Uganda's Super League: Express FC Fading Off
Firing blanks: The Red Eagles face relegation this season.

Uganda's Super League: Express FC Fading Off

Ten reasons why Express FC is fading off the Ugandan Super League radar.

By Ramathan Kasozi
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First published: May 3, 2007

For a while, the fanatic supporters of the three soccer giants in Uganda SC Villa , Express FC and KCC FC under their umbrella (VEK) have fronted the argument that were one of these three teams to be hit by the relegation axe at the end of this season, the Federation of Uganda Football Association (FUFA) would have no alternative but defy its own rules and accommodate the culprit in the next season because their places in the league are virtually guaranteed.

God seems to like the idea of proving these fans right or wrong and they may witness such a situation as it now happens that Express FC incredibly finds its self in the danger zone. Unless something radical happens in the Red Eagles' nest, Uganda's oldest club is destined to pack its belongings and head down to the First Division, from where it sprung in the late 50s. The Wankulukuku based side is languishing in the unusual twelfth position on the Super League table, meaning that if the trend does not cease, the once upon a time 'Mukwano gwa bangi' (darling of most), 'square pass masters', 'team ya Kabaka' (Kabaka's team) are as good as relegated.

The eight times Ugandan champions have yawned through eighteen games without a win and last tested the joy of winning way back in October last year when they piped FUFA president Lawrence Mulindwa's Bunamwaya United 1-0, thanks to Ronald Lwanga's strike. Ultimate Media's sports writer Kasozi Ramathan analyses ten reasons why the once upon time giants are fading.

1. The resignation of Kirumira as club president.

Two years ago, the club's no nonsense fans forced tycoon Godfrey Kirumira to resign, impeaching him for allegedly administering the club as he would his family business. The Kampala tycoon hitherto financed the team all the way from players' salaries to their basic welfare. At one time, Kirumira was baptized 'Pirez' (following his capacity to sign any player he wished for Express, just like the then Real Madrid big spender Frolentino Pirez).

Sam Kiwanuka, by virtue of being a son to Jimmy Kiwanuka, one of the founder members of the Express FC, replaced Kirumira and the fans believed he was the only medicine the club needed. The only credit to Kiwanuka's reign was last year's Kakungulu cup title. His decision to withdraw the Red Eagles from this year's Confederation of African Club Championship without a satisfactory explanation to the fans marked the end of his regime and the affairs at Wankulukuku are now being run by a committee.

2. Changing coaching staff too frequently.

With in a space of seven months, the team has been handled by four tacticians. Former club skipper George Ssemwogere was the first to face the wrath of the fans when he was forcefully made to resign after a humiliating 2-1 loss to debutants City Lads at Nakivubo Stadium in the league opener. Fans captured power from club's executive and summarily replaced him with another ex-prodigal son, Kefa Kisala, who didn't even warm the bench before he was replaced with Ibrahim Buwembo.

The trend continued when Ken Lubogo was assigned to assist the Buwembo. It now seems that the days of the former Coffee FC star winger are numbered, as he has already tasted the fan's rough music. In the team's 2-1 loss to Boroboro, his life was saved only by police officers as the fans bayed for his head. A rumour in the corridors of football power in Uganda has it that Ssemwogere is on his way back.

3. Overzealous fans.

You can hardly demarcate between the role supposed to be played by the fans and that of the governing executive, since the later has the authority to fire and appoint coaches but is often overruled by the former.

4. The departure of Hassan Mubiru

The departure of inspirational skipper Hassan Mubiru and first rising star Tony Odur to Denmark for greener pastures left very big dents in the club's strength. This, coupled with the mid-season transfer exit of Arthur Mukisa to rivals KCC FC, Henry Kakooza to Police FC and Cameroonian import Emma Zitolo wounded the team further. Even the club's board of trustees' chairman, Bbale Mugera concurs. "Every team is bound to suffer a bit whenever it loses its best players," Mugera was quoted by the Daily Monitor recently.

5. An inexperienced squad and lackluster talent in the squad.

The current talent at Wankulukuku doesn't make the grade of Express' pedigree. The likes of Fred Bwire, Sande Mukiibi, Topher Lubega, Allan Kabonge and mid-season acquisition Francis Onyango posses limited talent and are too inexperienced to cope with the pressure mounting against the Red Eagles.

6. Lack of confidence.

After going for eighteen games without a win, the team lacks the necessary psychological fitness to win games, let alone the fact that the credentials of the available tacticians needed to instill confidence back into the squad are questionable. Buwembo does not even hold a coaching license!

7. Disrespect from potential underdogs.

In the past, if you gathered eleven boys and dressed them in red and white jerseys, you scared many opponents. It is shocking that even seemingly light weight sides like Boroboro meet Express with no other aim other than securing a win. "We are traveling to Wankulukuku for nothing else other than a win. In the first round we beat them 3-0 this time we need four goals to their nothing" one of the Boroboro's leading strikers, Richard Engwedo, was quoted saying a head of their 2-1 victory.

8. Shift in the balance of power

In the past, it was usually automatic that the league title was taken by any of the big three (SC Villa, Express FC or KCC FC) but the arrival and rise of the likes of URA FC, Police FC, Kinyara FC and Victors have made life very difficult, not only for the Red Eagles but for the rest of VEK members too.

9. The fall of Denis Obua's regime

"Gunno omulembe gwa Mulindwa si gwa Obua, katulabbe ani yagulaanga emipiira" (This is Mulindwa's regime [the current FUFA president] not Obua's. Let us see who used to fix matches), are some of the utterances from Express' rivals' fans whenever the Red Eagles are playing. Is there enough evidence so far to justify allegations that 'Mukwano gwa bangi' was involved in the infamous "arrow group"'s activities during the Obua era? During Denis Obua's regime as FUFA President, VEK were accused of match fixing and in one memorable incident, Villa walloped Akol FC 22-1 at Namboole Stadium.

10. Meager gate collections.

In the past, the team would collect a net average of at least one million Uganda shillings per match but now they are lucky if the gate collections produce 20,000 Uganda shillings. This has resulted into empty club coffers and players' strikes over salaries and allowances are now very common at Wankulukuku.

No single reason can stand on its own to explain the fall of Express FC, once the darling of most but the old aphorism 'Empires rise but must eventually fall' comes to mind when Express FC's sorry situation is examined.

By Ramathan Kasozi
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First published: May 3, 2007
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Ramathan Kasozi is a member of Ultimate Media Consult (U) Ltd. . A graduate Journalist, Kasozi has more than 5 years experience reporting on sports in Uganda for different print and broadcast media houses.