With the 2016-17 Ugandan football season drawing to a close, focus is as much at the top as it is at the bottom where teams are fighting for survival in the Azam Uganda Premier League.
And with the championship of the top flight league decided in KCCA’s favour, focus has been shifted to the new entrants of the 2017-18 season.
Maroons, Masavu and Mbarara City will join 13 other teams next season to compete in the Uganda Premier League
While Maroons returned to the topflight having been a top division club a few years ago (they were also a household name in the 80s) and Masavu have been rewarded for their near-shave in the playoffs last season, it is Mbarara City’s promotion that will excite fans and neutrals alike.
Thanks to the Onduparaka effect, there is a nationwide yearning for teams from upcountry and the craze that comes with their unique identity.
Football in Uganda has reached a point where the dominance of clubs within or nearby the capital is not exactly doing the game good.
The game can’t continue running on the wheels of the passion of fans in Kampala, Wakiso, Buikwe and Jinja alone. There is a lot more in interest, talent and appeal for the beautiful game that soccer is.
And after all some of the outstanding players in recent times did not hone their game in Kampala - an example being Hakim Magumba.
The rise of Mbarara will no doubt generate excitement in a town that has as much buzz as Kampala. The mushrooming economy there should help the team nurture good players while attracting talent from elsewhere.
Mbarara City would do well to study the model of Onduparaka and seek to emulate the West Nilers. Onduparaka Football Club is something akin to a religion in West Nile; a culture whose ripples have been felt in the capital city.
League football needs formidable teams in the far-flung regions of the country. In most football set-ups world over teams are scattered in towns all over the country.
It would do our game no harm if there was a community club in each of Mbale, Gulu, Mbarara, Hoima, Arua and Lira for instance.
Mbarara City has come and their management must appreciate that surviving in topflight football is not choir practice. Staying in the Uganda Premier League is a lot harder than qualifying to get there.
For now their priority should be emulating Onduparaka whose first season in the league has been a fairytale story that will probably end in a decent mid-table finish.