Life has never been unpredictable at Mbarara City as it is expected this season.
The whole length of Masaka Road right from Busega up to the mountains of Kabale are represented by Mbarara City in the StarTimes Uganda Premier League since Nyamityobora and Masaka LC threw the baton to the milkmen. Yet this season could rob their den of some pride.
Mbarara City have been a middle-table club since they were promoted to the top flight in 2017. The fans can hope for the best given the fact that the Ankole Lions will have a sense of stability.
Apart from Ivan Eyamu and Bashir Mutanda, most of the key players have stayed with the team. Continuity should not be a problem for the side that finished seventh last season.
Cause for concern
Five years in the top flight, Mbarara City are still work in progress. The marketing department has attempted to tick all boxes raking in millions through sponsorship deals mainly Top Bet and 9 Barrels.
But with business low, Top Bet are not expected to continue supporting the club.
Mbarara City’s Achilles heel has been the technical team that has slow men at work. This is obviously because of the one-man syndrome synonymous at all individual-owned clubs.
This season in particular exposed their flaws after the deal of Kefa Kisala fell through at the last minute and they opted for Hussein Mbalangu as they weighed their options.
Insiders reveal that club owner Mwine Mpaka disagreed with Kisala over “roles that were beyond the coach”.
It is understood that one of those roles is about signing players. Kisala had reportedly taken six players to Mbarara in the hope that they would join him. But they were bounced with him.
A calm man, Mbalangu is a conventional trainer, whose magical combination with Joseph Kiwanuka worked wonders as Arua Hills was promoted on the first time of asking to the Uganda premier League.
Paradoxically, we shall never know in detail why the overambitious Arua Hills owner Joel Aita wielded the axe to call time on Mbalangu’s short reign.
What we know is that the big man was not impressed with Mbalangu’s tactical approach. Never mind the reported intrigue at the Arua-based club.
Mbalangu had to eat a humble pie paving the way for Livingstone Mbalangu, who had actually recommended him for the job in Arua.
He is now a manager eager to prove a point and Kakyeka Stadium will provide the gigantic task to secure a long-term contract. But Mbarara city’s approach, either to buy or groom, has in most parts depended on the coach in the hot seat.
Mbalangu’s approach at Arua Hills was of a spendthrift, buying all he could to assemble a pack of veterans at the new club. At Mbarara, he does not have this luxury as business has been slow in part due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. For how long he can cling on the purse of Hon Mpaka is the big question of the season.
The Lions have meekly raided the transfer market with the arrivals of such players as Frank Kalule and Innocent Wafula.
The biggest news of course is the contract extension of midfielder Solomon Okwalinga and forward Jude Ssemugabi as well as the continued stay of their rock in defence Hillary Mukundane.
Paradoxically, players like Brian Ahebwa and Ibrahim Orit came to the national team after leaving Mbarara for other teams!
Mbalangu will earn his way into the heart of the Mbarara City faithful the hard way. For the fans, they can hold modest expectations as the team has men at work.