The last time something positive was heard of Busoga United, the club chief executive had crossed the River Nile headed to Kampala for a crunch meeting with Fufa. Dinah Nyago did return to Jinja but her club has since been a plate of katogo (mixed foods) of tough times.
The Mighty Arena, ensconced inside Jinja SS, is just a stone throw away from the River Nile and, as things stand, one could be forgiven for thinking the Nile has broken its banks and flooded the arena and is slowly sinking Busoga United.
The finished fourth in the league last season and it was no fluke as they earned that Shs7m prize money. The team was well organised in the pre-season during which they beefed their squad.
Head coach Abbey Kikomeko Bogere welcomed goalkeeper Benson Wagima from Bright Stars, defender Shafik Kakeeto (Express), Ibrahim Mugulusi (Villa), Hakim Magombe (Bul), and Ivan Wani (Maroon).
They also signed Rogers Omedwa (Agape SS), Ashraf Batwawula (Butembe), Paul Ssekulima (Uganda Martyrs University, Nkozi), Franco Magero Balabala (Mount Kenya), Sula Wambede (Heegan – Somalia), and Joseph Ssimwogerere (free agent).
The club then promoted youngsters Lawrence Tezikya and Musa Magumba from their feeder side, Jinja SS.
With such a strong recruitment, the club did not even miss the departure of their front-man Joel Madondo as Tezikya and company stepped up to be counted, especially in home games where most teams that attempted to cross the Nile drowned.
However, the comparisons are black and white this time round. Mugulusi has crossed over to Bul and his namesake Isma is also said to be on the way out to spendthrifts KCCA, while at least three players have intimated to this paper that they were frustrated.
Is intrigue at play?
Sources familiar with issues at the club point to not only Covid-19 pandemic and its impact – it has ravaged every other club anyway – but also a plethora of other troubles.
That Nyago has dived in the deep-end of political pool was always bound to affect the club. This being electioneering period, the algae in the political waters couldn’t be more choking.
“We have been working with her on signing players’ licence and I meet her whenever I have a task to ask for her consent,” said Andrew Nyabahika, the chief executive. “I must admit she is not often available like she was before joining political campaigns.”
Ndyabahika’s appointment to the club has been one of the few silver linings in the last two months. He joined mid-July to find players wearing faces longer than that of a toddler denied porridge – they have not been paid salary for six months and could as well be going without even porridge.
Then when Fufa released the prize money a fortnight ago, the players scented their chance to buy some meat for once. They expected to share the Shs7m. “I haven’t received a coin since Covid-19,” claimed a player.
Hours after a call from this paper yesterday, the club released a statement admitting to nonpayment of salaries but added that they were working round the clock to address the challenges holding them back from meeting their obligations .
“We owe players unpaid dues and share in their frustrations over the delay,” the statement that is not signed but posted on the club’s official Facebook page, said. “It’s a scary time; just like other clubs or businesses, Covid-19 has hit us hard but we establishing new avenues for raising finances.”
The statement said Busoga United remains committed to ensuring players’ arrears are cleared. “Payers arrears are currently the club’s first priority and management is fighting tooth and nail to raise funds to settle the outstanding dues,” it said.
The club also addressed itself on rumours of unrest among its players, instead lauding them for having “exhibited utmost patience despite the very odd times.”
“We have kept close contact with our players more than before ever before and confident that they trust our efforts. It’s our moment of struggle that define us, how we handle them is what matters and we are family that shall remain stronger.”
Skipper George Kasonko: “As players our main work is to perform on the field but our welfare also matters. The management has given us hope that the current crisis will soon be gone. We have no doubts because before the Covid-19 times things were normal.”
As the club fidgeted with explaining their absence from weekend’s Fufa-players engagement that they blamed on the federation not sending the invite to their official messaging accounts, Kasonko said he missed an opportunity to present biting issues.
“I didn’t get an invitation letter from the club CEO to attend the Fufa-player engagement,” he said.
A river of troubles
The trouble, said a source at Jinja SS, is also to do with Nyago’s outspokenness that attracted too much attention from football “untouchables.”
On this, the source claimed that some football administrators in Kampala were working with “certain leaders in Busoga region” to payback Nyago for daring to lead clubs in a revolt against Fufa.
“They are auditing Dinah and it’s not your usual kind of audit – theirs is aimed at finding faults to pin her with,” the source said.
“They are doing what they don’t know and this man [new head teacher Isaac Balimusangayo] should not politicise the school as it may make us suffer.”
This paper could not name the said officials because they were not reached for their side of the story, while Mr Balimusangayo was unavailable by press time. But Nyago said auditing is a normal routine.
Mr Balimusangayo is also understood to be lukewarm on sports although he likes cricket and has already made in-roads with Uganda Cricket Council that has seen the oval at the school being redeveloped.
The said stance has since fomented rumours instead, with allegations that eastern regional league side Gaddafi last month made attempts to buy into Busoga United.
According to speculation, Jinja SS will cash in and sell its stake in Busoga United. The school owns the second largest share of 35 per cent with Nyago, the majority shareholder, owns 51 per cent stake.
Nyago’s share percentage was the subject of much discord among some leaders in Busoga, especially the kingdom that was allotted only 2 per cent. Some questioned how she had come to own the majority shares while using the school facilities.
But Nyago said the rumours, that she described as “sheer madness,” are works of “desperate people.”
“How do you sell a super league team to one in the region?” she asked.
Gaddafi president Lt Col Edrine Ochieng also refuted allegations that his club had had two secret meetings with Busoga United, insisting that their focus was on playing in Big League next season.
But what holds for Busoga United when Nyago is likely to keep running around Njeru municipality canvassing for votes until January? Is the club sinking in the Nile?