Twenty or so years ago, the off-season headlines would be dominated by acrimonious transfers and speculation around the best players in Uganda.
Followers of the game will recall the drama that involved Geoffrey Bukohore’s switch from Express to SC Villa, Jamil Kyambadde’s move to KCC (now KCCA) from Express and Hassan Mubiru’s sensational deal from SC Villa to Express.
Those were the days. The game of football, then, mostly owned the headlines for footballing reasons.
This year’s off-season in stark contrast to seasons gone by has been a tale of the leadership malaise at two of the country’s biggest clubs SC Villa and Express. SC Villa was thrown into uncertainty when Immanuel Ben Misagga resigned after four years at the helm.
Whatever the reasons for his sudden quitting, Misagga can be credited for keeping the club afloat albeit in one of the leanest periods in the club’s decorated history.
When he took over, the club was still smarting from the controversial ownership and legality issue that had since taken a back seat – without exactly being readily addressed.
For a while, there were strands of a lack of acceptance for ‘Misagga’s Villa’ as it was referred to but once the political feuding diminished, there was reluctant if not unanimous approval that Villa was now being run by one of its most passionate fans.
Most of the old guard of Villa watched events at the club from afar and while the team did not win the league – they only lifted the Uganda Cup in the 2015 final that was staged twice, at least they competed in every championship until the wire.
Misagga’s Villa was competitive and even represented somewhat well on the African continent in the 2016 Caf Confederations Cup but the club’s limitations were brutally exposed in a 7-1 aggregate annihilation by Moroccan side Fus Rabat.
This week, a team of seven, including former defender William Nkemba, was announced to lead the team on interim basis and preside over a free and fair electoral process to choose new leadership at the 16-time league champions.
That same team has been tasked to manage the club, oversee player recruitment in this period and steady the ship for the Nsambya-based club. Once upon a time, SC Villa was a club for whom winning was a habit. The art of being triumphant was part of the club’s DNA.
Today, the club is a long way off from the good old times.
Back then, SC Villa attracted the best players in the country. Today champions Vipers and Uganda Cup winners KCCA are the beautiful girls in town every man wants to date.
To regain that status as the pre-eminent club of today, SC Villa have a lot of work to do. For instance Vipers and KCCA own homes of their own that have defined their identity as 21st century outfits.
SC Villa have wandered all over the place – from Nakivubo (God bless its soul) to Mityana to Namboole to Masaka to Wankulukuku and back to God knows where.
The issue of a home ground owned by the club will perhaps be the overriding priority for the new leadership that will be elected sometime later this year or early next year.
Villa, in fairness, have started from somewhere. With the old guard deeply concerned and Fufa president Moses Magogo an avowed SC Villa supporter, there is reason for cautious optimism.
Express meanwhile was a laughing stock for most of last season and only survived relegation on the final day of the season.
As one of Uganda’s oldest clubs, the travails of the 2017-18 campaign are a dark chapter that no so many Red Eagles fans want to remember.
So what next?
There will never be a better time for the club to put its house in order. Express fans do love their club and even the ones not frequenting league matches these days keenly follow developments of the ‘Mukwano Gwa Bangi.’
Last season’s turbulent campaign allowed the club the opportunity to galvanise itself from a position of hopelessness.
It would be foolhardy of the Red Eagles were the club to undergo another nail-biting campaign in 2018-19. Ugandan football needs a strong SC Villa and Express.
But if they do fail to adjust to the prevalent trends of modernity, the game will leave them.
Today, Vipers and KCCA are streets ahead.