Kaddu perches Kitara at summit, then departs
What you need to know:
Kitara raked in slightly over Sh30m for their last three home games against Ndejje University (Shs8.7m), Luweero United (Shs11.6m) and Adjumani Town Council (Shs10.3m).
The Startimes Fufa Big League has entered its mandatory midseason break.
The teams are beginning to solidify their positions on the log, there’s a rough idea of the teams that will be laying a claim for the three direct promotion slots at the end of the season.
Some are threatening surprises in the second round but one thing is clear - this season has been anything but predictable and is sure to remain that way throughout the second round!
Kitara have stuck out as the best team from the first stanza, perching at the top with 31 points.
Their inconsistency has pumped up Mbarara City, newcomers National Enterprise Corporation (Nec) and Police who are heavily panting behind.
This is the second season of the new standardized single-format of the nationwide league but also the first that has completed sixteen teams in terms of composition.
The top three will be promoted directly to the Uganda Premier League while the bottom four pave way for inter-regional champions next year.
Old guard find solace
The season has not been short of spices. The term kicked off with Kitara making a bold announcement by beating Startimes Premier League (UPL) sides to sign Uganda Cranes striker Patrick Kaddu.
Even though the former KCCA, RS Berkane (Morocco) and Ismailia (Egypt) marksman has now joined Kenyan giants Gor Mahia, his stint at Kitara highlights a change in pattern that has seen former topflight stars find home in the lower tier.
Kaddu's hole is expected to be covered by George Senkaaba and Godfrey Lwesibawa who are downgrading from URA and Gaddafi.
The 2017 UPL Most Valuable Player (MVP_ Godfrey Sserunkuma is heading to Nec.
Former Vipers and Sadolin Paints striker Henry Kitegenyi has also polished his scoring boots with double figures at Mbarara City.
The fans have been served to a pulsating race at the top of the table but the golden boot race is not any different with the main actors firing from all cylinders.
At the halfway mark, there have been 319 goals! Compare that with the UPL. With a match day less due to its odd composition, the count at the break is 221. That's almost 100 fewer goals than their feeder division.
While the leading scorers in the UPL Nelson Senkatuka and Fred Amaku boast of seven apiece, there are already nine strikers with a better tally in the Big League spread across eight different teams.
Denis Omedi's brace in Booma's 3-0 win over Ndejje University ensured he turned the page leading the golden boot race with 16 goals, one and two ahead of Kaddu and Kitengenyi respectively.
Kitara has scored 34, the highest while newcomers Northern Gateway from Lira have shipped in 33, the most.
Kitara in business but...
Kitara has not only been thriving on the pitch, their home base and support has seen the club set records in attendance at their Kigaya Church of Uganda (COU) Primary School grounds in Hoima.
For instance, they raked in slightly over Sh30m for their last three home games against Ndejje University (Shs8.7m), Luweero United (Shs11.6m) and Adjumani Town Council (Shs10.3m).
From that kind of support, it is not by chance that they have won all their eight home games scoring 27 goals.
However, pressure seems to be piling and with it comes other damaging factors. Their biggest challenge now is the discipline off the pitch that has led to the management suspending head coach Mark Twinamasiko in a move to arrest a growing situation at the club.
The club's chief executive officer (CEO) Joshua Atugonza, in his letter of notice of suspension to Twinamasiko stated: "This suspension has been done due to continued verbal complaints ranging from among others abusing players off and on pitch, threatening players not to be included on the starting 18 and sidelining players and other stakeholders."
Richard Makumbi, who has previously served as head coach and now technical director, will assume interim role for the two months.
The experienced coach's first task is to address the team's performance on the road where they've managed only one win in seven trips. They have eight in the second round.
Mbarara City and Police were initially expected to struggle after offloading a big chunk of their players after relegation.
They have seen their respective coaches Sadiq Ssempijja and Angelo Lonyesi do a commendable job in rebuilding competitive teams from scratch.
They both struggled to start but their steady rise has pulled them within a point to Kitara at the top.
A dark horse
There was probably no neutral who gave Nec a chance to be where they are at the moment - third place - or fight for promotion.
Coach Michael 'skills' Lukyamuzi has assembled a team of novices led by their captain and eight-goal hero Marvin Kavuma that has caught the league by surprise from the onset.
This is balanced side that is threatening to upset the status quo. Only Kitara has matched their nine wins, possess the fourth best attacking line with 22 goals so far and best defence that has leaked only nine.
The season has been relatively calm as compared to the recent seasons especially the last one. The referees have sailed smoothly. The fans have maintained discipline while the teams have been governable perhaps because of the heavy price that Kataka paid.
Kataka started the season with a deficit of two points and as many goals and were forced to play five home games away from their region in Njeru as part of their punishment for chaos last season.
The effects have been evident enough to prove that indeed the club that missed promotion last season by a point were affected by the ban.
In the five 'home' games, the coach Godfrey ‘Toldo’ Awachango-coached side, won only two but managed three wins out of three in the three since returning to Mbale.
Their nemesis, Kyetume have also not found peace since fighting back to be restored after Fufa had flashed them down to the regional leagues.
Kyetume failed to meet the minimum requirements to play in the league but a protracted on and out-of-court case saw them get reprieve and registered for the second division.
They have just five wins and sit 12 points behind the top three. That is nearer to the demotion to the regional league than promotion.
Same old Ndejje
Ndejje University are keeping their perennial underachievers tag.
As the longest-serving participant in the league and the only surviving member of the division from the pioneer lot of the 2009-10 season, the students' experience seem to be counting for nothing.
Apart from the 2017/18 season that saw them promoted and then relegated immediately from the UPL, the team has just been casual participants.
Their nature by which the team bases on students who rarely stay beyond their academic engagements has caused a high turnover of players with the only constant factor being their head coach Raymond Komakech.
The coach agrees that this season has been tough as well because the “new players are still gelling and fitting in the system". They have managed only 16 points and are only above the red line because Kaaro Karungi have a worse goal deficit.
Besides Nec, Jinja North United and Booma, the other eight teams that were promoted to the league have performed poorly and are prime suspects for relegation occupying five of the bottom spaces.
Fufa Big League
P W D L GD PTS
Kitara 15 9 4 2 24 31
Mbarara City 15 8 6 1 16 30
Nec 15 9 3 3 13 30
Police 15 8 6 1 9 30
Calvary 15 7 3 5 0 24
Kataka 15 6 4 5 5 20
Jinja North United 15 5 5 5 -1 20
Booma 15 5 4 6 -2 19
Luweero United 15 5 4 6 -3 19.
Kyetume 15 5 3 7 -4 18
Lugazi 15 5 2 8 0 17
Ndejje University 15 4 4 7 -6 16
Kaaro Karungi 15 4 4 7 -11 16
Soroti City 15 4 2 9 -14 14
Adjumani TC 15 3 4 8 -8 13
Northern Gateway 15 2 4 9 -20 10
Denis Omedi (Booma) - 16
Patrick Kaddu (Kitara) - 15
Henry Kitegenyi (Mbarara City) - 13
Gerald Ogweti (Lugazi) - 10
Edson Agondeze (Kitara) - 8
Dicken Kilama (Calvary) - 8
Isaac Balyejusa (Luweero United) - 8
Marvin Kavuma (Nec) - 8
Latif Senkubuge (Kataka) - 8
Ezra Kaye (Kyetume) - 7