- Soccer. The Azam Uganda Premier League second round starts this afternoon 10 days after the end of the mid-season break. SCORE’s Elvis Senono break down the effect of the clubs’ transfer activities vis-à-vis their ambitions at both ends of the table.
The champions find themselves in unfamiliar territory having led at the halfway point in each of the past two seasons on their way to back to back titles.
They however only trail SC Villa by three points and are only three points worse than they were at this stage last season. They also had a similar number of points at this stage in 2015 as they won the 2016 crown.
The presence of coach Mike Mutebi remains a huge stabilizing factor despite another player turnover in the transfer window.
Solomon Okwalinga, Thomas Ikara, Hassan Musana, Abubaker Matsiko, Steven Sserwadda and Herbert Achai (both from the KCCA junior side) are the players Mutebi is looking at to deliver victory.
Despite being less experienced than previous sides, Mutebi is adamant he can win the title.
The 16-time league champions have over the past three seasons assembled squads good enough to win league titles only to self-destruct. Under their seventh coach in three years however the Jogoos look to have found stability under Wasswa Bbosa and Paul Mukatabala.
What would have been another massive player turnover was replaced this time with three calculated additions.
Goalkeeper Yusuf Wasswa from Masavu will provide backup to Samson Kirya and Sam Kivumbi while left back Arthur Kiggundu should deputize for John Adriko.
Davis Kasirye was the high profile addition having joined on a six month loan from Zambian champions Zesco joining a striking line of George Ssenkaaba, Yubu Bogere and Alex Kitatta that combined for seven first round league goals.
It is thus tempting for Villa fans whose team last won the league in 2004 to believe this is their year. They also have history on their side with the last three teams to lead at the halfway point going on to win the league title.
The return to fitness of Halid Lwalirwa could turn out to be their best “addition” with the defender having missed the first round after undergoing knee surgery.
Vipers conceded 11 goals, five and two goals worse than the top two sides.
The addition of Daniel “Mzee” Sserunkuma should supplement Milton Karisa’s seven goals with Tony Odur and Erisa Sekisambu out of sorts in the first round.
The Betway and MTN backed Arua side failed to score in five of their 15 games as their strikers struggled in front of goal.
Yafesi Mubiru and John Kisakye have been brought in to add goals and competition alongside Ezra Bida and Karim Ndugwa for the Caterpillars that continue to rely on an unbeaten home record.
Were fast out of the blocks owing to the meticulous planning of coach Abdallah Mubiru.
Unless Norman Ogik steps up, they however appear short of scoring options following the departure Hood Kaweesa with no recognizable additions.
They will still be one of the exciting teams to watch with Pius Kagwa joining Albert Mugisa and the rejuvenated Rahmat Senfuka.
As admitted by coach Paul Nkata, this is the start of another rebuilding process following a slow start under Ibrahim Kirya.
A decent first round sees the newly promoted side start the second round in the top half of the table. Defensive midfielder Emmanuel Olinga is expected to add more grit to a team that has added steel to Asaph Mwebaze’s preferred free-flowing football.
With only nine points separating the bottom nine teams every one of Bright Stars, Mbarara, Soana, Kirinya, Bul, and Proline could still be dragged into the relegation dogfight.
Just over a decade ago, Sam Simbwa was hired to save the sinking Express ship, a task he handled with admiration after replacing Ibrahim Buwembo.
11 years later, Shafik Bisaso is expected to accomplish a similar task after replacing Deo Bamweyana.
Where Simbwa had the likes of Morley Byekwaso, Kassim Kasawuli and the silky skills of dimunitive Hamza Ssemwogerere, Bisaso will look to Michael Birungi, Alfred Leku and Joseph Ssemujju.
The last two were among the six mid-term additions that included Ayub Kisaliita, Isaac Kisujju Jalil Zimula and Shafik Kakeeto.
The Entebbe based side have gone for experience in a bid to stave off the relegation monster. Patrick Ssenfuka, Arthur Ssemazi, Simon Nnamwanja, James Kasibante and Abubaker Tabula.