Asubo-Gafford eager to prove they picked lessons

 Asubo-Gafford's assistant captain Zaina Nambozo in action against She Makerere in the FWEL playoffs in June. PHOTO/JOHN BATANUDDE.

What you need to know:

They have added 10 new signings and the friendly matches against Rines and Kyambogo have given Wanyama a chance to bed them in.

Asubo-Gafford have always felt they belong to the top echelon of women's football in Uganda.

Their return to the topflight after three seasons in the second division Fufa Women Elite League (FWEL) offers them a chance to prove as much.

Gafford were thrown to the FWEL rather than relegated in 2019. 

Before that, there was only one league division known as the FWEL with teams competing in two groups before a playoff stage to determine the champion. Gafford had built a reputation as Kawempe Muslim's bogey side and remained the only side to beat the record topflight champions at home for a long time.

But ahead of the 2019/20 season that was washed out by Covid-19, Fufa elected to have two divisions and chose to promote each of the top five teams in the two FWEL Elizabeth and Victoria groups then to the new topflight Fufa Women Super League (FWSL).

Gafford and others stayed in the second division FWEL, where they have blown hot and cold. Although some would argue that it was always coming as they had survived relegation to the regional league thanks to rule changes at least twice before 2019.

Struggle to return

By the time Covid beat in 2020, FWEL had been completed to about 50 percent and the rules permitted for the league to progress to the playoffs with table standings as of March 2020. Isra Academy and Makerere University progressed to the FWSL as the group winners but Gafford failed to beat Tooro Queens in the battle for the third promotional slot.

In the shortened 2021 FWEL season that was all played at Fufa Technical Centre - Njeru, Gafford struggled as She Maroons and Rines SS were promoted to the FWSL.

The worry for Gafford who finally went up after topping Elizabeth Group last season is that the topflight seems harsh to 'newcomers'.

Makerere and Isra were immediately relegated in 2021 while She Maroons fell last season in a very competitive FWSL league. Rines survived by a whisker on the final day but their safety spelled doom for Tooro Queens.

Gafford's troubles started right from their playoff game to determine the champion of the 2022 season. They lost 6-0 to Victoria Groups toppers Makerere University.

Too good for FWEL, a bit light for FWSL?

"The way the final match panned out was a big shock to us," Gafford coach Benjamin Wanyama told Daily Monitor.

"But we have reorganized ourselves and we want to prove that we can stay in the topflight league and also be competitive.

For us, the progress has been positive over the last few years. We have learnt many lessons and are happy to return to the topflight," he added.


Gafford have maintained 15 players from their 16-man squad that secured promotion last season. Only Madinah Nakaayi has moved to South Sudan.


They have added 10 new signings and the friendly matches against Rines and Kyambogo have given Wanyama a chance to bed them in.


"You know our return was purely done through determination. We had a very inexperienced squad because most of our players were balancing school and sports.


Now, most of them are out of school and we are relying on that capacity to keep the squad together to be competitive.


There are teams like She Corporate and Kampala Queens that are signing the best players in the country then others like Kawempe Muslim, which have the capacity to retain the core of a squad for over four years. I think we fall somewhere in the battle of new signings and maintenance but team work will be a big tool for us," Wanyama said.


What is for sure is that Asubo-Gafford have it all to do to prove they really belong and change the fortune of promoted sides to the FWSL.



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