Hassan Badru Zziwa looks into some of the top match fixing scandals in Ugandan football.
In one of the biggest scandals in Ugandan football, SC Villa and Express FC were neck and neck in the run-up to the league championship. With two matches to go, the pair were level but Villa held a 7-goal advantage on Express, which meant that the title was most likely going to be settled by goal difference.
Following a series of controversial wins by Express, Villa knew they had to score loads of goals against lowly Akol to go beyond Express’ reach. However, the drama started on Akol’s way from Lira to Namboole stadium.
Few hours to kickoff, some Akol players jumped off the bus at Bwaise and vanished, alleging that their colleagues were given money by Villa player Dan Obote, a former Akol teammate, to throw away the match.
Those that remained retorted that the vanished players were under instructions from then Fufa president, Denis Obua, not to honour the fixture in order to deny Villa a goal fest.
In the end, only 9 players arrived and Villa won the mockery of a match 22-1.Indeed, the Jogoos went on to win the controversial championship on goal difference.
Before Nsambya FC lined up against Express FC’s junior side Wembley Boys in a First Division match, they had an up-hill task of winning their three remaining matches in order to displace Cooperative FC, which had finished all matches, to qualify for the Zonal Mini League.
Not only did Nsambya have to win, they also needed to overhaul Cooperative’s goal difference of 19. Prior to the match the two teams agreed to “fix” the game and referee George Kyambadde (RIP) was reportedly part of the deal. Nsambya won the match by an incredible 18-1 scoreline.
However, in his report the referee wrote 18-0. Surprisingly, the same referee officiated Nsambya’s next game against Foods & Beverages FC, which the latter abandoned at 2-1 citing ‘biasness.’ Nsambya went ahead to beat Spear Motors 1-0 to qualify. And finally the club won promotion to the 1985 Super League.
In the fight for the runners-up position in the league behind champions SC Villa, Tobacco needed a goal galore in their last match against Airlines to dislodge Coffee. That would also ensure participation in the Cup Winners Cup.
The match in question was played at Bugembe Stadium where home side Tobacco trounced Airlines 12-0 and dislodged Coffee FC. A week earlier, Airlines had nicked KCC FC 1-0 but collapsed and gave way in a match officiated by referee Charles Masembe.
Suspecting foul play, some Airlines officials tried to intervene, invading the pitch, but their players asked the referee to red card them and that’s how team manager Sam Mayanja got marching orders. Though the federation set up a commission of inquiry, no one was punished.
In the penultimate round of the league, Express needed a six-goal margin against KCC to top the table ahead of the decider against leaders SC Villa.
It’s reported that on the eve of the Nakivubo encounter, officials of both clubs agreed to fix the game in order to deny the dominant Jogoos the title.
Come match day, the usually heated match went on like a training session with KCC players unserious while their fans joined Express to celebrate each Express goal in the 6-0 rout. Express then forced a 1-1 draw against SC Villa to claim their first title in 18 years.
Fourth placed UCB FC stood in KCC FC’s way for a third league title. In order to go beyond reach of second placed SC Villa, the two sides met and sealed a ‘syndicate,’ so that KCC takes the league title and in turn, the City Lads step out of the way for the Bankers in the semi-final of the Uganda Cup.
What followed was drama. UCB had no single attempt at goal; KCC won 1-0. Turning to the Cup match, KCC players, in particular Godfrey Kateregga, had a one-on-one against UCB’s keeper Jimmy Bossa Jnr but instead turned and sent a long back pass to his goalkeeper John Tebusweke. UCB won but in a twist of poetic justice, however, Coffee FC beat them on penalties in the final.
In the last round of matches, Masindi-based Kinyara FC was on the brink of relegation and had to beat fiercely competitive Simba, which sat comfortably in mid table to survive. It’s reported some players struck a deal to bail out Kinyara.
In the match, the usually hard tackling Simba defenders had a soft approach against Kinyara strikers as the small crowd at Nakivubo asked what was going on. Kinyara won 2-0 and survived relegation. The army institution instituted a seven-man probe team to verify bribery allegations but it never bore any meaningful fruits.
Two Jinja-based teams were neck and neck for the title since only a point separated table topping Nytil, which had finished all its matches, from Nile. Come the last day of the season, Nile FC met Maroons at Nakivubo Stadium.
Nytil hoped for a draw to clinch the title on goal difference while Nile needed a win to take the title by a point. Prior to the match at Nakivubo Stadium, there was a lot of lobbying in the Maroons camp by both Nile and Nytil bosses.
In the match, Maroons put up a lot of resistance, ending the first half 0-0. Soon afterwards, some Nile players, many of whom had previously played for Maroons, entered the dressing room of Maroons and it’s said a deal was struck.
Immediately after the re-start, Nile scored the easiest of goals without any challenge by Maroons players before going on to seal a memorable league title.
Relegation threatened State House FC needed to win their two remaining matches to survive. However, knowing they lacked the individual brilliance to survive, they set out to win free boardroom points.
The match against relegated Pamba didn’t take place following the mysterious disappearance of Pamba players before they resurfaced moments after referee Hussein Bugembe had called off the game. That was three points and two goals gained.
Then they had to face highflying Mbale Heroes, which a few days earlier had won the Kakungulu Cup. Come match day, Mbale FC inexplicably didn’t appear – claiming the match had been put off.
When the league committee learnt of the trick and rescheduled the game, Heroes declined to honour it – claiming they had no interest in the game. But in a twist of fate, Fufa decided to trim the league from 22 to 16 teams – in the process relegating State House.
Local football body Fufa had directed that two teams should be promoted and five demoted. The federation also directed that three of the relegated clubs play those that qualified for the Super mini-league.
Relegation bound Buikwe Red Stars, Uganda Breweries (Bell) and Uganda Commercial Bank (UCB) lined up against KK Cosmos, Bondo (Arua), Mbale Heroes and Mbarara United at Bugembe Stadium. The super league sides had thought it would be a downhill task only to find that they might not return to the elite division.
The two clubs, Buikwe and UCB allegedly employed their huge purses to bribe Bondo which had already bowed out of the competition and in return the two clubs walloped the Arua team with 9-0 and 13-0 to bounce back into the Super League.
The 1995 season goes in the history of KCC FC as the worst. Apart from employing two coaches, the team failed to challenge both Express FC and SC Villa to the title. After sacking Fred Mugisha as coach, Paul Ssali was asked to come to the rescue of his former club.
But things failed to work. Since the club had been involved in a number of match fixing scandals, players started throwing away games. Posta FC which had reached the finals of Kakungulu Cup against Express was relegation bound and to survive, they had to beat KCC—and by all standards—the mail boys had no capacity to beat the city lads.
A meeting was arranged between officials of both clubs a day before the game and what followed is history. KCC displayed one of the worst games.
The players simply gave away goals since their team was out of relegation and settled in the sixth position on the table. It was not clear whether coach Ssali wanted to bail out his former club (he first handled Posta before moving to KCC) and at the end of the game, Posta had won 3-2; they survived relegation.