One of the enduring eccentricities of football in Uganda is the enigmatic nature of the transfer market. A retired footballer recently disclosed that in their era (the 70s), it was routine for a club to simply pick up a player belonging to another club, hide them until the season started, and then have them appear in the opening game. No need for trifles such as player licenses, or indeed small matters like contracts and agreements.
Once a player made an appearance in the first match, they were essentially cup-tied, and could not play for another team that season. Thus, every transfer window was marked by distrust and suspicion, as clubs grew fearful that their best players would be captured by their rivals.
Things have definitely changed a lot since then in Uganda, but as the adage goes, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Recently, I found my interest piqued by an interesting story involving the country’s two premier clubs of the current era, Vipers who lifted the title last season, and KCCA who finished second.
The two clubs are embroiled in a tight battle for precocious attacking midfielder Andrew “Sergeant” Kawooya. According to Football 256, Kawooya is a student at St. Mary’s SS Kitende, but was, by virtue of being under-age, not professionally contracted to Vipers (which is Kitende’s parent club).
Therefore, The Kasasiro Boys reportedly moved swiftly, offering him and his parents a deal to join KCCA as soon as the player turned professional. The deal was announced over the weekend by the 13-time league champions.
Vipers were, quite understandably, hesitant to lose a player they’ve definitely long had designs of promoting to the senior team on, moreover to their arch-rival and closest challenger.
Uganda Premier League’s KCCA FC and Vipers SC Embroiled in Transfer Battle
Vipers have been left bitter by the Kasasiro Boys’ coup which ended with the crown jewel of Vipers Junior Team crossing over to Lugogo. This is far from the first time the two have tussled it out over a player.
Barely weeks ago, Vipers narrowly beat KCCA to the signature of former Express captain Disan Galiwango, a move which has since turned sour, as Galiwango’s former employers accuse him of breaching an agreement of his own.
Reports even claimed that Galiwango had been sighted at KCCA’s training facilities in Lugogo, presumably to finalize the move, before he was ultimately unveiled by the Venoms instead. A couple of years ago, the same two clubs wrestled for the signature of then Onduparaka FC teenage sensation Muhammad Shaban, who, it must be noted, is also a Kitende alumnus, and a Vipers Junior Team graduate.
Amidst the controversy that has come to define virtually all the high profile moves in this country, KCCA actually won that battle, as Shaban spent a goal-laden season at the Kasasiro Boys, before going to Moroccan outfit Raja Casablanca for an ill-fated professional stint.
Guess who was ready to grab him when he returned to the country; the very same Vipers he spurned three years ago. One can’t help but be reminded of instances back in the day, when Express, SC Villa, and KCCA bitterly fought over the nation’s best talents. Such as the fiery 1980s battles for the likes of Issa “Superstar” Sekatawa, and the late, great Jimmy “Kaiser” Kirunda.
Or the great war of 1997 when Hassan “Figo” Mubiru found himself fiercely courted by both SC Villa and Express after his exploits for Police FC and Lukuli United in the preceding seasons.
Express was sure they had their man and he was even reported to have been sighted at Wankulukuku Stadium already, but a late twist saw him join Villa instead, where he would form one half of the fearsome Mu-Mu duo, alongside the legendary Andrew “Fimbo” Mukasa.
Again, as is the case with Shaban at Vipers, Express would eventually win the war, as the striker mortally wounded his legacy at Villa Park by moving to Wankulukuku in a blockbuster transfer in 2001.
The market, and the league at large, may now be a bit more placid, but there can be no denying that the parallels are there.
This can only be a good thing as the league aims at generating enough hype to entice fans to return to the stadiums they used to pack to the rafters, before chaos and controversy, coupled with the rising popularity and ready availability of foreign leagues forced them out.
Also, read: Djoker; More Victim than Villain
Author: Timothy Ainebyoona
Timothy is a dynamic analyst passionate about news and all things sport.