Uganda has had some really big changes and improvements to its football league in the past 3 years and we are yet to see even more in the coming years.
Despite the league having some draw backs in areas like coverage, partners and the referee match fixing which caused a lot of drama recently. FUFA is doing what it can to bring Uganda’s football league out of the shadows and into the light for the world to see.
Last year, Star Times took on the responsibility and rights to broadcast the Uganda Premier League for its viewers though the move was meant with concerns when it decided never to allow any direct competitor to have any share of business with UPL, FUFA or the clubs.
There is still hope for the football leagues to grow at greater heights and within the next few years, Uganda will have its own famous league to entertain the masses throughout the year.
However, with that said, there are five key things one should note from the FUFA Big League first round this year;
1. The rise of Wakiso Giants
A football club trading as Wakiso Giants in Ugandan football until mid-2018 as former Kamuli Park, have enormously invested in this project in a quest for promotion to top tier football. They started branding their new team in way that it could easily attract new players, fans and sponsors.
As the 2018/19 season was about to start, there drew a rift between FUFA and the Purple Sharks since the club had applied to FUFA Competitions Committee to change names and hosting ground. The FA accepted change of name but insisted the club should host its games in the same region it was earlier hosting games.
Ideally the Blue Sharks have played the first round of the Big League away since the team and its fans had to travel all the way to Bugembe in Jinja to host games.
When it came to player recruitment, the refurbished club started with Ibrahim Kirya in its dugout and players who could easily fit in any topflight side. However, the investment in the team has paid off and has seen them put on a great performance leaving them in the Elgon Group as unbeaten.
In addition, the hype around the Blue Sharks has attracted a lot of media attention not only to Wakiso Giants but also the Big League as a whole this season round.
2. League diversification
Unlike in the past where elite divisions of Ugandan football were dominated by clubs mainly from Metropolitan Kampala and those at times which gained promotion from other regions due to their big financial muscle and ability to move to urban areas for games.
Today in the FUFA Big League, 7/18 teams host games around Kampala, Wakiso and Mukono with exclusion of Wakiso Giants and others spread across the country. This has helped the F.A in achieving one of its goals which is spreading the beautiful game to all regions of the country and creating a bigger pool of fans than before.
3. Attraction of top Coaches
Improved sponsorship packages into Ugandan football has helped create bigger ambitions by different clubs including Big League teams.
In addition to the Big League assassin Allan Kabonge, who a few days ago parted ways with Entebbe F.C, the league has gone on to attract other high profile and decorated Ugandan Managers like 2014/15 Champion, Edward Golola who was at Kitara F.C but later joined Vipers S.C in another spell.
The league has attracted tacticians like Alex Isabirye at Kyetume F.C, Shafic Bisaso at Proline, Ibrahim Kirya at Wakiso Giants, Stephen Bogere at UPDF F.C among others.
The impact of these big names in the league has been felt over time in both Rwenzori and Elgon divisions of the FUFA Big League whereby many underdog teams have surprisingly become teams to beat due to the tactical brilliances of these coaches.
This situation has created surprise packages in this season’s League with Kiboga Young F.C led by Felix Ssekabuzza beating most sides and only falling once. However, the Head Coach amidst the team’s heroic performances in the first half maintains he’s target which is to avoid relegation back to third tier football.
4. Increased fan attendance during games
Due to the mere fact that the 2nd tier League has 18 teams spread into two divisions that is Elgon and Rwenzori with 10 and 8 teams respectively. This decreases the coverage in terms of travel for these teams and their fans in case of away games.
There has also been a tremendous increase in the number of fans watching these games with most clubs being community sides and the different communities to which they are attached embracing these teams with open arms.
Clubs like Dove All Stars from Arua, Kitara F.C from Hoima, Kiboga Young from Kiboga, Nebbi Central from Nebbi, Kataka F.C from Mbale record enormous crowds during their home games. There has been a special fans outing from Wakiso Giants since realistically they have played all the first round games away from home but the fans have always turned up in big numbers.
5. Referee performance
What would a round up about any Ugandan football segment (short or lengthy) be without talking about Match Officials’ performances?
Well, Big League referees have not been any different from the top flight referees commanding numerous errors with the exception that none has been suspended from the second division. Many teams’ officials have always cried foul from match day one to nine.
All in all, Ugandan referees need to be given special attention so that their performance is uplifted too avoid erroneous decisions in the outcome of games.