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StarTimes UPL 2019/20: The season that promised so much but delivered so little

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With Uganda having had a somewhat successful 2019 Africa Cup of Nations campaign, there was a high degree of optimism heading into the just-concluded 2019/20 StarTimes UPL season.

Despite having just four local-based players in the team that represented the Cranes in Egypt, a lot was expected of several teams come league kick off in September.

Coupled with a new social and mainstream media club in Wakiso Giants FC, it was a season that was supposed to exhibit a great deal of competition on all fronts.

Before it even started, all four of the Crane’s local-based players at AFCON were transferred from there respective clubs to semi-professional settings. The major causality of those transfers was KCCA FC who in the process, lost three vital players in their quest to retain the league title.

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KCCA FC lost some key players before the start of the StarTimes UPL 2019/20 season and it was really hard to find equal replacements. Team Captain Timothy Awany (C) left the Club at the end of last season for a new life in Israel | Courtesy of KCCA FC Media

Captain Timothy Awany plus, forwards Allan Kyambadde and Patrick Kaddu, three of whom had been integral to their success in the past season, all left.

Their departures were huge and it was almost impossible to replace them before and during the campaign.

The situation left KCCA FC second-best in terms of who would be favorite for the season.

Tadeo Lwanga, who had been at Vipers SC for the past two years, was the other who made a switch after the continental championships in Egypt.

He was a massive blow for the Venoms but after the club went on a recruitment spree, it was evident his departure would not be felt.

Somehow, the top two sides would head into the season having lost vital players and it was clear the competition between them would deep to a certain extent.

Later in the season, this was clearly evident in their two clashes which ended in a slim 1-0 victory for KCCA FC at Lugogo before the two sides drew 0-0 in the game at Kitende.

As the top two sides struggled to impress in terms of victories and playing styles, the other who were expected to give them (KCCA FC and Vipers SC) a run for their money were also failing miserably.

Four-time winners Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) FC was the side many tipped to challenge the status quo but internal wrangles between the coaching staff and CEO’s office cost them dearly.

By the end of the first round, they could not mount a serious challenge for the title and despite a strong second round in which they were clearly the best team, the 5th spot is what they could end up with.

Express FC who entered the campaign in an organized fashion for the first time in a while, could not transform their off-field stability onto the field of play and pick points.

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George Ssimwogerere was relieved of his duties a few games into the second round of the StarTimes UPL 2019/20 season and replaced with Wasswa Bbosa | Courtesy photo

Head coach George Ssemwogerere was fired a few games into the second round and by the time Wasswa Bbosa took charge, fending off relegation was the top priority rather than trying to win the title.

The surprise at the top end of the standings was 16-time winners SC Villa.

After a close to disastrous 2018/19 campaign and a pre-season in which they signed mostly free agents, they performed beyond expectations under the stewardship of Edward Kaziba and Ibrahim Kirya.

A title pretense that lasted until the league was halted saw the Jogoos end up in 3rd spot, a respectable position as per their recent standards and expectations.

For the upcountry teams, it was an indifferent season.

Mbarara City FC, Onduparaka FC, and Tooro United FC performed below standards with the latter getting relegated eventually after finishing rock bottom.

Busoga United finished in the fourth position in the StarTimes UPL 2019/20 season, their best league finish since Charles Ayiekoh helped them to a 5th place finish in the 2017/18 season | Courtesy photo

The two Jinja based sides in BUL FC and Busoga United FC improved in terms of league positions with the former walking away with the fourth place despite losing the duo of Borban Zirintusa and Joel Madondo in January.

The three newly-promoted sides including Wakiso Giants FC, Proline FC, and Kyetume FC all understandably struggled throughout the campaign.

For Proline it was a disaster since the start as they failed to honor a league fixture at home to SC Villa resulting in a six-point deduction.

They along with Police FC, Maroons FC, and Tooro United all would go on to lose points via boardroom decision, situations that need to be overcame if the league is to grow.

The other two sides that were promoted from the Big League in the 2018/19 season, Wakiso and Kyetume, struggled to a certain extent but would eventually secure their status before the final match-day.

It is amazing how one is fired today and another is employed in the same role a few days later.

KCCA FC tactician Mike Mutebi noted after Fred Kajoba was appointed Vipers SC head coach barely a week after Edward Golola was fired.

Golola was one of 14 coaches that either left their roles or were axed during the season.

Fred Kajoba was appointed by Vipers as head coach, replacing Fred Kajoba who had lost only two games in the league this season | Courtesy photo

It is a number that has never been matched before and one that might remain as a record for a while.

Whether some were deserved sackings or politically motivated, will always remain a topic of discussion, but one thing is for certain, the coaching association has a task ahead of it so as to ensure the number only goes down.

With five match-days to go, FUFA was forced to end the StarTimes UPL 2019/20 season, robbing us of what was promising to be an interesting final bend at both ends of the table.

Would the excitement have come then? I guess no one has a definite answer to that.

The 2020/21 season is yet to take shape but due to the on-going Coronavirus, the hype is not expected to reach the levels of the past campaign.

But one thing remains certain, the 2019/20 season promised much but delivered below expectations.


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