What you need to know:
While the season finale reminded Ugandans of the romance of local football, it was largely a below par campaign, where both the clubs, coaches and players concernedly fell short, only to be briefly rescued by the final day anticipation
Vipers SC defended the StarTimes Uganda Premier League title - their sixth in the cabinet - only for the first time in the club’s history on Saturday.
And they did it in some exhilarating fashion, wiping the Kitende floor with a drenched Busoga United in a 5-0 victory, a scoreline replicated by KCCA against Soltilo Bright Stars.
All this as hitherto table leaders SC Villa collapsed 1-0 to URA in Wankulukuku.
Below are five conclusions from an otherwise average season, which was briefly masked by enthralling final day excitement.
Final day thrill won hearts
Of course you can’t put it past the wide support of SC Villa countrywide, although most of the fans have been largely inactive in the last two decades. The Jogoos packed Wankulukuku to the rafters, with legends including Andrew Fimbo Mukasa all descending there to see for themselves. At 52 points for Villa, and Vipers and KCCA tied on 50 apiece, Ugandans knew it could go anywhere. The trio are said to have made the necessary arrangements just in case, including printing ‘Champions’ emblazoned shirts. The UPL and Fufa also did their part, arranging a helicopter to deliver the trophy wherever the champion could have been declared. Social media was alive with Ugandan football. Even those who had no idea about league proceedings were excitedly discussing and tweeting about permutations. It was a beautiful thrill.
Villa are the MVPs
They started as overwhelming underdogs. At best, they were supposed to just be in and around - not too near the title but also not far off the other end of the table, as had been in seasons before. But under inexperienced coach Jackson Magera and experienced Ibrahim Kirya, Villa - marshalled by Gift Fred in defence and Charles Bbaale the other end of the pitch - put up a steady campaign to force themselves into the title talk. Improved player welfare and the coaches’ ability to turn largely Masaza Cup and regional football graduates into the title challengers is something to applaud.
The exhilarating build-up and D-day’s run of emotions, coupled with Villa’s improvement, did well to briefly mask the poor season this was. You just have to look at the final table to see the disturbing truth. The final tally of 53 points for the champion compares so poorly with the 74 last season. Not even the excuse of playing two matches fewer this campaign makes any compelling defence. For example, while Villa won the most matches at 17, they scored only 27 goals in 28 games. Vipers also dropped from 69 goals scored last season to just 40 this campaign. Yes, Villa improved in a campaign no one seemed interested in winning, but this was down more to Vipers and KCCA’s inability to engage second gear than the Jogoos brilliance.
KCCA must sort coaching issue
They have not been the same since the departure of Mike Mutebi two years ago. Morley Byekwaso was supposed to build onto what Mutebi had left. But he fell short, especially on stepping out of his coiled shell. Club legend Jackson Mayanja came in to arrest the situation after Byekwaso left, but the former has just done enough to convince KCCA he is not the one for long term. Sources indicate that KCCA want Mutebi back but the latter is on and off. They just have to address this urgently, even if it means hiring a foreigner to fill the huge void Mutebi left.
Hooliganism, match fixing have no place in the game
Villa and Onduparaka players and coaches were at the unfortunate end of sanctions arising out of a section of their fans hooliganism that cost both sides a title and place in top flight football respectively. Yes, Fufa could have just fined the clubs and moved on. But a statement had to be made that regardless of how charged they are, fans don’t have a right to make football venues dangerous places to go. Of course some refereeing decisions have left a bitter taste in fans mouths, and Fufa have suspended some officials. However, Fufa have not been honest in their investigations. If they indeed mean well, they must make public complete findings of the endless probes they always do.