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StarTimes UPL 2020/21: forlorn Onduparaka to continue the search back to their embryonic routes next season

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“All the powerhouses in Ugandan football are just merely spooks on the wheel, this one is on top-then that one is on top-and on-and-on it spins crushing those on the ground.” We are not going to stop the wheel but break it.

This was a promise sold to many Ugandans back in 2016 as the Arua based side stretched her bloody talons towards the league. Ecstasy and ebullience (as cliché as this might sound) were the definitions of the entire region.

Onduparaka reached the Promised Land leaving hundreds of thousands of fans tearful, emotional, and happy. Many of these fans stormed the streets of Arua in spontaneous rupture of overwhelming joy.

This was classified as a turning point in the trajectory of Ugandan Football, witnessing a club which in 2011, was merely amateur in all senses of the word. Started by a group of University graduates and little was known to them that the entire West Nile region would rally behind such a cause.

They were by all means terrifying, extraordinary, they filled people with wonder and awe, and everyone was amused by their passion.

Viscous as they often were. Their passion, commitment, and charisma always sounded exhilarating. The anticipation was so high that everyone wanted to watch them take it to the field of play.

Their prowess might have taken precedent then but can only be spoken of in retrospect though, in the current setup and atmosphere given the problems they have had to endure. One can be forgiven to think they were almost demising.

This with respect comes as a surprise from a club that has for all their time in the topflight redefined the necessities and requirements of regional establishments to rally regional support which also often amalgamates with artificial support from those not from the region.

The mouthwatering fan-base

Like often alluded to, “If you waste time trying to get people to love you, you end up becoming the most popular dead man in town.”

Onduparaka FC actually tended their approach in a rather different format. They ran no campaign questing for fans but had many following them for the obvious reasons.

The fact that they were the first organized sports club (football) representing the requirements of people in the region played to their advantage. Many related to this a lot and passionately followed the club everywhere.

This in its entirety accounts and provides a justification for Gaming giants Betway jumping onto their bandwagon back in 2016 in order to tap into that elusive fan base. The marriage didn’t however last long.

Their fans, whom everyone is well aware of the enduring fondness for the club they possess, have been faced with a consideration in recent times. To stand at the crossroads where at the left means loyalty to an under-performing club, turning right means loyalty to the region.

They (Onduparaka) have since looked wasted away. They have grown smaller, and so have their fans. The club isn’t extraordinary without them, they are just like everyone else now.

What they have had to encounter?

The past three years have presented a drastic plummet to the most sought out club of the last four years in Ugandan football. I reckon they have faced more problems than everyone else combined.

The epitome of these problems has been their failure to meet financial obligations. This does encompass player wages, sign-on fees, matchday bonuses, managerial remunerations, and everything finance-oriented.

This ugly phenomenon according to sources around the club is courtesy of the departure of Betway in 2018, a period that directly coincides with the commencement of their financial hardships.

This ugliness has brought about a lot of chest-thumping and sourgraping from the different​ stakeholders, declarations that don’t sound so positive for football and require less attention since they seem more ‘tabloidish’ than mainstream news.

The fans who themselves have been accused of being drunk, impertinent, and thoroughly defogged. You can imagine the disappointment (for those that know them) at finding nothing but a browbeaten and a calm people.

This has for some reason brought about hatred around the club following the arrest of one of these fans. This has given bad publicity to the club and further promoted the hatred.

Like an unscreened cancer, hate corrodes the personality, and eats away it’s vital unity, destroys a man’s sense of values, and his objectivity. It causes him to describe the beautiful as ugly and the ugly as beautiful. I hope this isn’t the beginning of the end for them.​

Their management conundrum has also not helped the situation. There is no stability since, in a period of just four years, they have gone from having Allan Kabonge, Livingstone Mbabazi (on two stints) to Asaph Mwebaze, and now Vialli Bianomugisha.​

The top management have also been regarded as hypocrites by the majority of the fans. Hypocrisy in my opinion is a boil, lancing a boil is never pleasant. I however wouldn’t presume to know the thoughts of the concerned parties on the matter.

Furthermore, there have also been tongue-in-cheek sentiments about the dilapidation of the greenlight stadium and the urgent need to repair this iconic venue. That however remains a topic for yet another day.

What must they do?     

As the old jungle tale goes, “a lion doesn’t concern himself with the opinions of the sheep.” They too should shrug off the disheartening criticism endured in the past years since their inception and focus their attention on putting their house in order.

The fans should supposedly be grateful that the club’s vanity and futility got in the way of their recklessness. It is also imperative that the club access their current predicament since only by admitting what we are do we get what we want.

For all that’s worth, I hope this gigantic club that presented itself to many residents of the West-Nile region as a “religion” of sorts remains oblivious to deformation since a dying mind is and will always be a demented one.

If anything, the Greenlight faithful clamor for urgent restitution back to their routes. The routes onto which their fans considered relatable. A unison where both club and fans are at the same wavelength.

Nothing indeed makes the pastor a sweeter place to visit than the prospect of imminent death. That shouldn’t be the kind of situation Onduparaka find themselves.

Expectations for the 2020/2021 season

Sometimes possession is an abstract concept. To currently ask the Caterpillars for silverware, however, would be almost as brazen as having them favorites to win the league. They in essence have their work cut out for them.

hard indeed is the ask but to answer the question, the club has considered a different approach, one that has been influenced greatly by the financial hardships they have had to endure.

Onduparaka managed to gather 31 points in 25 games to finish eighth in the just concluded 2019/2020 season. They averaged 9 wins, 4 draws, and lost a whopping 12 games. Something less synonymous with the Caterpillars.

This was by means a decline as compared to the 2018/2019 season where they managed 12 wins, double-doubles of losses and draws (9) in 30 games to finish the season sixth.

Their winning percentage (36%) last season declined by 4% in comparison to the (40%) of the 2018/2019 season. They have since looked lackluster.

To remedy this, the top management with club patron Hon. Ariga Rasul and chairman Benjamin Nyakuni are working tooth and nail to make the MTN partnership more liquid and attract new sponsors with Total ​ being rumored in the corridors.​

However, according to Mercy Munduru, the club’s head of communication and PR, the Arua based side will now prioritize more on nurturing homegrown talent as opposed to purchasing players.

This according to her is the position that the club is taking as they rebuild and set up new structures for future competition. So much for being world-beaters! Luckily for them, relegation is yet to be an option.

In the quest for this, the club took drastic steps in hiring Vialli Bainomugisha into the head coach role, a manager not known to many but boasts of a good reputation in dealing with young talent. Fair to say he is the right person to see out this new project.

His portfolio speaks less of his playing style therefore prizes for guessing his kind of philosophy. Talks of his calm, versatile, and intelligent approach to the game for the few that have the pleasure of knowing him are quite vibrant.

He finds little or negligible resources to work with especially with the majority of senior players exiting the club in the past years. The likes of Muhammad Shaban, Rashid Toha, Viane Ssekajugo, Gadafi Gadihno, Denis Okot Oola, Gadafi Wahabu, and so forth have since left the club.

Hassan Muhamud and Andama Sabir are amongst the players that departed the club in 2020 with the list still elastic. Many players that opt to leave have their reasons aligning to remuneration most especially.

On the other hand, there has been an influx of new players in the team and amongst these include Shaban Wasswa, Stephen Ogiramot, Simon Okot, Gabriel Matata, Emmanuel Odur, Jasper Okello, and so forth. They seem to be 15 in total.

The present task at Onduparaka seems one for the big, strong and level headed personalities. Handling a transition with limited resources. Vialli seems to have the right blueprint for such tasks and fascinating enough, he finds himself in the hot-seat.

Are Onduparaka tipped to do better in the forthcoming season considering the new project they have at hand, what do you think?


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