New-look Villa pursue fourth Cecafa title

Hakim Kiwanuka is among those charged with helping the new players adapt. PHOTO/JOHN BATANUDDE 

What you need to know:

For starters, skipper Kenneth Ssemakula, defender Garvin Kizito, left winger Joseph Kafumbe, forward Umar Lutalo and youngster Abbas Kyeyune have since sought greener pastures elsewhere. 
 

As long as they still have the StarTimes Uganda Premier League Most Valuable Player (MVP) Patrick Kakande and best midfielder Ronald Ssekiganda, three-time Cecafa Kagame cup winners SC Villa can still dream big. 

Dusan Stojanovic's Jogoos arrived in Tanzania in search of the fourth Cecafa title minus five key members that helped them win the 17th league title in May. 

The Serbian is unfazed with their absence as he prepares his team to take on South Sudan side El Merriek-Bentiu on Tuesday at the Azam Complex in Chamazi in Group C. 

For starters, skipper Kenneth Ssemakula, defender Garvin Kizito, left winger Joseph Kafumbe, forward Umar Lutalo and youngster Abbas Kyeyune have since sought greener pastures elsewhere. 

" We lost our captain and other players but life continues in football. Some players come and others go, that is a life process, " Stojanovic revealed. 

Six new faces have since joined the Jogoos - Simon Kato Semayange and Denis Kaka Omony (both joined from Soltilo Bright Stars), Isaac Mpagi (Maroons), Geoffrey Lubangakene (Mbale Heroes), Najib Yiga (Kitara) and Johnson Senyonga (Jinja North) - to fill the void. 

Apart from fighting to win Group C that has APR FC from Rwanda, Singida Blacks Stars FC of Tanzania and El Merriekh – Bentiu, and winning the title, the Serbian gaffer is using the tournament as a curtain raiser for the Caf Champions League duty due in September. 

"This tournament will prepare us for Caf. We are here to represent Uganda and also to show that SC Villa are still giants despite being absent for a while, " he added. 

The 1987, 2003 and 2005 winners had gone 19 years without playing at the tournament. 

Tough journey

The inconsistent tournament was ridiculed when East African giants like Yanga and Simba (Tanzania) withdrew and defending champions Express chose to stay away but Stojanovic believes there is still tangible competition. 

"Our group is competitive and all teams have an advantage. There are still big teams in other groups like Kenyan champions Gor Mahia, Red Arrows of Zambia and Coastal Union that will give us a challenge, " the amiable Serbian said. 

Like in the league last season, Villa will have to accomplish the assignment without a reliable goal poacher as the three striking options - Charles Lwanga, Junior Niwamanya and Andrew Otim are still unproven. 

The Jogoos will bank on Kakande, Hakim Kiwanuka, Regan Mpande and Mpanga to weigh in with goals and assists. 

The top teams in each group plus the best placed team in second place qualify for the semifinals.

The tournament will be held from July 9-21 at Azam Complex in Chamazi and KMC Stadium in Kinondoni.

Cecafa Kagame Cup

Tuesday at 6pm 

SC Villa vs. Al Merrick-Bentiu,  Azam Complex 

Groups

Group A: Coastal Union, Al Wadi, JKU, Dekadeha

Group B: Al Hilal, Gor Mahia, Red Arrows, Telecom 

Group C: SC Villa, APR, Singida Black Stars, El- Merriekh

SC Villa squad in Tanzania

Goalkeepers: Jeans Braddy Wokorach, Meddie Kibirige, Norman Angufindru

Defenders: Arnold Odong, David Owori, Kato Semayange, Denis Kaka Omony, Edward Masembe, Cyrus Kibande, Geoffrey Lubangakene.

Midfielders: Ronald Ssekiganda, Atukunda Tonny, Elvis Ngonde, Najib Yiga, Patrick Jonah Kakande, Johnson Senyonga, Reagan Mpande, Isaac Mpagi, Peter Onzima, Aslam Semakula, Hakim Kiwanuka, Diego Missi Ssemugera

Strikers: Charles Lwanga, Junior Niwamanya and Andrew Otim