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StarTimes UPL 2020/21: can BUL reclaim the pride of the east?

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In one of his monster hits “Bambi”, enigmatic teenage sensation Fresh Kid sings, “nange negomba deejay Arch oba Emmanuela #Bambi. Buli bw’ongamba tobiddamu omutima ogumenya #Bambi” loosely translated, “I am inspired by my fellow wonder kids on the continent, curtailing my music career breaks my heart. Please”.

These lyrics have three dimensional (3D) significance in the story of BUL Football Club (as one of the league’s youngest teams, one of Eastern Uganda’s potential giant-killers, and also, one of the most well-oiled machines in terms of player remuneration).

All that aside, there are forces inside and outside trying to ridicule or water down their attempted aspirations as mere “bubble-gum music” to their ears. Read on.

The side bankrolled and 100% owned by BIDCO Uganda Limited was founded in 2007 in Masese, the home of its parent company.

The area is known for producing and nurturing some of the country’s greatest talents and when the big man Kodhey Rao accepted to use the dilapidated Walububa Stadium as a training base, many a football purist raised their hands to the gods.

BUL FC - The Touchline Sports

The Club was founded in 2007 and these are some of the pictures that show how the club has been transformed to the current status | Courtesy photo

They envisaged a renaissance of sorts because history traces the roots of many Ugandan stars to this ground.

The vintage Walukuba-Masese (Wa-Ma) team aside, several names i.e. Geoffrey Massa, Moses Oloya, David Bagoole, Johnson Bagoole (RIP), Abel Dhaira (RIP), his father Bright Dhaira, Moses Basena, Mike Dogu, Alex Olum (RIP), Alex Isabirye and his elder brother Steven Bogere to mention but a few started their illustrious careers there.

And when former KCC player Emille Amasha was made maiden coach, the whole of Jjinja was awash with excitement. Indeed they won the Jinja Division One title on 1st asking to create internal and external waves that helped increase the momentum.

The founding treasurer Rupesh and his secretary Timothy Mwanda kept pushing the accelerator and very soon, the machine was getting a new driver in Richard Makumbi (a coach well known for having the most UPL promotions in history).

2011/’12 is the season BUL FC arrived at the table of men, joining an exclusive list of Eastern sides in the top flight i.e. Nile, Umeme (UEB), Tobacco, NYTIL, JMC Hippos, Kirinya Jinja SS a.k.a. Busoga United, Sadolin Paints, Iganga, Idudi, and Bugiri Old Timers.

BUL however aspired and still harbors dreams of entering the upper echelons of the list alongside 1980 league champions Nile FC and 1996 Uganda Cup winners Umeme enjoy (getting among the silverware).

Despite being a far east side, 1976, and ’99 Uganda Cup winners Mbale Heroes also inspire the “fortune Butto” makers as an upcountry side that lifted a national trophy.

It is upon this basis that the directorate decided to make some changes last season, replacing the management team of chairman Silver Aliasi, General Secretary Gerald Kayuuyo, and administrative secretary Salmin Saleh with a new-look team of chairman Ronald Barente (assisted by Gerald Kayuuyo), CEO Ahmed Kongola, treasurer Martin Ochit, legal officer Phiona Asiimwe plus executive members Ronald Ibanda and Ceaser Dale.

The technical team of TD Frank “Video” Anyau, coaches Peter Onen and David Kiwanuka was also replaced with former assistant coach Arthur Kyesimira becoming the manager, assisted by the much-traveled James Magala while Daniel Kabaale was put in charge of the Junior team.

Peter Onen - BUL FC - The Touchline Sports

Peter Onen (Right) was coach of BUL FC last season before being sacked alongside the entire Technical team | Courtesy photo

During the handover ceremony, General Manager Saridin Damanik pledged to increase support to the team especially in terms of flexibility in their sign-on fee policy which had become a hindrance to the lure of several potential stars despite the fact that the team is up there with the best-remunerated sides in the league (and actually possessing the juiciest match-winning bonus).

They also announced AAR health insurance services for all their playing and technical staff on top of disclosing future plans of building a state of the art stadium facility plus residential suites for players and other staff.

No wonder, by the time COVID 19 struck, they were 6th on the log with 36 points from 25 games, an eventual final position which is joint 2nd in their history with seasons 2015/’16 and 2017/’18 (only bettered by their 5th position in 2013/’14
What to expect from BUL FC this coming season?

For the past years, BUL FC has presented no reasons to be positive or negative about what they stand for. What else should we think about them ahead of what we think will be an exciting 2020/21 StarTimes UPL?

BUL FC, a side who has managed to show intent but failed to live up to the expectation of competing for the StarTimes UPL title have arguably the best potential to break into the top clubs in Uganda. However, they have failed to cross the line from a mediocre team to one that stands to compete against the perennial winners.

BUL played poorly and looked nowhere near a title side at the end of last season but they were the only team to challenge the Vipers and KCCA FC from the start even though their steam could only go as far as the first round.

Analyzing that response from an expert who preferred to remain anonymous, we should echo into the deliberations of rookie manager Arthur Kyesimira during his visit to Sanyuka TV recently.

According to Arthur, BUL is currently focussing on stability administratively and in the technical department. Together with his assistants, they are trying to formulate a philosophy as much as they attempt to assemble a team hungry for silverware.

Arthur Kyesimira - BUL FC

BUL FC head coach Arthur Kyesimira (in coffee brown t shirt) has been signing players with a purpose of stabilising the team | COurtesy photo

Several players have had their contracts not renewed and therefore left i.e. left-back Richard Matovu (Kyetume), Sadam Masereka (Bright Stars), lanky midfielder Lubwama (Wakiso Giants), goalkeeper Eric Kibowa and Charles Ssebutinde (UPDF). Their places have been taken by former Police custodian Davies Mutebi, SC Villa skipper Ambrose Kirya, Paul Mbaziira plus a trio of Edgars Youth players Peter Onzima, Kenneth Elvis Kibaale, and Douglas Bithum (all on season-long loans).

That they had newly signed Express winger Godfrey Lwesibawa on their radar and apparently paid him advance fees indicates a new shift from their old normal.

Ahmed Kongola, a former referee and an experienced administrator may be approaching his CEO work a little bit differently from the corporate approach Salmin Saleh used in the past.

The management recently announced a 5 yr partnership with the Busoga Kingdom to used Bugembe (Kyabazinga) Stadium as their home ground effective next season.

Having such rights to the facility will clearly save them the embarrassment of last season where they helplessly looked on when the club licensing program deemed the facility substandard sending them to FUFA Technical Center, Njeru where their fan base dwindled a bit.

Being at Bugembe will guarantee them consistent pre-match preparations and seamless mobilization by their marketing and communications man Joseph Mutaka.

On the pitch proper, Kyesimira still has keepers Abdul Kimera and mercurial youngster Sanon Mulabi to challenge Mutebi while their defense was boosted by the signing of left-back Aggrey Madoi and the permanent sealing of Walter Ochola’s stay at the club.

Together with Wilson Makulo, Fredson Gwoto, Dudu Ramathan, Fred Kigozi, Dennis Okot, Farouk Banga, and veteran Musa Walangalira, they can withstand the impending departure of Allan Tarsis Munaaba (in case rumors to have the former URA captain stay a little longer don’t materialize).

The midfield of Jimmy Kulaba, Godfrey Akol, Vitalis Tabu, Ibrahim Mugulusi, Thomas Kabaale, Hamis Tibita, Joseph Ssemujju, James Otim, and Oketch Simon Peter can ably supply ammunition for forwards Richard Wandyaka, Robert Mukongotya, Deogracious Ojok, Charles Ssempa, Martin Epreem and rejuvenated Musa Esenu “Simba” to get the goals.

With their eternal rivals Busoga United still sandwiched in some sort of administrative intrigue and financial uncertainty, BUL is expected to be the main Jinja flag bearer in the UPL next season and could actually sneak in a few more rival signings in the heat of the moment. Like Fresh Kid sings in “banzoleya lwa myaka“, BUL FC may be despised for being a new kid on the block but they have the all-round capacity to wear the crown and bring back glory to Busoga.

The author is a Sanyuka TV sports analyst and the presenter of #Ataakulaba on 102.1 FUFA FM every Sunday 6 pm – 8 pm.


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