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Farouk Miya’s year!

That strike against Nigeria in The Cranes 1-0 win came on the back of questions from almost all football spheres what Vipers SC midfielder Farouk Miya was all about.

In fact, many questioned whether he even merited a place on The Cranes squad especially after the team had failed in its campaign to qualify for the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) in 2014.

Miya, the Man!

The game against Guinea in Morocco in November 2014, which The Cranes lost 2-0, going up in smoke their qualification chances, appeared to project Miya as an average player at best. But a year later, he was not just voted footballer of the year during the Fufa awards this month, just because of his domestic exploits, but his showing internationally was remarkable dating back to his goal against Nigeria.

This actually turned out to be the real turning point for Miya. He was pivotal in the under-23 Kobs team’s attempt to qualify for the Africa Championship; inspired Uganda to Chan qualification and success in the Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup.

Miya scores past Ethiopian keeper at Namboole

Not any less is the fact that his three goals against Togo in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers secured Cranes a berth in group stages. And for his club Vipers, they have him to thank for scoring many important goals to win the first Azam Uganda Premier League (AUPL) title; their first since 2010.

Azam dislodge SuperSport
Speaking of which, Azam was the talking point at the dawn of the year, when they dislodged SuperSport from owning the broadcast rights of Uganda’s top tier football league in January. Court battles ensued between the two companies, from which Azam, who were sued alongside Fufa, emerged victorious despite a few months of injunctions stopping their plan to do live broadcasts.

However, the outcome of this also marked the end of Kavuma Kabenge and the Uganda Super League (USL), his brainchild, oiled by SuperSport. The biggest positive from this was that league football could now be played in tranquility, as opposed to the way things had been in 2013 and 2014, when two leagues ran at one time, bringing football into disrepute.

Fufa symposium

In fact, this had been preceded by a football symposium organized by Fufa in January on how to improve the standards of football. Although no specific strategic report has ever been released encompassing all that was discussed in that symposium, to show the actual direction being taken for the game in totality, a pick on the domestic league’s stability being crucial for the game’s growth, was extensively discussed.

Micho extends stay

Perhaps, Fufa’s decision to extend coach Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojevic’s contract to 2018 in April this year can be perceived as the national football body’s strategy for long-term strategic planning, which brings stability.

And coincidence or not, it has proved productive.  In 17 games this year, Cranes has won 12, including winning the Cecafa, leading its Afcon 2017 group after two games and qualifying for Chan and the 2018 World Cup group stage qualifiers.

It goes without saying that Cranes has won four competitive games away from home, which is quite some feat considering how that has been Ugandan football’s Achilles-heel for quite some time until recently.

Onyango’s safe pair of hands

But this year has been quite remarkable, yet in no small part has been the part goalkeeper Dennis Onyango has played in all this. He saved a penalty away in Comoros and in Togo. And each time Cranes won 1-0.

Just as Yunus Sentamu was probably Uganda’s best export in 2014, this year, Onyango has impressed, winning the Nedbank (knock-out) Cup with a star performance for his South African club side, Mamelodi Sundowns in May.

That was capped by another incredible display recently, when Onyango saved two penalties in open play to guide his team over rivals, Kaizer Chiefs 3-1 in the Telkom Cup.

A Misagga-revived SC Villa

Notably, as Onyango celebrated the Nedbank Cup, his former club in Uganda, SC Villa were celebrating Uganda Cup success after beating KCCA FC 3-0 in the final. So, Villa return to the continent for the first time since 2005.

But more importantly, this year, at least the first two quarters, marked Villa out as the best supported club. Following their new president Ben Misagga’s approach of advertising the club’s fixtures and also merchandising, Villa attracted the biggest crowds domestically.

However, the pomp appears to have subsided of late and the numbers have gone down, as has all the rosy image Misagga had created. The winning squad was decimated and at least 18 players left.

The Spanish coach Antonio Flores hired in July was sacked in October.

And the impression that the team was rock-solid on Misagga’s finances, was put to rest, when a fundraising drive was carried out amongst the fans recently, so that the team can compete in the Caf Confederations Cup next year.

The rise of StarTimes

Yet still, because of Misagga’s shrewdness, Villa recently secured sponsorship from StarTimes, a pay TV company, for the next five years of over Shs 250 million a year.

Like Azam, StarTimes is expanding its footprint here. Earlier this year, they announced a three-year sponsorship deal worth Shs 220 million per year for KCCA FC. Their objectives are to be the leader in the football market.

And as competitors to Azam, one can only wonder how disconcerting their presence will be for Azam in the long term.

Referee Robert Donney!

That said, nothing is disconcerting and unsettling as the controversy that never leaves Ugandan football. And the biggest news-maker was referee Robert Donney. A number of games he officiated were shrouded in controversy, most notably the aborted Uganda Cup final between SC Villa and KCCA FC.

Indeed, Donney was suspended for a while but the domestic game this year has been clouded in a few seemingly match-fixing incidents, which Fufa promised to investigate.

However, it remains to be seen whether any findings will be made public.

Magogo-Kaliga fall-out

Equally, inside Fufa, Mariam Kaliga raised the red flag in September, citing financial mismanagement in the federation. Moses Magogo, the Fufa boss, poured water on the matter, stressing that his administration was clean and had done everything to the book.

In fact, Fufa dismissed Kaliga from the executive  and the matter went dead thereafter. Fufa looks to be running smoothly now.

Women’s League

In the same vein, 2015 has seen the first Fufa-managed national women’s league played, which was won by Kawempe Muslim SS and the youth under-17 league also took off after all top-flight clubs were ordered to have under-17 teams, as a prerequisite to being granted licences to play in the AUPL.

Curtains draw on Magumba

In a nutshell, this year’s football review started with the dawn of a new shining star in Ugandan football, Miya. But it is also summed up by the retirement of yesterday’s star, probably one that even Miya will struggle to match in terms of popularity.

That is Hakim Magumba. For all the glory Magumba brought to Villa, the curtain finally came down on an illustrious career panning from way back in 1995 at Villa International with a testimonial match on August 22.

Like the other highlight of 2015, Magumba played in Uganda’s All Stars game against the Barcelona Legends at Namboole stadium on December 12.

jovi@observer.ug

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