- SOCCER. As has often been the case, there has been a huge turnover of players at Champions KCCA, Vipers and record 16-time league champions SC Villa ahead of the 2017/2018 Azam Uganda Premier League season.
- With the league season starting on Tuesday (Sept 12), SCORE’S ELVIS SENONO breaks down the effect of their transfer activities and the rest of the 13 clubs in the top division.
The 12-time league champions start as favourites to clinch a third straight crown mainly because of the organizational and tactical ability of manager Mike Mutebi who has guided the club to the past two titles.
A number of experienced players. have departed but none will be felt as much as that of Geoffrey Sserunkuma.
The striker plundered 21 goals before the club let his contract run out and subsequent move to Zambia. The nearest challengers at the club were Derrick Nsibambi who added seven while Muzamir Mutyaba and Robert Sentongo contributed six goals each.
The latter also moved on and Mutebi is still struggling to fill those goal scoring boots having spent the better part of the off-season trying out various forwards.
Last season’s Big League top scorer and former Kira Young marksman Patrick Kaddu who scored 16 goals for Maroons looks the best option of all those Mutebi has tried out.
He also scored eight times in the 2015/2016 season as Maroons were relegated.
The last team to win the league before KCCA’s two year dominance is desperate to reclaim league honours.That 2015 title was largely dependent on the single mindedness of forward Farouk Miya and Vipers have struggled to find a replacement.
Congolese import Moussa Mbayi and former Edgars’ young forward Stephen Mukwala will compete with Tony Odur and Erisa Ssekisambu who scored 12 and six goals respectively for starting berths upfront.
It is the midfield department where Portuguese coach Jorge Da Costa is spoilt for choice. There were high profile additions in Tadeo Lwanga and Tom Masiko from rivals Villa and KCCA respectively.
Moses Waiswa, Frank ‘Zaga’ Tumwesigye, Deus Bukenya, Hassan Kalega, Brian Nkuubi, Mike Sserumaga and Duncan Sseninde will provide stiff competition as the club seeks to avoid last season’s self-implosion.
Da Costa was the third coach to take charge last season with Abdallah Mubiru and Richard Wasswa also taking turns in the hot seat. Proprietor Lawrence Mulindwa could do with more stability.
Like Vipers, managerial stability seems to have eluded the club over the past three seasons. They have competed with the eventual winners over that period before running out of steam in the latter stages.
Another busy off-season has seen the recruitment of Simon Sserunkuma, Allan Kyambadde, Musa Mukasa and Mahad Kakooza all from Express with as many heading in the opposite direction.
George Senkaaba and Nicholas Kasozi will be tasked to fill the huge void left by Emma Okwi and Lwanga as they seek a first title since winning their 16th in 2004.
The fourth most successful side with four titles the last of which coming in 2011. They have not really looked like increasing that tally despite always assembling some of the best squads. This year is no different but the presence of coach Ibrahim Kirya should help improve their defense.
Upfront they will require experienced strikers Henry Kisekka and Bokota Labama to hit the ground running.
Surprised even themselves with a fifth place finish and will again rely on a boisterous home crowd to make the Betway Greenlight Stadium a fortress having never lost a league game in Arua.
Winger Vianney Ssekajugo and striker Ezra Bida will add pace and excitement to an attack that was bolstered by Karim Ndugwa and the return of Alfred Leku.
Holding onto Muhammad Shaban and Rashid Toha will make them more competitive although talk of a title seeems a little far fetched.
The 2005 champions survived relegation by a whisker and have undergone wholesome changes both on and off the pitch. Coach Abdallah Mubiru is unlikely to have a better opportunity to showcase his ability having assembled what appears a well balanced side that includes Juma Balinya, Gift Ali, Yasin Mugume and new kid on the block Albert Mugisa.
Five coaches in a season hardly represents stability yet the club have done well to maintain topflight league status since earning promotion in 2014 relying mostly on experience.
New coach Shafik Bisaso has kept in line with the approach signing Owen Kasule and Mike Kawooya from Kirinya-Jinja.
Six-time winners and champions only five years ago, the club are a far cry from the side that powered their way to the title under Sam Simbwa.
They start the season in shambles with head coach Mathias Lule throwing in the towel citing unpaid wages and following in the footsteps of almost last season’s first team. Their sponsorship under Dstv also remains clouded in mystery like the tenure of chairperson Florence Nakiwala thus far.
The big spenders from the east surprisingly flirted with relegation but should stabilise under the stewardship of Kefa Kisala. The coach is looking to rebuild his reputation after a failed stint at URA.
Defender Yusuf Mukisa and former captain Patrick Asiku remain the most high profile additions for the club still searching for a decent striker.
An impressive second round performance saw the Jinja side pick six wins having failed to pick three points in the entire first round.
The shrewd Charles Ayieko should make it more comfortable for the club that can also rely on national schools champions Jinja SS as their feeder team.
Plenty of behind the scenes work for the Mwererwe-based side who reportedly went the entire season without paying wages. Japan legend Keisuke Honda is reportedly set to bankroll the club with unofficial reports indicating a merger with relegated Big League side Hope Doves.
The biggest positive could however come in retaining coach Fred Kajoba who somehow always manages to field competitive teams.
Steered clear of relegation last season banking on several experienced players although they will start the season without many of them including Dennis Makoba, Gift Ali, Yusuf Mukisa and Nelson Ssenkatuka among others.
Have done well to maintain their identity and will look to the new Nigerian legion to plug the gaps left.
The biggest talking point from their off-season has been the change of name from Saints to UPDF for the team coached by Cranes tactician Moses Basena. They will be dependant on Julius Malingumu’s goals.
Coach Asaph Mwebaze has again threatened to resign with the Prison funded club again stalling on recruitments after winning the Big League.
They have lost two of their best players in topscorer Patrick Kaddu and goalkeeper Jamil Malyamungu who have gone to KCCA.
The newly promoted western regional side will have shs200m as starting point from betting company Top Bet.
They are however likely to struggle despite retaining the experienced Richard Makumbi as coach.
Anthony Kimuli bought the newly promoted Entebbe-based club from Tony Sozzi but unless the former Entebbe FC supremo improves his team management, the club could make an immediate return to the Big League.
Alex Isabirye threw in the towel even before taking charge of a competitive game before the club turned their heads to his namesake Gitta.