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StarTimes UPL 2020/21: start of a new era for Express as they intensify their quest for stability come next season


Beauty is oftentimes a short-lived tyranny and so can be majesty, power, superiority, sovereignty, ascendancy, and all the various superlatives that align with the mastery Express FC were known for in the 1970s, 1980s, and a brief segment of the 90s before their arch-nemesis SC Villa took the mantle for themselves.

To this present day, they still boast of six Uganda Premier League Championships, 10 Uganda​ Cup (Kakungulu Cup) honors with 1995 being the only year for a double in their rich history.

It is close to a decade now since their last league conquest. This was during the 2011/2012 season under the stewardship of the magnificent Sam Ssimbwa. It was, by all means, a telling time to the climax of their abilities.

They beat Bunamwaya FC (currently SC Vipers) with a single point, 54 and 53 respectively to deliver the Holy Grail. The two teams tied on an equal number of wins (15) but the then champions lost fewer games (4).

In the aftermath of all this, however, the past eight years or so have presented an ‘unformable’ trajectory for the club. One considered undesirable for the fans and has indeed been exhibited by the majority of these fans vanishing.

As often claimed, a chain (at least by description) is only as strong as its weakest point. They indeed reached climax and once you do, there is always one destination-decline or an unprecedented fall from grace.

The fall has honestly been experienced and you know what they say, “the dome still rules Express FC”. To expound more on this, sit back, and let me take you down this journey to the deepest alleys.

The smoking sea they called them, how many decades before we learn how to build charisma like theirs again? For tens of years, Express were the best in the country at almost everything. And then they aren’t.

They held each other close and turned their backs upon the end. The hills that split asunder and the black that spread the sky (in their sight). The flames that shot so high and up that even their laid out plans and visions vanished will never be the final sets that fall upon their eyes.

A fly upon the hall, the waves, the sea wind, wiped and chugged. This was now their reality and the eminence of decline was hard to miss.

A club of many years and all that men had learned, the dome consumed it all alike. Neither of them turned. I suppose this is it then, this is what remains of them.

It seemed like a very ineffective preamble and way into that later moment. The truth that I tell you is probably the most incendiary fact in the entire world of Express FC.

However, the most fruitful times of the club known to possess the biggest and most vibrant following are arguably traced between 1990 and 2003.

Depending on how one perceives it, the great times are promised to resurface at Express FC in the forthcoming season. At least the club seems to be doing things right now. They are recruiting right and setting structures.

The unfathomable hardships endured

As earlier alluded to, “Mukwano gw’abangi​” loosely translated to us “The people’s love” as one of the slogans associated with Express FC, was a unifying factor. The problems they have however encountered in the past years are hard to exhaust in one piece of writing.

In light of all this, let us simply look at the highlights of these hardships as we keep anticipating that the new administrative and technical step-ups do find quick remedies.

The grand old franchise, choking on violence, less transparency, and deceit. Who could possibly have experience managing such a massive ungainly beast?

StarTimes UPL Express FC - The Touchline Sports

Express FC fans have for long been known to be a violent community especially when it comes to moments when they are not content with administrative decisions or when the team is not faring well | Courtesy photo

This is the kind of question that continues to enjoy air-time on various mainstream media platforms. The top management has hustled a lot with this revelation and tried to create stability.

This was indeed the motive back in 2016 when all seemed to turn for the good at Express with the appointment of Nakiwala Kiyingi as club chairperson amidst the capture of musician-turned-politician, Robert Kyagulanyi alias Bobi Wine as a brand manager. All seemed rosy and Express looked destined to return to its glory days.

The project was aborted two years down the road (2018) following various accusations of corruption and insubordination. She had quite a fraught relationship with the board and this was a really subtle thing to do.

The two parties reached a point of no return and this simply meant the departure of the now Minister of State for Youth and Children Affairs in the country.

The most controversial phenomenon of her reign however was her handling of Nigerian and then Express FC defender Vincent Onyebuchi who broke his leg while playing for the​  club and almost faced amputation when the leg started to rot.

To many people’s surprise, she came to the press confidently and indicated how the club wasn’t to spend on the player’s hospital bills. This to many Ugandans remains vividly staining to the club’s image.

StarTimes UPL Express FC - The Touchline Sports

Nigerian defender Vincent Onyebuchi rboke his leg playing for Express FC against Proline FC at Wankulukuku during the 2018/19 season but the Club did not help the player with the medical bills. The fans did | Courtesy photo

The managerial decisions over the years since Sam Simbwa in 2012 haven’t helped the situation. They have had Moses Basena, Frank Anyau, Mathias Lule, Shafique Bisaso, Douglas Bamweyana, Kefa Kisala, George Ssimwogerere, and now Waswa Bbosa. (Some of these have had two spells).

In all honesty, the Ssimwogerere era didn’t have much to offer aside mediocrity and constant humiliation for Uganda’s most reputable football club. Something was bound to give.

I hope this isn’t me trying to present my personal ideologies as ancient vision.

The influence of Waswa Bbosa

Many coaches have held the hottest seat in club football since the new millennium commenced and haven’t delivered. Apart from Godfrey Nyola (2001), Jan Frey (2003), Kefa Kisala (2006), and Sam Ssimbwa (2007 and 2012)​ , no other gaffer has delivered silverware to the red army in the last 20 years.

Wasswa Bossa who is described as an enigma of sorts finds himself back with the Red Eagles. He is one that is quite easy going on the outlook but difficult to comprehend, more so when you take a closer look at his management career in the latter years.

For many, he is regarded as a man with a Midas touch. Not a lot to offer from the technical point of it while in the dugout but is always capable of getting a full-throttle performance born of grit and determination from even the most amateur of players on the pitch, and that’s exactly where he’s touch lies.

For a man wanting in certain aspects, he’s got a management path that will certainly be the envy of many gaffers in the league.

The underlying fact that he was thrown out from the SC Villa, maintains the stain on his rich CV but nonetheless quickly jumped ship to the Express FC albeit the acrimonious welcome he received?

This is not to mention his little stint at the Cranes’ helm during the 2017 CECAFA in Kenya. Bossa is and shall most certainly remain a darling to the Red Eagles. With the many years of attachment to the Wankulukuku faithful as a player, many will definitely plead the fifth with you if you decide to argue against this.

The pomp and majesty of Bbosa’s arrival, just felt like the natural personality to take over. He has in the shortest time changed the belief around players and helped deliver their 9th league finish in a season where relegation was an option.

»Related: Express FC: Can Bbosa recreate the Immaculate ’90s?

StarTimes UPL Express FC

He is a bit long in the tooth, a bit withered in the sun too long we can all see that, but he is a veteran of 100 battles in the football sense and can-and-will deliver for them. He has a keen sense of poetic justice.

The new Express FC

The trajectory seemed to have turned back in late 2018 when the club confirmed a new chairman, Counsel Kiryowa Kiwanuka to steward the Red Eagles to stability.​

The first assignment set for himself was to lobby for sponsorship deals as the quest to recreate the glorious days was on. Boy did it pay off? Betway quickly jumped on the bandwagon.

The ideology of contentment being natural wealth and luxury, artificial poverty seemed to bird​ well with the fans. The displays on the pitch weren’t satisfactory on the other hand which provoked a reshuffle in both administration and the technical team.

For the upcoming season, Express FC will have a new C.E.O in Isaac Mwesigwa and head of PR Peter Tabu. The technical team will be led by Waswa Bbosa and his team.

Since their arrival, there is commendable work to write home about most notably the social media campaign by the media team where fans win club jerseys after answering trivia questions on the team. The most fascinating thing about this flamboyant gesture is that legends deliver sense jerseys.

One of their biggest gains in the preseason has been The Dispute Resolution Chamber finding their former captain Disan Galiwango guilty of breaching a pre-contract agreement with them, pocketing UGX 15 million with the promise that he would extend his stay at the club.

The player would later have a change in mind deciding on agreeing on a four-year deal with Vipers SC, a decision that did not go down well with Express who felt cheated.

As per the ruling, Disan Galiwango will have to refund the UGX 15 million he received from Express FC in November 2019 as well as an extra UGX 10 million as compensation.

StarTimes UPL Express FC - The Touchline Sports

Express FC felt cheated when the Disan Galiwango left the club for current champions Vipers SC | Courtesy photo

Galiwango who joined Vipers SC from Express FC on a free transfer will not receive a playing license from FUFA for the upcoming season unless he pays the amount to Express FC. Great news for the club if you ask me.

What next season holds for them

The greatest task the newly contracted coach Wasswa Bbosa and his assistants James Odoch, Hassan Mubiru, Sam Kawalya, and Ayub Balyejjusa have is to bring back the good old days at Wankulukuku.

Helen Buteme’s appointment as the strength and conditioning coach also can’t go unmentioned. It will be interesting enough to see what she gives them considering that this is an adventure for her in a different sport.

The Uganda Premier League is scheduled to resume on October 17, 2020, if the news is anything to go by. Express FC has been one of if not the busiest in the transfer window and the anticipation is quite high for everyone associated with the club.

They have signed an entirely new team altogether with the likes of Faisal Ssekyanzi, Abel Eturude, Mustafa Kiragga, Richard Bbosa, Godfrey Lwesibawa, Denis Otim Crispus Kusima, Charles Musige, John Bwamukama, and so forth. The list is elastic.

There has also equally been an uncountable exodus of players. Most notably however are Martin KIiza, Andrew Kiwanuka, Joseph Zziwa, Idris Kabonge, Disan Galiwango, David Kakeeto, Hamdan Nsubuga, and so forth.

The estimation of these exists is over 15 as the Red Eagles look to put their house in order and recreate the competition of the early days.

There is indeed a wind of positivity cutting through the hierarchy that Express and the fans are positive. Why wouldn’t they be considering that Bbosa found a relegation-threatened team and delivered it?

The previous 2019/2020 season, Express finished 9th with 9 wins, 4 draws and 12 defeats but the core of the wins came in the last fixtures.

What will happen with him having his own players that comprehend his philosophy? There are no two ways about it, Express is building for the future and looks to have Waswa Bbosa for the long term.

Winning the league seems the target but I rather think it’s too early to create this belief amongst the fans for it will create an unquenchable desire.

When desire, having rejected reason and overpowered judgment which leads to the right, is set in the direction of the pleasure which beauty can inspire, and when again under the influence of its kindred desires is moved with a violent motion towards the beauty of corporal forms, it acquires a surname from this very violent motion called “want”.

Timothy Kuteesa
Timothy Kuteesa is a professional journalist and editor with The Touchline Sports. He is also a certified Content & Digital Marketing Executive and Statistician. He likes to do a bit of Poetry & Writing in his free-time as well. Creative Art and Graphics Designing are some of his intrigues, coupled with Video & Photography. Email = [email protected]

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