With the Uganda Premier league on an indistinct abatement, now is a good time to look toward the past. The modern incarnation of the Uganda top flight and the millions (and eventual billions) that flowed into the game totally changed the way we think about soccer. There’s a reason soccer outlets are still publishing transfer rumors on a daily basis while the actual game itself is paused in most countries around the globe: We are desperately obsessed with transfers.
Today, we look back at those transfers with a simple question: Who was the best signing in the history of the Uganda Premier league?
Lately, Vipers SC has been leading the transfer market over the past decade. But we are going to run through a list of 100 best signings in UPL ever.
Of course, transfers can be valuable in many different ways, and one person’s definition of a successful deal might not be the same as everyone else. Here’s how I valued each transfer in relative order of importance:
- Was the player extremely productive during his time with the club? Was he considered among the best players at his position in the division?
- Did he become a club or league legend? Is there something iconic that leads him to stand out from a similar signing in terms of talent or success?
- Did the player win silverware? I considered each of the titles and cups each transfer won during his time with the team, weighing Uganda Premier League titles and Uganda Cup success heaviest.
Was he a bargain? Given the transfer market of the time, would we look back and consider his fee to be laughably cheap given his level of production?
- Did the team sell him on for a profit? After adjusting for inflation, did the team realize a serious return by selling the player?
- Did the player spend a long time with the club?
The last two categories do push some current players down the rankings, which is fine. Stars like Fahad Bayo and John Revita have already made an impact in a relatively short time with their clubs, and they’ll continue to rise up the rankings as they continue to win trophies and gain more longevity. This is looking back over the past 49 seasons.
Finally, I need to clarify which players aren’t included. If you’re angry that a notable star isn’t somewhere on this list, please keep the following rules in mind:
- The player must have established himself in senior football before joining the club. Obviously, players like Philip Omondi, Tom Lwanga and Jimmy Kirunda who joined KCCA before 1974 when the club was still in the second division, Pual Mukatabala who joined SC Villa during his Form Six holidays at St.Marys College kisubi(SMACK) in April 1990 and Moses Nsereko who joined KCCA at 14 years in 1966 don’t count.
- I am strictly mentioning only transferred players not academy graduates. Players like Denis Onyango, Philip Ssozi, Timothy Batabaire, Steven Bengo, Augustine Nsumba, Idd Batambuze among other successful players will be excluded
- The team gets credit for what you accomplished while you were at the club under this specific transfer. What happens elsewhere doesn’t matter. SC Villa doesn’t get credit for what Hassan Mubiru achieved at Express FC or how Geoffrey Sserunkuma blossomed after rejoining KCCA FC from Lweza FC. And if a club re-bought a player for a second time, I split those careers into two separate transfers, so Jackson Mayanja’s two KCCA spells are kept separate for the purposes of this list.
The first part covering 1-11 and the second will focus on 12-20
1. Majid Musisi – Forward, SC Villa (RIP) | From Pepsi FC -1985 (undisclosed fee)
Musisi ranks among the best signings in the history of Ugandan football. Not only did he live up to the expectations when he won 6 League titles, 1 CECAFA Club title & 3 Uganda Cups for SC Villa but his transfer to French side Stade Rennes also earned SC Villa a whopping $180000 transfer fee.
He was also the league’s top scorer while at SC Villa in 1987, 1989, 1990 1992. Remembered so much for his heroics against current todays dominant side KCCA FC.
2. George Simwogerere – Defender, Express FC | From Gomba Motors –1987 (undisclosed fee)
One of the many successful Uganda Premier league footballers who made their way through the gates of Wankuluku in the 80′.
Simwogerere’s 15-year run with Express FC had to be considered as a surprise, from a fans darling to a team captain.
He kept up a virtually defensive role from which he won three league titles (1993, 1995, and 1996) and Six Uganda Cups (1991, 1992, 1994, 1995, 1997, and 2000). What a player!
3. Edgar Watson Suubi – Midfielder, SC Villa | From Miracle FC – 1995 (undisclosed fee)
In 1996, Watson joined trophy hungry SC Villa. It was a move that didn’t excite many Villa fans as due to his style of play and most of them did not think he would take the Jogoos anywhere. This could later change as he gradually turned into the versatile man that won the hearts of the Villa Park faithful.
The current FUFA Chief Executive Officer forged his career as a player at the Nakivubo based club and during his time with SC Villa, he won 3 doubles (1998, 2000 & 2002) as well as 7 league titles, 3 Kakungulu Cups, currently the Stanbic Uganda Cup (1998, 2000 & 2002) and 1 CECAFA title.
4. Issa Sekatawa – Striker, Express FC | From Nytil FC – 1981 (undisclosed fee)
At the end of the 1981 league, Express FC who were eager to break the KCC and SC Villa dominance, signed Sekatawa alongside his teammates Jack Ntare, Phillip Musoke, and Lukomwa.
The arrival of Sekatawa sent arch-rivals SC Villa and KCC into panic, forcing the two sides to reinforce their squads too.
Sekatawa played a pivotal role in Express’s striking force scoring a respectable number of goals plus a number of top scorer’s accolades. Sekatawa’s goal-scoring feats saw fans dub him the ‘Golden Boy’.
5. William Nkemba – Central Defender, SC VILLA | From Nsambya FC – 1985 (Tuition fees)
Nkemba was acquired from Nsambya FC in 1985 together with Majid Musisi from Pepsi.
Nkemba made his Villa debut as a left-back on January 21, 1986, in Villa’s 3-0 win over Buikwe Red Stars at Nakivubo. He was only 18, and despite his impressive display, Coach Polly Ouma preferred veterans John Jumba, Yusuf Ssonko, Moses Nkangi and Geoffrey Higenyi in defense.
By 1986, Nkemba had begun to feature more regularly as Villa won the league and cup double.
He won 7 league titles (1986, 87, 88, 89, 90, 92 & 94), 3 Uganda Cups (1986, 88 & 89), 1 CECAFA (1987) Club Championship with SC Villa before he moved to ply his trade with French side FC Nantes and Rennes.
6. Hakim Magumba – Midfielder, SC Villa | From Iganga FC – 1997 (undisclosed fee)
Hakim Magumba arrived at SC Villa at the end of 1997. By then, Villa had gone through a 3-year dry spell without winning anything. But at the end of his first season in 1998, albeit being largely a peripheral player, Villa won the league and cup double.
He helped Villa win 7 league titles, 3 Uganda Cups and 2 CECAFA Club titles. It was his speedy and tantalizing football style, a novelty of sorts that made Magumba a special player.
7. Hassan Mubiru – Striker, SC Villa | From Police FC – 1997 (2M – 3M)
In the 1997 transfer window, Hassan Mubiru joined Villa for a fee believed to be between Shs 2m and Shs 3m. However, many Express fans were left stunned seeing a Mubiru who had allegedly been sighted at Wankulukuku and thought to have signed for the Red Eagles go the other way – Blue.
Despite failing to help Villa to the league title in the 1997 season, Mubiru looked a safe bet for a future star center-forward. In 1998, Mubiru helped SC Villa to a league and cup double. The Villa Park side had last won a league title in 1994. He also led the club to finals of the CECAFA club Championship that year for the first time since 1987.
In 1999, Hassan Mubiru and Andrew Mukasa formed a deadly striking partnership following Charles Kayemba dip in form that forced him into third place in the pecking order. Till todate, Mubiru and Mukasa’s combination holds a place among the deadliest in the history of Ugandan football.
During that season, the duo scored 70 league goals between them with Mukasa scoring 45 to break Kirunda’s record of 32 league goals while Mubiru netted 25 goals.
8. Hassan Mubiru – Striker, Express FC | From SC Villa – 2000 (10M)
At the end of the 1999 season, the then Express FC Chairman, Godfrey Kirumira courted Mubiru and eventually lured him to Wankulukuku in a transfer that shocked many Villa fans.
It is believed that Kirumira had to dish out over Shs. 10 million for the services of the forward making him the most expensive player in the league at the time.
Following that transfer to Express FC, the Red Eagles’ fans nicknamed him ‘Figo’ in reference to the Portuguese star who had crossed to rivals Real Madrid from Barcelona in what was the most expensive transfer in the world then. Real Madrid president Florentine Perez had engineered the move thus Kirumira getting the alias Perez.
Just like the way the dislike the Barca fans developed for Figo for eternity, most Villa fans have never and may never forgive Mubiru.
The center-forward was viewed as the man signed to move Express FC to greater heights and dethrone rivals SC Villa as the Kings of the game on the land.
Mubiru led the Uganda Premier League in goal-scoring 3 seasons in a row (2001, 2002 and 2003) while at Express FC.
9. Sula Kato – Midfielder, SC Villa | From Masaka Union – 1983 (undisclosed fee)
Kato is one of the most decorated football players in Ugandan football having won 8 league titles, 3 Uganda Cup titles and 3 CECAFA Cup winners’ medals.
Sula began his club career in 1982, aged 18, at Jinja-based 1st Division side Millers FC. It was then that Rev. Father Ryan persuaded him to join Masaka Union and following a notable performance in a league match against giants SC Villa in August 1983 – in which the latter lost 1- 4, he moved to Villa Park.
He was signed mainly to fill the gap left by his brother Ndawula, who had crossed to Express FC. However, the youngster failed to break into the first team as coach David Otti preferred experienced Godfrey Kisitu, Sam Mubiru, and Twaha Kivumbi.
He won eight league titles with SC Villa (1984, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1992 and 1994), three Uganda Cup titles (1986, 1988 and 1989) and three Cecafa titles (1987 with SC Villa) 1989 and 1990 with The Cranes).
10. Paul Hasule – Defender, SC Villa (RIP) | From Mbale Heroes – 1982 (undisclosed fee)
The 22-year-old arrived at Villa Park along with top recruits like Cranes skipper Jimmy Kirunda, Dan Lutalo, Godfrey Kisitu, and Fred Serwadda. Initially, Villa coach George Mukasa fielded Hasule on the right-wing but he was unconvincing and was even worse when switched to the central striking role.
He made a name for himself as a footballer with record local champions SC Villa and became the main factor in their victories between 1982 and 1994. Hasule was part of the mighty SC Villa team that won the inaugural Super League unbeaten in 1982. He also led the club to the prestigious East and Central Africa club title in 1987.
Twice he took SC Villa to the finals on the continent, Africa Club Championship in 1991 and CAF Cup in 1992.
11. Geoffrey Higenyi – Left-Back, SC Villa | From Nytil FC – 1983 (undisclosed fee)
Higenyi was a crucial player in Villa’s trophy-laden seasons from 1984-1992. Despite scoring an own goal as Villa bowed out of the 1984 Uganda Cup semifinal at the hands of KCC FC, his contribution helped the Jogoos to the league title that season.
He was part of SC Villa’s seven league titles in 1984, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990 & 1992). In that period, he also won four Uganda Cups (1983, 1986, 1988 and 1989) and one CECAFA Club Championship (1987).
Part of the information used in this article was contributed to by Hassan Badru Zziwa – The Observer Media Ltd, Andrew Mwanguhya – The Daily Monitor Publications, Tendo Nicta Musoke – Sportsfan Magazine, Paul Mukatabala – FUFA.