A blue carnival, 20 years in the making for SC Villa

SC Villa players celebrate winning the league after 20 years. PHOTO/EDDIE CHICCO 

What you need to know:

Villa’s record-extending 17th league title was fittingly won 20 years after the passing of the club’s greatest ever captain, the late Paul Edwin ‘V8’ Hasule. The trophy was also delivered by Hasule’s brother and former teammate, Geoffrey Higenyi. A fitting tribute!

This was foreordained. It was meant to be. It had to be. And it has. 

After 20 agonising years, SC Villa finally won their record-extending 17th league title on Saturday.

Youngsters Charles Lwanga and Hakim Kiwanuka scored two second half goals at the MTN Omondi Stadium, Lugogo for a 2-0 StarTimes Uganda Premier League victory over Nec to bring that two-decade pain to an end.

During that time, Villa watched Police win their first, URA their first, second, third and fourth; Vipers their first, second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth, Express add two to their five, and KCCA clinch six more to come to within two league titles of SC Villa’s 16. 

SC Villa players celebrate winning the league after 20 years. PHOTO/EDDIE CHICCO 

Hasule spirit 

Villa’s record-extending title was fittingly won 20 years after the passing of the club’s greatest ever captain, the late Paul Edwin ‘V8’ Hasule.

There was also a timely touch of class when Hasule’s brother, Geoffrey Higenyi, delivered the trophy to the field of play for the handover ceremony.

Higenyi, alongside Hasule - the latter as captain - was part of the Villa league and cup double winning team in 1986.

The trophy had earlier arrived at the stadium in a helicopter, with Fufa president Moses Magogo and UPL board chairman Arinaitwe Rugyendo in company.


The VIP section was a who is who in Villa’s rich history. The Katikkiro of Buganda, Charles Peter Mayiga - clad in his favourite club’s blue Villa jersey - could not contain his joy, throwing fists of victory before handing the trophy over to captain Kenneth Ssemakula later on.

SC Villa skipper Kenneth Ssemakula celebrates after scoring the winning goal against URA. He plays every game this season. PHOTO/EDDIE CHICCO 

Club president Hajj Omar Mandela led his executive that also includes Villa legend and CEO William Nkemba, as well as former executive members Franco Mugabe and Immanuel Ben Misagga

Legends including Paul Mukatabala, former Cranes captain Denis Onyango and midfielder Hakim Magumba, the latter two part of the team that won the league with Villa in 2004, as well as ex-Villa striker Emmanuel Okwi were all in attendance.

Former Cranes and Villa coach Micho Sredojevic, who managed the club for most of that winning season 20 years ago until he left for St George, leaving Sam Timbe to finish the job with about eight matches left, was also at Lugogo.

In the packed general stands, there were waves of furore, with thousands of anxious Villa fans urging their team on. 

Early nerves overcome

Villa’s triumphant season, overseen by a rather reserved Serbian coach in Dusan Stojanovic and deputised by Morley Byekwaso - also part of the 2004 title winning team - ended with the Jogoos on top with 57 points.

That is one more point than Bul and Vipers, and two ahead of Kitara. The trio also won their respective final day matches against Busoga United, Mbarara City and Gaddafi.

Relieved. The Katikkiro of Buganda Kingdom Charles Peter Mayiga joined thousands of SC Villa fans, officials, former players and coaches for the final game of the 2023/24 StarTimes Uganda Premier League that saw the club beat Nec 2-0 at the MTN-Omondi Stadium, Lugogo to win the title for the first time in 20 years. Villa finished the 29-game season top of the league with 57 points, one more than Bul and Vipers. PHOTO/JOHN BATANUDDE 

It was, however, far from smooth sailing for Villa at Lugogo, where everyone associated with the club had their fingernails for an uncomfortable snack in the first 45 goalless minutes. 

The sheer size of the occasion wore heavy on the young shoulders of Stojanovic boys, and the near-empty midfield and misplaced passes in the face of a defiant Nec side completely devoid of pressure were visible for all to see.

Actually, the main standout moment of the half was when skipper Ssemakula took matters into his hands, driving from defence all the way to Nec goal and shooting. Villa fans acknowledged with a loud clap and standing ovation.

The anxiety amongst the thousands of Villa fans in the stands was so heavy you could touch it.

This was also in the knowledge that Bul, Vipers and Kitara, the other three teams vying for the title on the final day - were all cruising in their respective matches at half time.

The title was headed outside Kampala for the first time in over four decades as Bul were champions-in-waiting for the majority of the title chasing matches. 

Well, until the 67th minute when a sudden powerful roar engulfed Lugogo and elsewhere in the country where Villa fans were following the match from. 

After some half time pep talk from Stojanovic and his team, Villa were more probing than cautious, and their adventure paid off when Lwanga headed in the opener from a Umar Lutalo cross for all hell to break loose in Lugogo.

The relief was tangible. Every Villa fan hugged whoever and whatever was next to them. Players - wherever one was facing - were seen urging their fans for more support. Now, it looked like it.

SC Villa Hakim Kiwanuka (L) pursues the ball with Nec's Sulaiman Ssesazi. PHOTO/JOHN BATANUDDE 

If Bul and Vipers hoped for a quick response from Nec, they were disappointed as Villa capitalised on the momentum to further subdue the visitors. 

And with a quarter of the game to play, Patrick Jonah Kakande, himself subdued for most of the game, came to life - surging forward before releasing Kiwanuka on the right.

Calm as you like, Kiwanuka dragged the ball with him into the box, inviting Nec goalkeeper Benjamin Ochan to come out.

And as Ochan rushed out, Kiwanuka calmly rolled the ball under him for Villa’s second goal and certainly first league title in two decades. 

After party, and players shirts taken

By this time VIlla fans were in full voice. Only the full time whistle stood between them and storming of the pitch.

And as day follows night, a sea of them stormed the pitch at full time, overwhelming the available stadium security in green reflectors. 

Paul Hasule died in 2004. PHOTO/EDDIE CHICCO 

From how events turned out, it is possible Fufa did not fully prepare for the hunger of waiting for a title for 20 years, and behind the scenes, they will be the first to acknowledge. 

That Lugogo is also an improvised stadium with limited security measures in terms of infrastructure did not also help matters.

In that excitement with throngs of Villa fans on the pitch with their heroes, no player remained with a shirt they played in. Most, if not all were taken by fans. Not stolen, but taken. In celebration!

That is why you saw Villa fans returning for the title ceremony in the white jerseys that they warmed in pre-match.

That is why you will also struggle to see a clear picture capturing the entire frame of the ceremony podium because photographers had no way through.

After Katikkiro Peter Mayiga handed over the trophy to Ssemakula, wild celebrations ensued both for fans and players. 

There is an interesting video inside the Villa dressing room, where the shirtless players, with an equally shirtless Stojanovic, celebrated away with reckless abandon. 

Fan trophy parade

As that was happening, the trophy was somewhere else. It had already hit the streets as Villa fans did their own bus parade through Kampala before heading to Villa Park in Nsambya, where they slaughtered goats and partied till late.

“Twenty years is too long,” Sarah Adong, a Villa executive member, explained the circumstances under which the trophy left the team.

Vipers' Allan Okello (L) and Jerome Kirya of Bul did everything but fell short. PHOTO/JOHN BATANUDDE 

”The fans committee officially requested for the trophy and after their unofficial parade, they returned the trophy to us. Villa is a community club so we celebrate together. However, we shall have the club’s official trophy parade.”

From Lugogo, Villa players were hosted to dinner by the club president, Mandela, at his Lugogo branch of Cafe Javas.

Overall, it was a fitting and deserving finale for Villa, who - amongst title rivals - played some of the most eye-catching football this season under Serbian coach Stojanovic. They will breathe in now and then think of Caf and Cecafa.

StarTimes Uganda Premier League

Table standings

Team              P          W        D         L         G         A         Pts

SC Villa          29        16        9          4          40        21        57

Bul                  29        16        8          5          36        17        56       

Vipers             29        16        8          5          45        20        56

Kitara              29        16        6          7          46        24        54

KCCA             29        15        4          10        54        33        49

Nec                  29        14        6          9          35        34        48

Maroons          29        10        11        8          35        26        41

URA                29        10        10        9          30        27        40

Bright Stars     29        7          15        7          33        33        36

Express           29        9          5          15        36        38        32

Mbarara          29        6          14        9          22        29        32

Wakiso            29        9          5          15        27        42        32

UPDF             29        7          6          16        23        39        27

Busoga            29        6          7          16        25        53        25

Gadaffi           29        7          4          18        24        54        25

Arua Hill        15        1          2          12        12        33        5

Note: Arua Hill was expelled from the league

Top scorers

1 Muhammad Shaban (KCCA) 17 goals

2 Denis Omedi (Kitara) 15

3 Nelson Senkatuka (Bright Stars) 13

4 Isaac Wagoina (Express) 13

5 Fred Amaku (Maroons) 12

6 Kenneth Kimera (Wakiso Giants) 10

7 Alex Kitata (Bul 10

8 Cromwell Rwothmio (Nec) 9

8 Jonah Patrick Kakande (SC Villa) 9

8 Milton Karisa (Vipers) 9


Nec 0-2 SC Villa

Vipers 4-1 Mbarara City

Busoga United 0-3 Bul

Kitara 3-0 Gadaffi

Wakiso Giants 0-1 UPDF

Maroons 1-1 KCCA

URA 1-1 Bright Stars

League winners

1968/1969: Prisons (now Maroons)

1969: Prisons

1970: Coffee United

1971: Simba

1974: Express

1975: Express

1976: KCC (now KCCA)

1977: KCC

1978: Simba

1979: Uganda Commercial Bank

1980: Nile Breweries

1981: KCC

1982: SC Villa

1983: KCC

1984: SC Villa

1985: KCC

1986: SC Villa

1987: SC Villa

1988: SC Villa

1989: SC Villa

1990: SC Villa

1991: KCC

1992: SC Villa

1993: Express

1994: SC Villa

1995: Express

1996: Express

1997: KCC

1998: SC Villa

1999: SC Villa

2000: SC Villa

2001: SC Villa

2002: SC Villa

2002/2003: SC Villa

2004: SC Villa

2005: Police

2006: URA

2006/2007: URA

2007/2008: KCC

2008/2009: URA

2009/2010: Bunamwaya (now Vipers)

2010/2011: URA

2011/2012: Express

2012/2013: KCC

2013/2014: KCC

2014/2015: Vipers

2015/2016: KCCA

2016/2017: KCCA

2017/2018: Vipers

2018/2019: KCCA

2019/2020: Vipers

2020/2021: Express

2021/2022: Vipers

2022/2023: Vipers

2023/24: SC Villa