Proline relegation: True case of a step forward and two steps back

Friday May 22 2020

Agony Of Defeat. Proline players feel the pain

Agony Of Defeat. Proline players feel the pain after going down to KCCA in the league at Lugogo earlier this term. PHOTO BY EDDIE CHICCO 

By Swaib Raul Kanyike

At Proline’s formation (as Proline Soccer Academy) in 2006, the brains behind the team were praised for starting a project that promised to change the face of Ugandan football, forever.

They exuded professionalism, organization and focus, a rare species in the Ugandan football of those days. With backing from across the globe, notably the famous Ferdinand family (Julian, Rio and Anton) from England plus local figures like Tushar Ruparelia and Hajji Habib Kagimu, Proline were ready to roll.

What followed was a group of extra talented youngsters coming together and tours to Manchester United followed suit. The future promised better.
In 2009, Proline acquired the struggling Nalubaale FC and joined the top flight of Ugandan football. Mujib Kasule, the Proline founder, was arguably the biggest brains in Ugandan football at the time, at least, on paper.

The former KCCA captain had studied a lot about the beautiful game and become a Fifa-lisensed players’ agent. He also had top notch coaching qualifications, and thus, took over the coaching reigns at the club.
What followed was a ping-pong legal battle with Fufa regarding the team’s legality, and therefore, they played their first season under the Proline-Nalubaale name. Eventually, the dust settled and Proline became one of the most entertaining football teams to watch in the top tier.

With young players like Sula Matovu, Ivan Bukenya, Musa Mawanda, Yusuf Mukisa, the team acquired experienced guns in Yasin Mugabi, Abubaker Tabula, Jamil Kyambadde, Julius Okocha and Anthony Bongole to guide the young guns.
In their yellow-and-purple stripes, they stayed in the league for their first four season, until the relegation monster clawed it’s head, for the first, and not the last time, at the end of the 2013-14 season.

Rollercoaster ride
In the middle of the 2011-2012 season, Kasule joined Fufa as the head of the league Secretariat and had to leave his coaching duties at Proline. He left the team in 10th position.
Abdallah Mubiru was hired and the team went on to finish in a respectable sixth position, their best league finish, ever. During that second round run, they managed to defeat giants SC Villa, Express, URA and drew with KCCA.
The following season, all eyes were on Proline, as many hoped that with a coach of Mubiru’s credentials, it would be possible for them to better their previous league finish. However, that was not to be, as the club sacked Mubiru in October 2012, after just five games in the new season.
Surprisingly, by the time of Mubiru’s departure, they were sitting on top of the league table, unbeaten, on eight points. The club said they had parted ways with Mubiru because of “non-footballing reasons”.
And by that time, Proline had lost much of the backing from the aforementioned figures, hence player welfare was on the low. Things were to get worse.


Beginning of the rot
Shafiq Bisaso, who was Mubiru’s assistant, was elevated to the hot seat. The team’s performances slipped miserably and they got relegated at the end of the season. But in what has come to be the Proline way, they bounced back in 2016.
But they lasted a single season and went down again. However, it’s in the 2018-2019 Fufa Big League season that they became most successful. Ironically.
They won the Uganda Cup, qualified as the winners of the Elgon Group and also defeated Wakiso Giants in the promotional final.

Winning the Uganda Cup meant qualifying for the Caf Confederation Cup, where they eliminated Malawi’s Master’s Security and Rwanda’s AS Kigali before falling to Libya’s Al Nasr and failing to make the groups stage.
That must have hurt, because they had taken a 2-2 away draw but lost 2-0 in the return leg.
The year 2019 was still giving more, outside Ugandan borders. The team played at the Cecafa-Kagame Championship in Rwanda, but failed to make the group stages after winning one and losing two.
As things were promising to shape up, their boat capsized. The coaching post changed hands at least four times, from Bisaso, to Matia Lule, Anthony Bongole and then, Baker Mbowa.

Arrow that broke their back
In September, they refused to honor a league fixture against SC Villa. Reason? Uganda was preparing for a friendly against Kenya and Proline had two players, Mustafa Mujuzi and Bright Anukani, in the national team camp. They also reasoned that the Uganda-Kenya fixture fell outside the Fifa gazetted international window. What ensued was a legal battle that left them hurt, until this week’s relegation.
Fufa slapped them with a deduction of six points and six goals, plus a loss (by foiteture) to SC Villa. They ran to the international sporting court, the Court of Arbitration in Sports (CAS) to no victory.
They ended up with their tails between their legs, and a promising campaign went up in fog. The ruling sent them to the bottom of the table.

As a result of the global Covid-19 pandemic that had put the league on hold, finally, on Wednesday, Fufa announced that the league had been voided and therefore, Proline (22 points) alongside Tooro United and Maroons got relegated.
Proline will feel more offended because if they hadn’t lost the six points, they would have stayed up and Police FC (25 points) gone down instead.
If Proline hadn’t lost the six points, they would have survived, with 28 points.
And that’s not the end. Fufa added that for those teams to play in next season’s Big League, they will have to apply for a 2020/21 Fufa Big League Club License. Whatever that means.

For now, we can say that Proline have mastered the art of bouncing back from relegations, and going back in same style.
In other words, where they have always taken one step forward, they have also found themselves taking two steps back.
The problem with taking one step and two back is that you make progress but then experience circumstances that cause you to be further behind than you were when you made the progress. But hopefully Proline will return to the Uganda Premier League topflight soonest.

PROLINE SQUAD - 2019/2020
Hassan Matovu, Shatif Magoola,
Michael Muhumuza, Bashir Sekagya
Andrew Isiagi, James Begesa,
Sakka Mpiima, Yusuf Mukisa,
Musitafa Mujuzi, Richard Ajuna, Sula
Noordin Bunjo, Mahad Yaya Kakooza
Hamza Mulambuzi, Arnold
Sserunjogi, Joshua Okiror, Sam
Kintu, Hakim Kiwanuka, Joseph
Mandela, Ibrahim Wamannah,
Ibrahim Ssendi, Bernard Muwanga,
Bright Anukani
Ivan Bogere, Allan Egaku, Brian
Umony, Hamis Kiiza, Edrisa Lubega