FUFA BIG LEAGUE: Of dirty Kataka, Proline peculiar demise and super rising from Lira 

Industrious  & Skillful. Maroons attacking midfielder Emmanuel Olinga (R) beats his opponent to whip in a diagonal cross from the left wing against Kyetume at Nakisunga Grounds in Mukono during the second round of the StarTimes Fufa Big League on March 17. PHOTO/FRANK BAGUMA
 

What you need to know:

  • New World Order. Blacks Power became the newest team to join the topflight league while Maroons and Kyetume bounced back after two and one, years, in the wilderness of the Second Division, respectively.The new format was being tested for the first time since it’s introduction in the 2009/10 season. 

Change is good, sometimes. The new format of the Fufa Big League has ushered a new dawn by delivering the three teams promoted to the StarTimes Uganda Premier League without having to go through tedious route of playoffs.
Meanwhile, Tooro United and Mbarara City have been relegated from the top tier. Another team will be confirmed soon.
Their positions are taken by; Blacks Powers, who became the newest team to join the elite league, while Maroons and Kyetume bounced back after two years and one in the second division respectively.
The new unified format that saw all the teams in the second division was being tested for the first time since the second division was introduced in the 2009/10 season.

Change for the better
Around 2008, the body in charge of competitions at the federation led by the current Fufa president Eng. Moses Magogo proposed the formation of a national second division.
They argued that it would see all the best teams across the regions face each other before advancing to the UPL. 

This, they reasoned at that time, would help raise the standards of lower tier leagues.
Previously, until 2009, five top teams from the five regions by then would be promoted to the top tier and a similar number relegated to their respective regions.  
The change was eventually effected in the 2009/10 season with 16 teams placed in two groups - Rwenzori and Elgon.
The 16 comprised five who had been relegated from the Super League (topflight by then), five first runners-up and five third-placed teams from the regional super mini leagues and the fourth-placed team from Kampala region.

At that time, the five regions included Kampala, Buganda, Northern, Western and Eastern.
The league ran until August 2021 when Fufa made further adjustments by introducing a new body called the Fufa Professional Leagues at the 97th Fufa Ordinary General Assembly in Mbale.
The changes came with a shift from the two-group style that ended with post-season playoffs.
Under this, every team faces each other in a normal league with the promotions and relegations following the rankings after the final match.
To date, a total of 92 teams have played in the Fufa Big League with only 11 of them still in the top tier. We take a look at this season’s best and worst moments.

 Healthy competition
The new format brought with it an adrenaline finish with none of the three promoted teams confirmed until the final match day.
Blacks Power beat Luweero United to earn maiden promotion. Maroons crushed Nyamityoboora while Kyetume drilled a 3-2 result from Kataka in Mbale to make an instant return.
Five teams, including Ndejje University who narrowly survived relegation to the regional league, led the table at some point in the season.
To underline the competitive nature, Kataka led heading into the final two fixtures. They collapsed on the final day despite needing just a single point to earn promotion.

The same was extended to the top scorers’ race. Maroons’ Fred Amaku nicked the golden boot with 15 goals, one more than Ezra Kaye of Kyetume.
Blacks Power defence ensured their goalkeeper Emanuel Odongkara claimed the golden glove. 
Their lead striker Michael Siwu was the undisputed player of the season.
Geoffrey Sserunkuma and Hakim Kiwanuka finished third on the scorers chart on 10 goals apiece despite their respective clubs Myda and Proline being relegated to the third tier.

Siwu arrives
Siwu has finally arrived at the table of men. The young lad got tongues wagging in the Busigu region inter clan competition, the Bikuka. He led his clan, Halasi, to three successive finals.
He was spotted and moved to Blacks Power where he replicated his form last season scoring 12 goals and assisting seven. Back then, that wasn’t enough to drag his team past the playoffs.
Siwu, just like a number of his teammates, opted to stay despite offers from topflight clubs. He bagged nine in all with two in the final day victory over Luweero United.
Of the nine, Siwu has earned himself the ‘dead-ball master’ tag by scoring five direct free kicks. Two come from the spot while he has also had eight assists.

Patience pays
Just like Siwu, this season’s top performers have something in common – all the three including Kataka managed to keep their squads intact for more than a season.
Blacks Power added the experience of coach Vialli Bainomugisha replacing John Ong’odia who had failed the mission twice.
The former Lweza United boss added Lira darling Bob Obira as assistant and Ali Kimera to the goalkeeping department. 
They added only four players in January to boost their charge.

Maroons put trust in their coach Patrick Senfuma for a second consecutive season. Many of their players came from the junior team.
The situation was different for Myda who went for a near-overhaul by bringing in the old guard that included like former Express skipper Isaac Mutanga and ex-Uganda Cranes stars Vincent Kayizzi, Patrick Ochan, Geoffrey Sserunkuma and Johnathan Mugabi as Robert Ssentongo struggled with registration. They managed a grand total of two wins to suffer relegation.

The bad - Water crisis
The league started on a negative note as Fufa twice postponed the kickoff dates after several teams failed to fulfil the mandatory requirements.
After several appeals, the rest were reinstated but Water failed to contain their bizarre flow and were relegated to the lowest division in the district leagues.
Water failed to submit very basic requirements like a squad of at least 14 players, a chief executive officer, qualified coach and staff.
The decision to throw them out left the league with only 11 teams thereby making it impossible for the organisers to schedule matches evenly. This meant each team had to at least stay out of action for two match days in the season.

Financial challenges
Despite the fact that the second division was incorporated to the StarTimes sponsorship package, most teams struggled financially to an extent that two games were not honoured. The situation hit Nyamityoboora hardest with the team failing to hire a qualified coach and often travelled with a lean squad for away games.

The situation forced the team doctor Anita Ayebare who has only a Fufa beginners’ coaching licence to double as coach in some games.
They failed to hold on to last season’s top scorer Clinton Kamugisha losing him to Kitara in mid-season with eight goals already to his name.
They were eventually relegated and even dished free points after failing to travel to Lira for their final away game of the season against Blacks Power.
According to the agreement, every team in the league was supposed to earn about Shs10m from the sponsorship but this writer understands that only a portion of the money has been remitted so far.

Foul play
Since the takeover of Nalubaale in October 2009, Proline’s relationship with Fufa has been a strained one.
The club that has now fallen to the regional league, first fell back to the Big League in the 2013/14 but bounced back instantly in 2016 but lasted only two seasons.
The next promotion to the top tier came in 2019/20. That year, Proline were docked six points and six goals for failing to honour a home fixture against SC Villa.

The club reasoned that they could not play the match due to the absence of key players Mustapha Mujuzi and Bright Anukani who were on international duty. The decision haunted them as they were relegated with only four points separating them from safety.
Earlier this season, the club again cried foul as only 14 players passed Fufa’s registration process. They say when the day of the monkey to die, all trees become slippery.

Points became slippery for Proline to grab as they were forced to play some games with exactly 11 players or less due to injuries.
The situation escalated when their tie against Blacks Power on December 19 last year was abandoned when their goalkeeper Sharif Magoola and his makeshift replacement Yusuf Mukisa were injured leaving the team with only six players, below the minimum required.
“It’s true we submitted some names when the window had closed but we’re sure it was the same situation with other clubs so, we’re thinking that we’re being victimized,” the club chairman Hussein Kato said during the January break.

The Ugly - Chaotic Kataka
The huge success brought about by the competition and the good image of the league was dented badly by the chaos that was witnessed on the final day.
Kataka had initially refused the StarTimes television crew from accessing the Mbale City Stadium and broadcast their do-or-die clash against Kyetume for what could easily be interpreted as a sinister motive to control the outcome of the game. What else?
“… Failure to grant access and avail adequate security to the sponsor and broadcaster, the game may not be played,” Fufa strongly warned Kataka before they opened the gates.

The match later erupted into chaos after the final whistle with several home team players ganging up to clobber Kyetume players as fans invaded the pitch to beat up the referees for the match. The situation forced police to fire teargas and live bullets to disperse the goons.
It was not the first time that Kataka behaved that way as they had been fined Shs1m after denying Calvary access to the stadium until 45 minutes to kick off. They also hid the balls upon taking the lead.

There were also ugly brawls involving Kataka officials and the Calvary contingent prior to kickoff.
Similar incidents were witnessed and captured on March 10 in a viral video where Kataka players were seen beating up a Luweero United ball boy and later a security personnel. A Luweero club official says the plot was to abandon the game after Kataka found a television crew without notice. Luweero United was leading 2-0 and went on to win the match.

Match-fixing murmurs
To date, nothing substantial has been brought forward to punish anyone in regards to match-fixing but the murmurs have been slowly but surely growing louder. The Kataka incident left a red flag for further investigation.
A match between Myda and Ndejje University had the referee add a whole 10 minutes with nothing much to account for.
During that period, the home side was awarded a ‘dubious’ penalty with Sserunkuma going down without any contact from an opponent before a cross was curled into the box.
The game was halted for seven minutes as coach Raymond Komakech and his university lads threatened to abandon it. They rescinded their threat, allowing Sserunkuma to take the penalty and score the winner in a 3-2 win.

Away from that incident, former Nyamityoboora president and city lawyer Ali Ssekatawa threw in the towel after citing match-fixing. His reaction came just three days after the club lost 9-1 to Kyetume.
“I hereby step aside as patron,” he said in his letter before citing the reason: “This is due to the cancer of match fixing that has gone unabated in our football, including in the big league.” Nyamityoboora denied the accusations and Fufa has neither come up with any action nor statement to that effect.

What more? -Eight to rise
Next season’s league will continue and effect the final transition to 16 teams. Three teams that will be demoted from the UPL will join Kataka, Calvary, Kitara, Ndejje University and Luweero United that survived the wave in the second division this season.
A further eight who will emerge champions of the eight respective Fufa regions will be added to the league.
The eight Fufa regions are Kampala, Buganda, Western, Eastern, West Nile, Northern, North Eastern and Kitara.

No time to rest
The grooms have arrived and will be waiting at the door for about three months or so before the next season kicks off so, should they sit? There’s no time to waste as experience has taught the complacent ones tough lessons.
The three teams have to prepare for the Fufa Licensing drills and therefore must start basic preparations early.
Blacks Power is the only one not to have gone through the process at the topflight level but with their co-owner Agnes Mugena chairing the appellate body of the Fufa Club Licensing, they shouldn’t find trouble.

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