The yardstick for measuring the magnitude of a football club can polarise opinion. In Uganda like is the case elsewhere anyway, there is no standard gauge to determine which club is bigger than another.
Yes, we know the traditional VEK (Villa, Express KCC) clubs and the sides that have passed the test of time like Prisons (Maroons) and Simba (UPDF).
The latter two are gargantuan names whose introverted profiles in recent years have starkly contrasted the inheritance the teams built more than four decades ago.
SC Villa, it is well-documented, are Uganda’s most successful club with a record 16 league titles and two finals appearances in Caf continental competitions.
But the club, which retains an admirable fan base, has been living on former glories. The club still have no home of their own and it is arguable whether the Jogoos have made any significant stride towards professionalism since the Magid Musisi heyday.
The less said of Express the better. The Red Eagles, unlike SC Villa, have a home of their own but the team’s unending directionless leadership has constrained the club’s advancement.
Like SC Villa, Express are riding and living on former glories. The present day picture is at best hazy.
Of the VEK teams, KCCA are the exception.
The League and Cup champions have in recent years reformed their house, built a fairly decent home ground and succeeded in leveraging on the Executive Director Jennifer Musisi and Authority to attract sponsorship money and make a structured organisation.
KCCA have perfected the small details of empowering and making departments functional and the gains have been visible.
Today KCCA are at the peak of Ugandan football because they have worked to get there. It is not accidental. It is on merit.
The club is however threatened by Vipers. And it is not because the last team to win the Uganda Premier League not called KCCA was Vipers.
From the day it dawned on Lawrence Mulindwa to reform the club’s management team, the Kitende-based team have not looked back.
In fact the showdown in Ugandan football today is between Vipers and KCCA on and off the pitch.
The two are the richest clubs; one steered by a billionaire using his clout to attract big sponsorship deals to the club, the other an institutional side backed by the authority of the capital city with official advantages in luring corporate support.
KCCA has the edge over Vipers thanks to a history that dates to five decades back. History is built, not bought.
Vipers though hold the edge in the race to attract new fans to football. Thanks to St Mary’s Kitende and the strip of Entebbe Road yearning for a belonging to the beautiful game, Vipers have done a fine job of growing their red brand.
KCCA for all their recent trophies have struggled to attract fans.
Where Vipers scores a decisive KO is the imposing St Mary’s Stadium, which is quite easily the best non-hired football ground in the Uganda Premier League.
It is also worth noting that while there are plans to expand St Mary’s Stadium, there is no room to make the StarTimes Stadium at Lugogo bigger.
This week Vipers added dfcu Bank to their list of sponsors, who include Hima Cement and Roofings for an aggregate of Shs1.43b. KCCA on the other hand have StarTimes, Britam, Prime Media and MTN who altogether are giving them a cumulative Shs6.64b. The mathematics favours KCCA to go with its rich history and the four league titles over the last five years.
But no team in the league has undergone the renaissance we are witnessing like Vipers.
St Mary’s Stadium has changed the dynamics greatly. The challenge now for Vipers is transforming all those off-pitch gains into results.
There is a big chasm between being potentially number one and actually being number one.
That is the headache for coach Miguel Da Costa whose start to the season has been lukewarm.