Following the grapevine last year that Soltilo Uganda Limited had bought into mid-table Startimes Uganda Premier League side Bright Stars FC, many a football follower smelt the beginning of better tidings for the Mwererwe side.
Unfortunately, by the time the league was closed due to COVID 19, Bright Stars were hanging by a thread in their joint-lowest position since they entered the UPL in season 2013/’14.
Twelfth matches their placing in 2015/’16 and they have to thank coach Paul Kiwanuka for the last-ditch U-turn and subsequent effort which helped them rise above sea level having flirted with relegation for long spells. Kiwanuka had left along with his boss Kajoba Fred when contract renewal negotiations hit a dead end.
Kajoba who had built a giant-killing side which finished 8th on three occasions (in their debut season as well as 2017/’18 and 2018/’19) plus 9th in 2016/’17 to follow up on their highest ever placing (7th in 2014/’15) quit the job under a cloud and later on joined eventual champions Vipers SC.
His departure meant the same for his coaching staff in a unique show of solidarity rarely seen of Ugandan coaches. This stand-off came on the back of a penalty shoot-out loss to Proline FC in the Stanbic Uganda Cup final, a result that left many with tongue-in-cheek.
The new men at the helm i.e. Mohammed Kisekka and Simon Peter Mugerwa found it a little hard to cruise the ship through very murky waters. And sensing a potential guillotine, the management through technical director Ian Mutenda, the son of KCCA FC top-dog John Mutenda swallowed their pride and re-opened negotiations to at least lure Kajoba’s other coaching half back as the head coach.
Following consultations from some thinking heads, and a blessing from Kajoba, Kiwa as his Gombe SS alumni fondly call him took up the job and task at hand.
He took the appointment with aplomb and indeed presided over a few precious results that saved the Bright Stars’ top-flight life (disregarding what it would have been like if the last 5 matches had been played).
During the lockdown proper, and as several sects were getting COVID relief, the vulnerable status of Bright Stars got a huge boost with the confirmation of Soltilo as majority shareholders in the franchise.
With 51%, club chairman Ronnie Mutebi and his next in command Ahmed Hussein “Marsha” (the FUFA communications guru) coming out with 19% and 6% respectively. The recent authorization to change their name to SOLTILO Bright Stars FC stamped and sealed the hitherto signed deal.
Soltilo is the Ugandan arm of the Japan-based Honda Estilo Company Limited owned by former AC Milan and Japan striker Keisuke Honda.
The establishment also owns the Austrian club SV Horn and Cambodian club Soltilo Angkor FC. During the orientation season with the Lato Milk sponsored side, Honda took up the management of striker Nelson Ssenkatuka (paid him handsomely and shaped him into what he is now).
After trials in Japan, he got a deal in Morocco with Moghreb Tétouan and seems to be persevering as some Ugandans from other clubs melt in heat of the Botola league moment.
With their ownership sorted, their resolve was tested when Vipers came knocking to re-unite Kiwanuka Paul with Kajoba as one of his assistants. This move left them with no gaffer until a panel of experts zeroed on ex-Proline coach Baker Mbowa.
After tightening that screw, they slowly embarked on a team rebuilding process especially after losing and, or smelling the impending departure of players like Enock Walusimbi (Express), Jamil Kaliisa (Vipers), Juma Ssebadduka (UPDF), Moses Okot (Onduparaka), and Bernard Muwanga respectively. Add these names to goalie Nicholas Ssebwato and forward Brian Kayanja to get the logic of signing a plethora of the players to boost the squad.
They have so far signed SC Villa right back Ibrahim Kibumba, BUL FC youth international striker Sadam Masereka, former KCCA attacking midfielder Samuel Ssekamatte, defender Allan Katwe and goalkeeper Benson Wagima who returned to the club where he was Uganda Cup best goalkeeper despite not taking part in the final.
The other signings are left-back Marvin Ssemayange, Samson Mutyaba, and attacking genius Jamil Kisitu Nvule.
With the confirmed permanent signing of talisman Joseph Janjali following a loan spell from Vipers, Bright Stars also got Nyamityobora winger Joseph Akandwanaho, Emmanuel Loki, Gabriel Elagu, Warren Bbule, and Ibra Kasinde to beef up the remnants of last season i.e. custodians Godwin Bbule a.k.a. Edwin Kiwanuka and Simon Simon Tamale plus defenders Andrew Kaggwa, Sam Ssekitto, Ngobi Derrick, Andrew Kyambadde and captain Sula Ssebunza. Add these to Kiwanuka Henry, Ronald Ssempala, James Angu, Onek Alfred, Augustine Kacancu, Davis Ssekagya, Nkonge Ronald
Opejo Kokas, Jjungu Methodius, Hamis Gabite, Mungiki, and gifted youngster Mahad Kisekka (when he returns from Morocco where he had an operation courtesy of Ssenkatuka).
Even before we see any other recruit, the stability Soltilo guarantees and the fact that Mbowa resonates well with the team’s Bombo Road roots (Kawempe, Maganjo, Kagoma, Kawanda, and Matugga). A lot is expected from this marriage but most importantly, a free-flowing brand of football synonymous with Mbowa’s KAYOFA, Chicago, and KCCA days.