When the going gets tough, the tough get going… is/was the Motion Picture soundtrack of the 1985 20th Century Fox movie “The Jewel of the Nile”. The song was released in the US by Trinidad-British recording artist Leslie Sebastian Charles a.k.a. Billy Ocean in November 1985 before the January 1986 UK release.
Around the same time, the man who recently announced the return of football was entering Kampala, while the singer-songwriter of the classic was celebrating over a decade of stardom (he is now an MBE appointee).
Fast forward to the present day, the SOPs set for Ugandan football’s return have left many football investors with a tongue-in-cheek feeling (only the financially tough will get going…)
Ironically, one of the few UPL franchises seemingly capable of adopting the Billy Ocean lyrics (Wakiso Giants) did not exist when the song was made, neither did some of the fellows at the helm of the club nicknamed “the purple sharks”.
Barely three years old, and only just a season old in the top flight, the team whose president Ssebulime Musa “Atagenda” was a registered FIFA players’ agent before joining hands with some Wakiso based soccer-mad philanthropists Hassan Lule, Ahmed Ddamulira (Opa), and Ahmed Mbabi to create a team that has duly shared a front-row seat in the social media and on the ground.
Their maiden season was in the FUFA Big League after buying out Kamuli Park and they beat all and sundry (save for an inconsequential loss to Proline in the final at Lugogo) to gain promotion on May 2nd, 2019, thanks to the coaching combo of Ibrahim Kirya, Andrew Lule, Ali Kiggundu plus manager Matthias Kisitu.
With a bevy of stars like inspirational captain Moses Feni, Stephen Bengo, Ivan Kiweewa, Cleo Ssettuba, and Ivan Mutumba to mention but a few, Wakiso endured the Jinja journeys and wowed the Bugembe crowds and media alike.
Attracting musicians like Jose Chameleone and Eddy Kenzo to their matches and hiring media friendly names like Ismael Kiyonga and Sula Kamoga as Head of Communications and CEO respectively.
Barely a month after joining the table of men, Kirya’s 1-year contract was not renewed and the coaching job fell vacant. Abdallah Mubiru turned it down and Livingstone Mbabazi opted for a return to Onduparaka from Mbarara City. Express legend Kefa Kisaala took it in August, coming along with James Odoch as the purple revolution began.
A wave of player recruitment ensued amidst other off-the-pitch events like the announcing of Wakissha (Kabaka Kyabaggu Stadium) as their new home and unveiling a state-of-the-art team bus, Kabojja IUIU ground as training ground plus Namasuba, Entebbe Road apartments as team camp.
In came experienced Geoffrey Sserunkuma, Simon Namwanja, Hakim Ssenkumba, Krizestom Ntambi, and captain Yasin Mugabi plus mercurial youngsters like Alex Komakech (Nyamityobora), Hassan Ssenyonjo (Aspire, Qatar) and talisman Ssekajugo Viane, etc.
On the pitch, things initially appeared rosy especially after getting more players on loan i.e. Vipers defender Ibrahim Kiyemba, creative midfielder Tom Masiko, and winger Duncan Sseninde plus KCCA FC’s defensive midfielder Lawrence Bukenya.
Indeed the arsenal seemed formidable but by November 2019, the coaching job fell vacant after what was termed as a mutual consent and player-turned-assistant Stephen Bengo kept the button as the board negotiated for a new gaffer.
Off-the-pitch meanwhile, Wakissha was steadily becoming the new Olduvai Gorge as fans and neutrals flocked en masse while visiting teams also carried enough traveling fans to catch a glimpse of the new facility.
When Livingstone Mbabazi finally accepted the job in January 2020, it all seemed like a new dawn as he utilized the window to strengthen the team with his own signings, full back Atendere Geriga, midfielders Faizul Ibrahim and Gadafi Wahab descended from Arua’s Greenlight while young goalkeeper Derrick Emukule came in from Ndejje University to bridge the gap left by Zambian bound skipper Yasin Mugabi.
A series of unconvincing results, the coach’s personality and apparently high handed style stepped on a few toes and the grapevine spun his impending exit sooner rather than later.
Mbabazi eventually left and assumed the Cranes assistant role as Bengo again assumed the caretaker position until Deo Sserwadda took over all through to the COVID-forced stop of the league and Uganda Cup (leaving the team 10th on the log after 25 matches).
Deep into the lockdown, Douglas Bamweyana was announced as the new man in charge, and just recently, former Police, SC Villa, URA, and Cranes player Simeone Masaaba was appointed assistant to the former Express, SC Villa, and Maroons coach whose days as Makerere University tutor make him scientific enough to push the Wakiso dream into reality.
And, when during the AGM, a new 800m budget was passed upgrading from 700m in their debut season, the indicators point towards a “tough” team ready to get the sail through the murky waters.
Confirming Tom Masiko and Lawrence Bukenya as permanent signings on top of Police winger Pius Kaggwa joining youngsters Joshua Lubwama (BUL), Ibrahim Kasule a.k.a. Owen Baaba, and Edward Satulo kind of justifies the focus of the board (they are also trying to lure young goalkeeping coach Swaib Ssebaggala from relegated Proline FC).
This literally leaves the team composition having Anyama Richard, Emukule, and George William Katende as custodians. Geriga Atendere, Muwadda Kateregga, Simeone Namwanja, and Alex Komakech as the fill backs but utility player Ibrahim Kiyemda, Fahad Kawooya, Hassan Wasswa “Dazo”, Swaib Mudde, and Ivan Ssebuguzi in central defense.
The midfield has Lawrence Bukenya, Faisul Anini, Tom Masiko, Gadafi Wahab, Hakim Ssenkumba, and Ayub Kisalita.
The forward line is proudly expecting the return of Viane from that nasty incident involving the MVP with then Maroon’s Hannington Ssebwalunyo.
Sebwalunyo made an official apology and has actually moved on to URA and Ssekajugo has used COVID to regain his fitness which was a key aspect in him not just playing all the minutes available to him but also carrying the team upfront in tandem with the youthful captain Hassan Ssenyonjo.
This relieved the pressure off the key strikers Karim Ndugwa, Geofrey Sserunkuma, Muwonge Amos “Agogo” plus Ivan Kiweewa “Kaloolo” and Duff Luboobi.
With former Rwanda based winger Yasin Mugume also back from a nagging injury, the Sharks’ fans will remain home itching to wear their purple apparel and witness how season two of their desired Cinderella journey to the top of Ugandan football prevails.
Chairman Sinan Waiswa and coordinator Arafat Kasolo have to think deeply at how to keep the pre-COVID momentum of their fellow fans high. If the Masaka training camp news can’t explain how tough the team preparations are, then we wait to see how many teams will afford such a luxury.
All in all, like their name aptly suggests, the Giants of Wakiso want to emulate their moniker and swim in the deepest waters (preferably painting them purple along the way). When the going gets rough…
“Maaso ku lutimbe.”
The author is a Sanyuka TV sports analyst and the presenter of #Ataakulaba on 102.1 FUFA FM every Sunday 6 pm – 8 pm.