Kyetume: A turbulent journey of triumphs, controversies... then relegation

Club president Mubiru is on the ground, for now. PHOTOS/JOHN BATANUDDE 

What you need to know:

They also held sponsorship partnerships with Melbet and 1xbet as we’ll realise in Mubiru’s extensive interview.

Kyetume’s exit from the BetPawa Fufa Big League highlights the challenges facing top-flight football in Uganda.

The club that arrived with pomp and glamour in 2017, has retreated into obscurity.

Despite their deficiencies on the field, their club president Reuben Mubiru Kaggwa believes that off-field politics played a significant role in their downfall, with over a billion shillings spent without returns.

Kyetume’s Slaughters live by the sword, and proverbially speaking, they’re dying by it. They will bid farewell this weekend at their home in Nakisunga with a game against  Blacks Power. 

Kyetume, along with Young Elephants and Jinja North, were relegated from the second tier before the final round. 

Storied journey

Kyetume is believed to be amongst the oldest football clubs in Uganda. Originating from Kyetume, a township in Mukono District in the Central Region, the team started early in the 1970s.

Kyetume started as Lufula FC, a club formed by the butchers of the famous Kyetume abattoir for recreation.

The interests grew as the community admired their neighbouring Mukono Soccer Club and Seeta Express clubs.

Around 1975, the abattoir operators and the businesses that surrounded them pulled heads together and agreed a small daily fee to be paid by all to run the club.

Lufula eventually started competitive football in 1977 but waited for four years before qualifying for the topflight. There, they had made some inroads in the Stanbic Uganda Cup.

In their good days, Kyetume hired ex-Cranes star Jackson Mayanja. 

They made their debut in 1981 where they finished tenth in the 17-team league avoiding relegation by only two points.

The Slaughters survived relegation by a whisker for two more seasons but eventually fell in 1984.

Unfortunately, around that time, the country fell into the Liberation War that brought in President Yoweri Museveni and the National Resistance Army/Movement into power.

Lufula, that had rebranded to Kyetume, were a casualty as the abattoir business was affected until its temporary collapse in the early 1990s.

Saviour with aspirations

The revival of Kyetume took over 25 years until Reuben Mubiru Kaggwa came to the rescue. Mubiru, a lifelong supporter, joined the club in 2015 and spearheaded their promotion to the Big League in 2017.

“I wanted to come and resurrect this club, take it a step further because I grew up supporting it and knew it had a lot of potential,” Mubiru, the current club president, said.

Mubiru joined the club ranks around 2015 and by 2017 they beat Nsaagu 4-1 in a Buganda Regional Final played at the Uganda Martyrs’ playground in Ssonde.

Kyetume qualified for the 2017/18 Fufa Big League alongside Kabale Sharp, Agape SS and Ntinda United. Kyetume was the only side from that lot that is still surviving.

Promised Land

Kyetume’s dreams grew bigger. The team went in for top-drawer names in coaches Alex Isabirye and later Charles Livingstone Mbabazi and his deputy Augustine Nsumba.

Mbabazi almost delivered them to the Promised Land after guiding them into the 2017/18 Fufa Big League semifinal playoffs but lost to Kitara.

That was just the beginning. The club president Mubiru broke the bank to bring in coach Jackson ‘Mia Mia’ Mayanja and Allan Kabonge to fulfill his dream.

Mayanja was famed for bringing URA into the topflight while Kabonge had mastered the art of promotion after guiding Aurum Roses, Onduparaka, Masavu and Paidha Black Angels before then.

Mubiru also went for the experienced legs of Patrick Ochan, Owen Kasule, Elukhana Nkugwa, Benon Tahomera, Godfrey Buni and Robert Ssentongo.

The latter scored a hattrick as they beat Kansai Plascon 4-1 in the playoffs to earn the big promotion.

They were promoted alongside Proline and Wakiso Giants.

Struggles begin

Kyetume had not just arrived, they wanted to stay longer. All the three teams that beat them to promotion in their maiden season in the Big League –Ndejje University, Nyamityobora and Paidha Black Angels- went down as soon as they arrived.

Former league top scorer Robert Ssentongo. 

To avoid that, Mubiru made an overhaul of his squad by recruiting fifteen players.

They included veterans like Jonathan Mugabi, Isaac Kirabira from KCCA and duo of Julius Ntambi and Sam Senkoomi from Express.

There were some emerging talents like Joel Mutakubwa and Noel Nasasira as well.

That recruitment and a covid-induced break helped them finish at a decent ninth position with 30 points from 24 games.

However, the reality set in. the Slaughters died from their own sword. The team was relegated in 2021 with Myda and Kitara.

Courting trouble

There was an allegation of the club involving in match fixing or at least a number of players implicated.

They had started the season well with a shocking 1-0 win ove SC Villa but things turned south midway.

The club let go of coach George Nsiimbe and a number of players. Among the cases pointed out was their bizarre 7-1 loss to Onduparaka in Arua.

“There’s too much surrounding this because it is a wider racket but we tried to fight it as a club by suspending players; but again the same players we punished were called to the national team without the federation inquiring why the club suspended them,” Mubiru told this publication as part of a tell-it-all exclusive interview that will run in the coming days.

Kyetume’s other problem was a lack of a facility to host their games around their locality. That forced them to hop from Jinja SSS to Njeru turf before returning to Nakisunga in Kyetume.

The facility was upgraded thanks to their Shs140m sponsorship with RoseFoam Mattresses.

They also held sponsorship partnerships with Melbet and 1xbet as we’ll realise in Mubiru’s extensive interview.

A controversial return

Despite these challenges, Kyetume focussed on their comeback. Coach David Mutono, who had been on-and-off throughout their journey was handed the task. 

Mutono chased Blacks Power, Maroons and Kataka in a four-horse race to the end. Mutono’s efforts paid off, albeit in dramatic fashion, as they beat Kataka 3-2 in Mbale to squeeze in.

The fixture was marred by pre- and post-match chaos. Kyetume only left the pitch and Mbale City under the protection of heavily guarded policemen. 

They live to tell their harrowing tales another day. Kataka was only slapped on the wrist with a stadium ban and docked points.

Cries foul

Despite securing their promotion, their woes were far from over.

In August 2022, Fufa announced that the club had been relegated to the regional league after failing to fulfill the minimum requirements in the Club Licensing.

“By August 12, 2022, Kyetume FC had only three players registered on the Fufa Connect System. A minimum of 18 players is required to be on the system.

“The club’s readiness to take part in the FUFA organised competitions is not satisfactory,” Fufa stated.

Kyetume appealed the decision and was allowed to play in the Big League instead.

Kyetume line against Vipers in in 2020. 

“It’s very hard to beat the system because they will do everything within their means to frustrate you with laws and if you excel, they’ll follow you to the pitch with the whistle,” Mubiru says.

Kyetume survived relegation by eight points last season but their days were numbered.

They have been relegated to the regional league even before playing their last fixture against Blacks Power on Sunday.

Mubiru wonders why Fufa is hell-bent on relegating four teams when the system can only promote four from the regional. There's currently a deficit of one club.

This anomaly in the 15-team odd league composition is a result of the spillover effect of Kyetume’s premature relegation from the topflight last season.

In the current football settings, only Mbale Heroes has managed to return to the second division after facing relegation to the regional league. Kyetume can borrow a leaf from Mbale Heroes.

Heroes, who marked their return to the Uganda Premier League after 17 years last week are the only other side besides champions Villa, Express, KCCA and Maroons that played in the 1981 league in which Kyetume, then called Lufula, debuted in the topflight. 

Will Kyetume bounce back?

BETPAWA BIG LEAGUE

Weekend’s fixtures - 4pm 

Jinja North vs. Lugazi - Bugembe

Kigezi Home Boyz vs. Booma - Kabale

Kataka vs. Police - Mbale

Onduparaka vs. Calvary - Arua

Kiyinda Boys vs. Mbale Heroes - Betharm City

Kyetume vs. Blacks Power - Nakisunga Ssaza

Profile

Name: Kyetume Football Club

Nickname: The Slaughters

Founded: Mid 1970s

Homeground: Nakisunga Ssaza grounds

President/Main funder: Reuben Mubiru Kaggwa

Seasons in UPL: 2019/20 & 2020/21

Seasons in FBL: 2017/18, 2018/19, 2021/22, 2022/23 & 2023/24