy surge into a five-point lead at the summit. The dream to the first league title in 14 years remains alive.
SC VILLA’S 1-0 VICTORIES
SC Villa 1-0 Soana
SC Villa 1-0 Mbarara
Bul 0-1 SC Villa
SC Villa 1-0 B. Stars
SC Villa 1-0 Onduparaka
SC Villa 1-0 Express