It is tempting to judge Miguel Da Costa’s performance at Vipers using only the 12 league games he has presided over this season as the yardstick.
Nonetheless, the Portuguese tactician had a whole second half of the season last campaign to prove his worth and establish a title challenge. His beleaguered status was once held by Nigerian Ambrose Chukuma, who faced the sack in 2013. Like Costa, Chukuma had all the players he wanted but still failed to find a winning formula and constantly cited internal sabotage for his insipid show.
By the time club owner Lawrence Mulindwa’s patience ran out for Chukuma, Vipers were seventh on the table and had won twice in six games. Before Friday’s league tie with Jinja SSS, Vipers had won just once in seven games the heavy transfer window investment notwithstanding. Da Costa is not an isolated case of foreign coaches failing to find their feet in the fickle and demanding Uganda Premier League.
Express burnt their fingers when they tried out Sierra Leonean tactician Abu Koroma in 1998, Dane Jan Fray (Express 2003) and Turkish Abdul Kadir (2002) who couldn’t help the Wankulukuku side bring down Villa’s league juggernaut.
In Serbian Dragan Popadic (1996-1997)the Red Eagles got the best bargain in a foreign coach when he led them to the league and Uganda Cup titles during his brief stay.
“Popadic was loved and feared in the same measure by all at the club. He didn’t have time to nurture young talent but liked to assign special responsibilities to each player.
“If you failed to do what he told you in 15 minutes you would be substituted as George Ssimwogerere can attest,” former Express midfielder James Odoch, now URA deputy coach, revealed.
Odoch is of a view that Popadic succeeded because coaches from Serbian find African life somehow familiar and he had started off in Tanzania before joining Wankulukuku.
KCCA are now thriving under Mike Mutebi with a third straight league title in sight but that couldn’t be achieved under the turmoil filled reigns of Jan Fray (2003), Kenyan Hussein Kheri (2005), Abou Koroma (1999) and Tanzanian Hussein Gwanje (2000).
Managerial impatience, sabotage and the inability to comprehend the dynamics of the Ugandan league feature prominently in the reasons that led to their failure of most the coaches.
The success stories
Yet Villa can pride in having most of the successful foreign coaches in their ranks.
British coach Geoff Hudson led Villa to an unprecedented league and cup double in 1988 and - again in 1989. Another league title followed in 19000 before Hudson guided Villa to the Africa Club Championship final where they lost to Club Africain of Tunisia and lost the Cecafa club final to Simba of Tanzania in 1991.
“Hudson was like a father to all of us and made us love the club. He knew the game and always sought for perfection,” says Paul Mukatabala, a Villa lethal striker then.
In Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojevic (2002 to 2004), Villa boast of another fine performer who won a double in his first season, won the Cecafa club title and another league title in 2003. Micho set the bar too high for subsequent foreign coaches like Srdan Zivojnov (Serbian) and Antonio Flores.