Another tangle with relegation

Busoga United players relax during a recent training session . PHOTO/COURTESY 

What you need to know:

Despite the reassurances that the management status had been settled, several key players were not convinced enough and decided to search for greener pastures, most on free transfers.

“At least, the team looks decent. I hope our issues are now sorted.” These are the words from one Busoga United fan this week during their training at the St. Jude pitch where the team has been training. That’s how low the team has sunk – that a set of new kits for training is now one of the parameters to measure progress.

Throughout last season, the club was constrained financially with players going a full season without full salaries as the top brass crashed heads over who owns what!

The ownership bit is sorted, at least for now, after a ruling by the registrar general of the Uganda Registration Service Bureau handed the club back to the Dinah Nyago’s faction.   

She was contesting for the ownership with the club’s former chief executive officer and caretaker chairman Hassan Takoowa who claimed they had transferred the club to him.

Blurred hope

The newly-appointed chief executive Derrick Lule harbors hope that the club will return to its best but even his tone is not convincing enough.

“It wasn’t easy at all,” Lule talks experience from last season. “We have set the governance straight to position ourselves strategically for a better future.”

Both Nyago and Takoowa had promised to transfer the club to the community and then Fufa set for them a deadline of June 30 but that passed. Nyago recently told this paper that “the process was still on” without clearly stating the current status of that process.

Player exodus

Despite the reassurances that the management status had been settled, several key players were not convinced enough and decided to search for greener pastures, most on free transfers.

“The departure of several key players from the club is not good news but given our financial constraints, we don’t have a lot to do but rather thank the players for the great work,” Lule acknowledges the gap. They’ve lost Shaka Ssozi, Anwar Ntege, Dickson Niwamanya, Elvis Ng’onde, Paul Sekulime and captain Anthony Mayanja who were their top goal-poachers and creators last season. Goalkeepers Michael Nantamu and Delton Oyo are also waiting at the exit door but the return of Isaac Isinde and keeper Sanon Mulabi could bring some hope.

“The financial situation at the club is not desirable and not one that facilitates. It’s a smooth operation, but we are managing it,’ Lule says.

Tired loyal servant?

Player exodus is not a new challenge to Busoga United. They have faced this over their six years in the topflight. Previously, the club was able to regenerate by promoting players from their academy at Jinja SSS or using the expertise of coach Abbey Kikomeko scout and refine players. However, the current situation is trickier; The school cut ties with the team and now there’s uncertainty over Kikomeko’s status. 

In all this, Kikomeko is key. He first came to rescue the club in the 2015/16 season when he took over from Mark Twinamasiko to steer the team back on their way to earn a direct promotion to the UPL as they won their only major trophy,the Fufa Big league title.

He was summoned to duty again in the second round of their first season after the team under Alex Isabirye failed to win a game in the first round and was flattering with relegation. After saving the team, by then called Kirinya-Jinja SSS, the job was given to Charles Ayieko. He was called back after a year and a half in the cold in January 2019. At that time. The team had accumulated only 19 points after the first round and was, again, around the red zones but went on to finish 9th with 41 points. He retained the job permanently starting with the 2019/20season.

At that time the club had started feeling the heavy financial burden and couldn’t retain key players like Isaac Isinde and Boban Zirintusa during the midseason. Kikomeko replaced them with raw talent from the school team. The likes of Isma Mugulusi, Lawrence Tezikya and Kenneth Semakula. They went on to guide the team to a 4th place finish, the best the club has performed.

When Nyago stepped aside and Jinja SSS parted ways, Kimomeko was the main father figure through both Hassan Takoowa’s reign and then Nyago’s return in December last year. At that time, the burden was heavy and was the first time he contemplated leaving a club that he served for almost a decade but he remained putand saved them from relegation for two more seasons while surviving with only the Startimes league sponsorship.

Bleak future?

Kikomeko only returned to Jinja this week and was spotted watching training from the sidelines. He refused to comment about anything but sources say he is not content with the terms in his contract. Reports have linked him to a move to Mbale Heroes, Admin and a host of other clubs while Paul Kiwanuka, formerly at Bright Stars is linked to the job. Lule rubbishes the speculations and reaffirms that Kikomeko has no issues but, again, his tone isn’t convincing.

“Wouldn’t he deserve a good farewell bid if he chose to leave the club? He is not the kind that would just wake up one morning and leave. He is still with us.”

The bond between the patriotic fanbase and coach Abbey’s playing unit played a key role in the team’s survival last season as they picked over 23 out of their 32 points around Jinja and Njeru but that is wearing away with the situation. It is even worse now that Gaddafi has shifted to Kakindu and therefore, another hope for topflight football. Currently, the club is ranked fourth because of the computerized system that ranks clubs in alphabetical order before the season starts but the situation could be very different after match day 28 or 30!


Home ground: Kakindu

Founded: 2012

President: Dinah Nyago

Coach: Abbey Bogere Kikomeko*

Performance in UPL: 2020/21 – 13th (26 pts), 2021/22 – 13th (32 pts), 2019/20 - 5th (39 pts), 2018/19 - 9th (41pts), 2017/18 - 5th (43 pts), 2016/17 - 10th (33pts)

Predicted position - 17th