Ugsports series: Top five Moments that shaped the game of football in Uganda

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By Alex Bossa

With the introduction of the game of football in 1897 when the famous British athlete Pilikington proposed to teach the Baganda at Namirembe, football in Uganda has seen a lot of changes and this week Ugsports decided to bring you the top five moments that changed the game of football in Uganda.

KCCA – Express mis calculated syndicate

If you told the current generation that once upon a time, Express scored six goals past KCC they would just laugh it out. Yes this is not a Cinderella story as in 1993, SC Villa was on the verge of winning the league title but their enemies in Express and KCC were not ready to witness the city of Kampala turn into blue again.

Express needed to score more goals in the final two games against both KCC and Villa respectively to win the league title. Both Express and KCC did not want SC Villa to win the league and a quick solution had to be made with Express FC the likelier of the two to give Villa a run for their money.

Both Express and KCC agreed on fixing the match with a bigger goal margin so that even if Villa won against Express, goal difference would play in favour of the Red Eagles. As it is said that mathematics is not for everyone, both teams miscalculated the score and the match ended 6-0 in favour of Express which meant that Express had to avoid defeat against SC Villa in the last match of the season.

Fortunately for Express, the game ended in a draw and Express were crowned the league champions. Although to date the league still experiences problems in the fixtures, the scenario gave the administrators ideas on how to arrange league deciders.

The 2011/2012 League season

Before the 2011/2012 super league season, the Uganda Super League (USL) clubs had started running a professional league of their own after South Africa’s Pay TV giants DSTV had signed a 5- year deal worth USD 5 Million to beam league football. USL had also agreed on a Shs. 2.2 billion sponsorship deal with Uganda Breweries.

But off the pitch, a silent war of who is in charge of football affairs in the country was raging. The expulsion of Busia United from the league by USL after failure to participate in the first round of the 2011/2012 season brought questions on how the game was being managed by USL.

At the end of the season, FUFA decided to suspend USL from any football related matters on grounds of insubordination after the USL failed to punish Kavuma Kabenge.

USL decided to defy the federation’s orders and FUFA had no option since USL’s obligation was to its sponsors. The pulling of ropes between the two entities went on for some good time and in the end two leagues were formed. Some clubs like SC Villa, Water, Police, Kira Young and Express  decided to have teams in each league.

The feud lasted till May 2013 when a recommendation from the Ministry of Sports dictated that there should be a merger between the two separate entities and by the start of the 2014/2015 season, a new league (UPL) had been formed which is still running to date.

The day SC Villa scored 22 goals.

Uganda’s league football was at its peak at the turn of the new millennium although there was no live TV football. Due to the low return in goals scored, the proprietor of Property Masters, Kasulu, pledged to pay for each goal scored prior to the 2003 league season. But this is not the point we are making here.

The real drama came towards the last games of the league season where it was likely that goal difference would determine the league winner. Villa were meant to play AKOL FC at Namboole while Express’ encounter against Top TV was abandoned to deny the Red Eagles a superior goal advantage after they had taken an early two goal lead.

On realizing the syndicate, Express, helped by the then FUFA president Denis Obua decided to bribe AKOL footballers not to turn up for the match but Villa were more prepared to play the tricky monkey game. Helped by defender Dan Obote, Villa had also paid the AKOL players to turn up for the game.

Drama erupted when most of the AKOL FC players jumped off the FUFA bus and only nine players turned up for the game and since the regulations allowed 9 players for the game to kick off, Villa went for a goal galore. 1-2-3-4…. in came the goals and at the end of the game it was 22-1 in favour of SC Villa.

Villa went ahead to win the league that year but neutrals say that this game had an impact on Uganda’s football. It is said this event was the beginning of low fan turn up to league matches which still haunt the league to date.

Abubakar Tabula’s Juju claims.

As usual, the Uganda Cranes started the 2004 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers on a high with a 1-0 home win against Ghana. There was hope that this was the year Uganda would  finally break the qualifying jinx. Game two saw the Cranes pick up a vital point in Kigali where a win in the return leg in Kampala would give the Cranes control of group 13 which had only 3 teams.

With little hope, the Rwandese came with a game plan of frustrating the Ugandans in all aspects. Drama erupted when Abubakar Tabula picked a tied piece of bark cloth from the Rwandese goal during a corner kick in what he claimed was “juju” (African Magic). On realizing what was going on, the Rwandese goalkeeper decided to create a scuffle and the match was put on hold for some few minutes.

On the restart, a sole Jimmy Gatete goal won the game for Rwanda to the shock of the Cranes’ players who had hit the goal post twice before the scuffle had started. Uganda went on to miss out on the spot in the 2004 African Cup of Nations at the expense of Rwanda.

The game was a turning point in Uganda’s football because shortly after the game, Coach Paul Hasule was sacked and replaced by Argentine Pedro Pasculli who would lead the Cranes in their last game against Ghana. The Cranes only needed to win in Accra to progress but could only manage a 1-1 draw. 

The  game against Rwanda started the exodus of Ugandan footballers to Rwanda.

The barefooted Cranes of 1956

In 1956, a group of Ugandan footballers was selected for a tour of England where they would go ahead to play in a series of matches against different English teams. Their tour was the first of it’s kind by any team south of the Sahara Desert and they had to play eleven matches.

After losing the first game 1-10 against Wycombe Wanderers on 29th August, 1956, the team had learnt lessons from the defeat and the solution was to drop using the soccer boots that were donated by their English counterparts. They decided to play barefooted in all matches apart from matches where it was raining.

With no boots, Uganda became more comfortable on the pitch and immediately registered their first win of the tour with a 2-1 win against South Hall FC on 1st September, 1956 but the highlight of the tour was the 2-1 win against the United Kingdom Olympic team. The win against the British representatives at the Melbourne Olympics later that year shocked the footballing world and it made headlines at the back pages of the British Media. The team had gotten the new name “Bare footed Ugandans.

In total the team won three games, drew one and lost seven games while scoring in all matches apart from the 2-0 loss to Reading in their last game of the tour on 3rd October 1956.

This team changed Uganda’s football in the way that on arriving in England, the team had no name and it was hard for reporters to report which team was going to play against a particular English team.

On realizing this the Leeds District officials decided to name the team the Uganda FA since they wanted to publish a programme for the match which Uganda went ahead to win 2-1 at Elland Road. From then, the name Uganda football Association (UFA) was adopted and in 1960, UFA became an affiliated member of the Federation of International Football Association up to today.

Honorable mentions.

Failed Hakim Magumba transfer from SC villa to Express

David Obua expelled from the national team

Uganda Cranes use Inter Milan replica jersey in an international game.

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