Mbale has new Heroes

Mbale stadium was packed to the rafters. PHOTOS/FRED MWAMBU 

What you need to know:

Over the past three seasons that culminated in navigating the BetPawa Big League, The Surgeons suffered relegation and missed promotion by a single goal. 

Mbale City came alive to the vibrant sounds and scenes of the famous Kadodi drums and dance as Mbale Heroes marked their triumphant return to the StarTimes Uganda Premier League after an 17-year absence.

Mbale secured their spot with a 2-1 victory over Onduparaka, capping off a challenging three-season journey. 

Over the past three that culminated in navigating the BetPawa Big League, The Surgeons suffered relegation and missed promotion by a single goal. 

All this was preparing them for a perfect Sunday for a team that has a proud history that includes winning the Stanbic Uganda Cup twice in 1976 (as Gangama United) and 1999. 

Enroute the latter success, Mbale Heroes eliminated SC Villa 3-1 in the semifinals before overcoming Lyantonde in the final.

Those 90s were memorable for the huge number of fans that this team garnered and often brought the eastern Uganda town to a standstill especially when they played any one of Villa, Express or KCCA.   

That is what everyone associated with the club and Ugandan football will want to replicate as they reclaim their place in the top tier following their relegation in 2006-07. Welcome Back! 

The triumph is also a cause for celebration for the larger football-mad fans from the wider region. They are still coming to terms from the relegation of Busoga United and Gaddafi from the topflight.

Relatedly, Jinja North were also sent down from the second division.

On the penultimate day, Lugazi and Mbale both needed victories in  their final matches at home to secure promotion.

And the two did just that on a day when their only chasers Onduparaka and Kataka misfired.

Kataka faced a minor accident before their 2-0 loss to Calvary in Yumbe, while Onduparaka expended pre-match energy drafting a missive to Fufa to prevent any unfair play by Mbale.

There was a lot of funfair. 

Fair and square 

However, all that was in vain as Mbale rose to the heroic occasion to win the match fair and square to the satisfaction of the Caterpillars.

Faisal Abaasi curled in a beautiful free kick just before halftime, with midfielder Daniel Shabena adding a second in the 70th minute to seal the historic win.

Onduparaka threatened to spoil Mbale’s party after James Jarieko’s 85th-minute strike but it was not enough to cause an upset.

Lugazi also used their chances well at home to beat Kaaro Karungi 2-0 courtesy of Sam Ssemugugu and Ronald Ssempala’s goals in the first half. 

The result sent the Lugazi side up in just their second year after earning promotion to the second division from the Buganda Regional League.

With Police, Lugazi, and Mbale going up, Kyetume, Young Elephants, and Jinja North United were relegated to their respective regional leagues. 

Ndejje University also exited the league after withdrawing midway through the season.


BetPawa Big League 

Results 

Mbale Heroes 2-1 Onduparaka

Lugazi 2-0 Kaaro Karungi

Calvary 2-0 Kataka

Blacks Power 1-0 Kiyinda Boys

Police 2-0 Kigezi Home Boyz

Booma 4-2 Young Elephant