Saturday November 25 2017

The Express story is a tale of despair and little hope

Hon. Nakiwala Kiyingi, club ambassador Bobi

Hon. Nakiwala Kiyingi, club ambassador Bobi Wine and former CEO Ram Hadji. Optimism at the club when Nakiwala took over has turned to despair 

By Mark Namanya

The beautiful game of football is such that unwelcome results on the soccer pitch are not uncommon even with the greatest of football clubs across the globe.
You can make an attempt to do everything well - from hiring the right coach and players to signing the most appetising endorsements – and still fail to win football games.
Soccer is a game that often pays no respect to reputations. The act of winning games requires an amalgamation of factors to happen.
But at Express FC, nothing seems to be going well. The news emanating from Wankulukuku Stadium is of a once glorious football club that lost its way so many years ago. On the pitch the club is poor, off pitch beyond appalling.
The ditch the Red Eagles fell in is the classic trap that awaits teams hoping to build their identity around individuality.
Express’ best years were in the 90s when they won the League and Cup a couple of times, and shone in the 1995 African Cup of Champions Club (now the Africa Champions League). Then, they were steered by the management of Vincent Bbale Mugera. But by the turn of the millennium businessman Richard Kirumira had taken over the reigns as club chairman.
Lawyer Kavuma Kabenge was in all this period never far away from the club’s management structure and eventually did his time as the unofficial club head by funding the team and controlling the club’s administrative arm.
The biggest problem with the VEK clubs and in particular Villa and Express was an insistence of vesting and investing hopes in an individual. The era of football clubs being defined by the big man syndrome is firmly consigned in the history bin.
When minister Florence Nakiwala Kiyingi took over as club chairperson at the beginning of last season, she was bound to fail the moment she started being viewed as the ‘kamala byona’ (problem solver of everything.)
Express fans should cringe at the sight of a certain Bryan White being seen as the short or mid-term solution to improve player morale.
I have no doubt in my mind that Express has more fans than KCCA if only all fans of the Wankulukuku-based side decided to shock us by attending one league game in their multitudes. But that is where the comparison stops.
KCCA today is country miles ahead of Express in organisational structure, funding, brand value and football might.
When you see developments at StarTimes stadium Lugogo, it is clear there are professionals who have either been hired or contracted to generally run the country with a semblance of professionalism.
The impression I get at Express is of a football club whose leadership is engaging trial and error mode to manage one of the nation’s traditional teams.
That is not how a club of Express’ stature should run.
The fans who filled the rafters in the mid 90s are in the club’s midst. But unless there is a concerted effort to seek them out and hold candid discussions on how to get out of the doldrums of today, the Red Eagles will continue oscillating between relegation and mediocrity.

mnamanya@gmail.com
mnamanya

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