KCCA vs JMC Hippos, P.Omondi Stadium-Lugogo (4:00 pm) live on Azam TV

Bul vs Proline, Kakindu Stadium-Jinja (4:30pm)

Express vs Lweza, Wankulukuku Sadium

Kirinya Jinja vs URA, Bugembe Stadium-Jinja

Police vs SC Villa, Kavumba R.Grounds

Vipers SC vs Bright Stars, Nakivubo Stadium

Onduparaka vs Soana, Green Light Stadium-Arua

The Saints vs Sadolin Paints, Bombo Barracks Grounds

Sponsorship deals have been signed, and season and club membership cards launched. Some coaches and players, too, have since changed loyalties.

KCCA, who also launched a season ticket worth Shs300,000, have led the way in the build-up to the 2016/2017 Azam Uganda Premier League (UPL) season, adding Britam and Prime Media to the list of sponsors that include Star Times.

Onduparaka have also since secured a Shs180m shirt sponsorship deal with Betway, while Bright Stars announced sponsors, Lato Milk, in a two-year pact reported to be Shs130m.As if not to be left out, Hema Water joined a partnership with URA.

SC Villa, who have Star Timers on a five-year deal, managed to keep in the media by snapping musicians Winnie Nwagi, Irene Ntale and Leila Kayondo in an ambassadorial role, something Express did earlier with earlier Bobi Wine, and Vipers with radio presenter Abbey Mukiibi. We could go on and on.

Yet time for all the hype and trash talk in the media must take a break now, if only for 90 minutes.

The trigger to the new campaign goes off with eight fixtures across the country on Friday. Surely that should quench domestic football’s three-month thirst, at least for the start.

Coaches move

The season starts with some changes on the technical benches, with Abdallah Mubiru taking over at Vipers and Mujib Kasule returning to the Proline dugout due to Baker Mbowa lack of the required topflight qualification.

It is the same coaching qualification story at Onduparaka, where veteran Leo Adraa has replaced Allan Kabonge, the man who brought the Arua side to the Premier League.

Paddy Kintu, formerly of relegated Maroons, has also since moved to Lweza, where ex-SC Villa coach Ibrahim Kirya is the technical director.

Former SC Villa striker and URA coach, Alex Isabirye, has taken over at newly promoted Kirinya-Jinja SS, while Frank ‘Video’ Anyau assumes the former’s role at Bul.

Ex-Proline and KCCA Coach Abdallah Mubiru is now in charge of Vipers assisted by his former boss, George ‘Best’ Nsimbe.

Morley Byekwaso, the ex-SCVU and Simba coach, also joined his former club KCCA as manager Mike Mutebi’s assistant, replacing Sam Ssimbwa, who was sacked mid-way last season.

Cameras, lights, action

Much attention will inevitably be at the Phillip Omondi Stadium, Lugogo, where champions KCCA begin their title defence against JMC Hippos.

League newcomers, Onduparaka, at home to Soana in Arua should provide an electric atmosphere. You don’t expect less from a side that were synonymous with filling stadiums last season. They also filled their Green Light Ground duering a pre-season friendly against Maroons.

But it is not just about KCCA and Onduparaka. Eight matches are lined up on the day, with all 16 clubs in action. Below we break it down for you.

KCCA vs JMC Hippos

Knowing that pressure will be on him to both defend the title and impress in the Caf Champions League, manager Mike Mutebi went for youth and experience in his recruitment. He brought back Brian Majwega from Simba in Tanzania and Denis Rukundo (Maroons), as well as the tested legs of Vincent Kayizzi (Express) and Geoffrey Sserunkuma (Lweza). It is these and Muzamir Mutyaba in the midfield that he will rely on to hold off a James Odoch-coached JMC Hippos at Lugogo. Odoch added in his ranks Herbert Kakande, a defender acquired from Kakamega in Kenya. He will need that defence.

Bul vs Proline

Anyau has beefed up his Bul squad with prospects like Paul Mujampwani from Bugembe Junior and Tibita Hamisi from his junior side. But the experienced coach also knows that experience will come in handy, the reason he brought Edgar Lusige from Sadolin, Andrew Kalule (SCVU) and Hassan Musana from Bright Stars among others. On the other hand, Mujib Kasule has promoted a big number of youngsters from the Proline academy. He has also brought on board Farouk Musisi (Lweza), Sam Kintu (Express), defender Yusuf Mukisa (Vipers) and former KCCA striker Nelson Ssenkatuka among others. Kasule will want to secure early points to avoid early jitters when Proline travel to Kakindu in Jinja.

Express vs Lweza

The Red Eagles have an outlook of a collection centre of sorts. Coach Wasswa Bbosa’s Express have four rejects from KCCA including striker Herman Wasswa, midfield player Sam Ssenkoomi, Emmanuel Opio and Isaac Sserunkuma. Vipers’ trio of John Semazzi, Mike Mutyaba and Allan Kyambadde also form part of the otherwise experienced party that should be able to fashion a result off Lweza in the Wankulukuku derby. Yet Lweza also ooze promise having brought in veteran coach, Kintu, and Kirya from Villa. Kintu has since boosted his squad with Owen Kasule (KCCA), Karim Ndugwa and James Kasibante (all SC Villa) among others.

Kirinya Jinja vs URA

Coach Kefa Kisala’s URA take a shot trip to Bugembe Stadium to face newcomers, Kirinya-Jinja SS, knowing anything less than a trophy this season will have his employers’ heads turning. With last season’s marksman Robert Ssentongo all but out, Kisala went foreign; bringing in Bokota Kamana (Rwanda) and Nigerians Emmanuel Ibe Obina (Mathare Utd) and Harry Gentle Frank (Sofapaka) among others. URA will hope to contain the pressure that normally comes with teams braced for relegation skirmishes. Jinja have indeed braced themselves for the fight by bringing in experience in Edward Kakembo (Soana), John Wakalayita, David Kiiza, Mike Kawooya (all Bul) and Caesar Sapeo (SCVU) among others.

Police vs SC Villa

With a new man, Deo Sserwada, at the helm, SC Villa will hope to hit the ground running. The 16-time league champions have struggled to add to the tally since 2004, and club president Ben Misagga has changed coaches six times in his three years in charge. He has also changed players in the same fashion. Hardly impressive! Alex Kitata (Saints), Bernard Muwanga, Joseph Nsubuga (Bright Stars) and Vitali Tabu (Onduparaka), are some of the new names at Villa and should have a runout when Sserwadda takes his team to Kavumba to face Police. Coach Sam Timbe’s Police have had a quiet transfer activity up until now, with ex-Bright Stars striker Anthony Bongole the only noticeable acquisition. But having lost few, Police should give Villa some shove.

Vipers SC vs Bright Stars

 Abdallah Mubiru begins his reign at Vipers knowing club owner and former Fufa president, Lawrence Mulindwa, will accept nothing but the league title and a sustained run in the Caf Confederations Cup. Assistant coach, George Nsimbe’s shortfalls both in the league and on the continent last season saw him lose the job to his former junior at KCCA. Now they will have to pull together to keep in the boss’ good books. The two-time league champions open their account at home to depleted Bright Stars. With last season’s lead scorer (16 goals) Erisa Ssekisambu abroad for greener pastures, Mubiru has turned to former Soana striker Musa Esenu to address the goal-scoring question. Ibrahim Kayiwa (Express) and Brian Kakaire (Vaxjo Football – Sweden) have also since been added on. In the same vein, Mubiru has released Mike Mutyaba, Allan Kyambadde and John Ssemazi (all Express) among others. Fred Kajoba’s Bright Stars, who have lost most of their experienced stars like goalkeeper Mathias Kigonya (Sofapaka), Anthony Bongole (Police), Bernard Muwanga and Joseph Nsubuga (all SC Villa), could struggle to get out of the blocks despite bringing in Nicholas Ssebwato (from SC Villa), Andrew Kaggwa (Saints).

Onduparaka vs Soana

Last season’s biggest story for reaching the Uganda Cup for final, earning promotion and filling stadiums with huge crowds, Onduparaka start the season as the people’s darling. Whoever visits Arua will surely find out how intimidating the home side can be.  Soana, whose coach Charles Ayiekoh resigned last Friday, are the first to visit coach Leo Adraa’s men. Onduparaka have managed to maintain almost their entire team, only losing out Vitali Tabu (SC Villa) and Nafian Alionzi. The Northern side have since added Dickens Okwi, Mahad Kisekka, Emmanuel Olinga, Peter Duzman and Simon Olema to their ranks. Soana have lost marksman Esenu to Vipers but have brought in Cameroonian Oliviere Akono, Emma Kalyowa (Lweza) and experienced striker Frank Kalanda from URA.

The Saints vs Sadolin Paints

The Saints have since been bought by relegated Simba but will most likely maintain the same for at least a season. Coach Moses Basena remains coach, for now, and will have to get a way of picking 25 players from Saints and Simba squads. They host their first match at Bombo Barracks against Sadolin, who will hope the home side are still be in disarray. Coached by Abdul-Samadu Musafiri, Sadolin have only goalkeeper Franco Oringa, from Bul, as the main acquisition.



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