Villa Park, Nsambya
Villa Park, just below Nsambya Police Barracks, is the spiritual training ground of Uganda’s most successful club - SC Villa. The atmosphere there was serene after the morning’s downpour yesterday, with 30 players reporting for pre-season training.
A handful fans braved the chills to watch the training. The players were a happy lot too, nodding to every word as club chairperson Fred Muwema addressed them. The mood got even better as they went about the drills with coach Srdjan Zivojnov and his staff. But with the 16-time Uganda Super League champions up to reclaim the trophy they last hoisted in 2005, Villa Park players can expect a heated campaign. “We have assembled a squad we believe will win us the title,” Villa director of football Joseph Kanaaba told the team. “And competition is going to be high, so don’t expect to just have a walk in the park. We shall not only challenge for the title, we want to win it beautifully by entertaining our fans.”
In that regard, the Blues have bolstered their midfield with Noah Ssemakula and Moses Ndawula (both from Express), Fred Muhumuza (Victors), Patrick Ssenfuka (Water) and Terry Etumba (Congo).
The defence has been boosted with goalkeeper Benjamin Ochan (Victors) and defender Ayub Kisalita (Bunnamwaya), with last season’s runner-up league scorer with 11, Herman Wasswa (Masaka), and Masaza Cup top scorer with 12, Ronald Musana, hunting the goals.
There was also a surprise visitor at Villa Park, Eugene Sseppuuya, who declined to talk to the media having arrived a bit late, training with the team. “Now he is just training with us. Something could happen but we don’t want to jeopardise talks,” said Kanaaba of Romanian club FC Petrolul Ploieti striker’s presence.
Villa will send five players on loan to local clubs and have already sold forward Asuman Alishe to champions URA, and dropped Eric Obua plus Nelly Mayanja. Zivo’s men scored a paltry 22 goals in 26 matches, explaining the kind of business they have had in the transfer market. But they had the best defence, conceding just 11 times.
“This business of draws should stop,” said Muwema of the nine draws last season. “We are Villa and we should be beating everyone. “This season you (players) will be under more pressure, the coach will be under pressure, the board is also under pressure. But we have the resources to challenge for the title.”
While Zivo understands the task ahead, he remains guarded when talking about the title chances. “Villa is a big club with big expectations,” he said, “But we will wait and see. This is our first training and we have over eight new players.
“We’ll see how they fit in and how best they can adapt. I have two months with them before our first match. I will have a clear picture then. But I expect a better season,” added the man who rescued a sinking ship when he joined mid last campaign.
Villa open their 2011/12 campaign away to Masaka on August 20, 12 days after the official league kick-off. KCC, Bunnamwaya, Victors and Villa’s kick-off was delayed as the bulk of their players will be involved with the under 23 team in All Africa Games in Maputo, Mozambique. According to Kanaaba, they will use that delay for pre-season friendlies against Yanga, Simba and another yet-to-be confirmed Tanzanian side.