SC Villa, Vipers to challenge KCCA for title

The 2017/18 Azam Uganda Premier League (AUPL) season officially gets underway on Tuesday with KCCA looking to defend the title and the likes of SC Villa and Vipers vowing to wrest it away from Lugogo.

Hardly unusual, the Star Times Stadium – KCCA’s home ground – has already seen a busy transfer activity.

Vipers at St Mary’s Stadium and SC Villa, KCCA main challengers for the title, have not been different either.

Let us look at the 16 clubs’ transfer activity and what they will bring to the table as the campaign gets underway across all stadiums on Tuesday.

KCCA

Manager Mike Mutebi’s men undoubtedly start as favourites to claim their third straight league crown, thanks to better organization both at management and tactical level that has seen them win the last two. But they will have to do it without their talisman last season, Geoffrey Sserunkuma, who scored 21 goals in the league. He has since moved to Zambia. This leaves Derrick Nsibambi, who scored seven times last season mainly off the bench, as the main man in search of goals. Playmaker Muzamir Mutyaba and Robert Sentongo contributed six each but the latter has since moved on. Mutebi has now sought the scoring boots of last season’s Big League top marksman and former Kira Young talisman Patrick Kaddu, who scored 16 goals for Maroons to attract the attention of Lugogo bosses. Nine other players were also unveiled by Mutebi to the media last week.

Vipers

Vipers have now gone two seasons without league silverware. Their 2015 title was largely dependent on now Standard Liege 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 last campaign, for starting berths upfront. Despite Vipers losing Keziron Kizito, Portuguese coach Jorge Da Costa still has a cast of decent players to pick from for midfield duties. The high profile additions of Taddeo Lwanga from SC Villa and Tom Masiko from KCCA provide him with luxuries that other clubs can only mull over. Add Moses Waiswa, Frank “Zaga” Tumwesigye, Deus Bukenya, Hassan Kalega, Brian Nkuubi, Mike Sserumaga and Duncan Sseninde and you have arguably the best midfield in the country, but one that has to deliver to be considered as such. Club patron Lawrence Mulindwa will also have to keep his axe tucked away if he is to ensure stability. Da Costa was the third coach to take charge last season with Abdallah Mubiru and Richard Wasswa were respectively sacked.

SC Villa

Villa president Ben Misagga always seems out to out-compete every other club boss in changing the technical bench, with the last three seasons each having at least two or more coaches at Uganda’s most successful side. Despite all that, SC Villa have competed with the eventual winners over that period before running out of steam late on. Like it has been since Misagga took over, this has been yet another busy off-season. Simon Sserunkuma, Allan Kyambadde, Musa Mukasa and Mahad Kakooza have all arrived from Express, with as many heading in the opposite direction. George Senkaaba and Nicholas Kasozi face an uphill task of filling the huge void left by Emma Okwi (to Simba in Tanzania) and Lwanga  as Villa seek their first league title since their 16th in 2004.

URA

The tax collectors have gone six years without winning the league. They start yet another season hoping to end the dark. The fourth most successful side with as many titles have, however, not been as busy in the transfer market. URA will hope coach Ibrahim Kirya pushes them a notch higher this time round, with experienced strikers Henry Kisekka and Bokota Labama the men charged with making things happen upfront.

Onduparaka

A fifth place finish in your topflight debut season is stuff of legends. Onduparaka could not have asked for more last season. The West Nile side will once again rely on an animated 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 has been bolstered by Karim Ndugwa and the return of Alfred Leku. But it is holding onto captain Muhammad Shaban and Rashid Toha that stands out as the best bit of business by the West Nilers.

Police

The Cops survived relegation by a whisker. No wonder the 2005 champions have undergone wholesome changes both on and off the pitch. Coach Abdallah Mubiru has brought in Juma Balinya, Gift Ali, Yasin Mugume and new kid on the block in Albert Mugisa.

Soana

If you thought Vipers and Villa have had an unstable dugout, you haven’t been to Soana. The Kavumba side had five coaches last season but somehow, the club have done well to maintain topflight league status since promotion in 2014. New coach Shafik Bisaso has kept in line the club’s mantra of using experienced played by signing Owen Kasule and  Mike Kawooya from Kirinya-Jinja

Express

The six-time winners, also champions only five years ago, have endured some of the hardest times with some of the highest player turn-overs in the league. They start the season in shambles with head coach Mathias Lule reportedly throwing in the towel citing unpaid wages. Their sponsorship under Dstv also remains clouded in mystery like the tenure of chairperson Florence Nakiwala thus far.

Bul Bidco

Coach Kefa Kisala should help Bul avoid the relegation flirtation they had last season, especially when you consider that the club are well funded by Bidco. Defender Yusuf Mukisa and former captain Patrick Asiku remain the most high profile additions for the club. Kisala is still searching for a decent striker, with the transfer window closing on September 21.

Kirinya-Jinja

An impressive second round show saw the Jinja side pick six wins after failing to pick three points in the entire first round. Go-getter coach Charles Ayieko should make Kirinya one of the most difficult teams to beat, and he is fortunate to have national schools champions Jinja SS as a feeder team.

Bright Stars

The Mwererwe-based side had one of the most difficult seasons last campaign, with the club reportedly going the entire period without paying wages. Japanese Keisuke Honda is reportedly set to bankroll the club with unofficial reports indicating a merger with relegated Big League side Hope Doves has been agreed. Coach Fred Kajoba remains the man responsible for the team remaining competitive of the pitch.

Proline

Coach Mujib Kasule’s side start the campaign without Dennis Makoba, Gift Ali, Yusuf Mukisa and Nelson Ssenkatuka among others. With little in-ward transfer activity at the club, Proline, who have managed to keep their identity of a football playing team, will do well to avoid the drop.

Maroons

Coach Asaph Mwebaze has again threatened to resign after the Prison-funded club stalled on recruitments following their Big League victory and Premier League promotion. They have lost two of their best players in topscorer Patrick Kaddu and goalkeeper Jamil Malyamungu – all to KCCA.

Mbarara City

The newly-promoted Western side will have shs200m as starting point from betting company Top Bet. They will do well to stay up despite retaining experienced coach Richard Makumbi.

Masavu

The newly promoted Entebbe-based club has since been bought by Anthony Kimuli from Tony Sozzi. But they started on a wrong footing, with Alex Isabirye throwing in the towel even before taking charge of a competitive game. His namesake Gitta has taken over. They, too, will do well to stay up.