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Team-by-team guide to Uganda Premier League

In this countdown to the new 2014/15 Uganda Premier League (UPL), Moses Mugalu & Elly Kyeyune provide everything you need to know about the 16 teams, identifying the players to look out for as well as assessing the final standing at the end of the season.

KCC FC

Last season: Champions
Coach: George Nsimbe
Star man: Brian Umony
Home ground: Lugogo
Projection: Defending the title will be the first priority but after losing key players such as  Jamal Salim, Tony Odur, Gaddafi Kiwanuka, Stephen Bengo and Fahad Kawooya, who were all starters last season, could derails the ‘Yellow Boys’ title defence campaign.
However, the return of the prodigal son Brian Umony is a big boost to the champions’ striking options, complemented by new signings Yasin Mugabi, Martin Elungat, Paul Muculezi and Owen Kasule.

SC Victoria University

Last season: Second
Coach: Morley Byekwaso
Star man: Dennis Iguma
Home ground: Lugogo
Projection: After narrowly missing out of the title last season, SC Victoria University kick off the new campaign with good momentum to clinch the championship this season. Save for the departure of Noah Ssemakula, the league runners-up side has retained the bulk of its key national team players such as defenders Dennis Iguma and Savio Kabugo.

That puts Coach Morley Byekwaso’s side in good stead to lifting the title for the first time in their third season in the country’s top flight league football. That said, the club is still grappling with administrative issues that may affect it either positively or negatively. It has been reported that takeover negotiations are in advanced stages and the club could soon have new owners.

There are also injury setbacks to strikers Matthew Odong and Simon Okwi.

URA FC

Last season: Third
Coach: Alex Isabirye
Star man: Said Kyeyune
Home ground: Lugazi
Projection: The four-time champions are the hot title favourites this season. They have strengthened their bid with vital signings (thanks to their big financial muscle to attract and retain playing and coaching staff), which include the return of Coach Alex Isabirye.

Last season, URA had an expensively-assembled squad that didn’t live up to the billing as they failed to win the title. But tactician Isabirye, already proven winner with the taxmen in previous years, could prove a massive technical addition. Isabirye replaces Paul Nkata who was sacked after the team finishing third last season.

They have also brought back experienced midfielders Moses Feni and Patrick Ochan who are expected to connect well with strikers Frank Kalanda and Robert Ssentongo. If URA’s pre-season performance, which included victories over The Cranes and Tanzania giants Simba SC  is anything to go by, URA’s new signings in Ronald Ssekubomba (from Vipers) and Sulait Luyima (from SC Villa) will make good returns to the club.

Accordingly, the departure of Hashim Ssempala, Davis Kasirye and Martin Kivumbi could have less or no impact at all, on the team.

Vipers

Last season: Fourth
Coach: Edward Golola
Star man: Farouk Miya
Home ground: Buikwe
Projection: One of the well-facilitated clubs, thanks to the deep pockets of former Fufa president Lawrence Mulindwa, Vipers are among the title favourites this season. The 2010 champions expect newly-recruited Siraje Sentamu (from Entebbe), Saddam Juma, Allan Kyambadde (from Express), Yusuf Mukisa (Proline) and Daniel Oyiroth (BUL) to strengthen their playing squad following some key departures.

Former skipper Robert Kimuli (Rwenshama), Ceaser Okhuti, Eddie Mubiru and Juma Balinya (to South Sudan), Ronald Ssekubomba (URA), Oluseyi Olusegunyi (Nigeria) and Simon Sserunkuma (Express) quit the Vipers. In the pre-season preps, Vipers lost to Kira Young in their own Vipers Invitational Tournament but Coach Golola says he picked some vital lessons to fine-tune his side for today’s season kick-off.

Bidco

Last season: Fifth
Coach: Kefa Kisala
Star man: Charles ‘Crespo’ Asiku
Home ground: Kakindu, Jinja
Projection: Bankrolled by Bidco Uganda Ltd (BUL), the side has been a consistent performer, finishing in the top ten, ever since 2012 when they joined elite football league.
With the recruitment of nine players, including veteran striker Yusuf Kinene, the Jinja-based club should be among the best seven performers again. Kinene has already showed his value by scoring three goals in two pre-season friendlies.

Soana

Last season: Sixth
Coach: Richard Makumbi
Star man: Dan Wagaluka
Home ground: Kavumba, Wakiso
Projection: The best performers of newly promoted teams to the super league last season, Soana are expected to build on their debut success and stay among the top seven.

Although Soana have lost last season’s top scorer, Francis Olaki, who sought greener pastures in Albania; midfielder Farouk Osama (to BUL) and goalkeeper Mathias Kigonya (to Bright Stars), Coach Richard Makumbi insists he has a complete squad.

SC Villa

Last season: Seventh
Coach: Steven Bogere
Star man: Hassan Wasswa
Home ground: Mityana
Projection: The record 16-time champions should improve on their seventh place finish last season. With a new executive, led by Ben Misagga, the Jogoos have recruited massively and wisely by bringing in both experience and talent in the squad that gives Coach Steven Bogere options.

Former Cranes midfielder Hassan Wasswa, defender Fahad Kawoya (from KCCA) and national team goalkeeper Ali Kimera (from SC Victoria University) are some of the new signings expected to bring back glory to Villa Park.

Kira Young

Last season: Eighth
Coach: Paul Nkata
Star man: Lawrence Ndugga
Home ground: Namboole
Projection: Based on their consistent performance over the past two seasons, Kira Young have gained the experience and should finish in the top ten. Save for the departure of their former skipper Richard Kasagga, Kira’s squad remains intact.

Police

Last season: Ninth
Coach: Angelo Lonyensi
Star man: Umar Kasumba
Home ground: Kavumba
Projection: The 2005 champions have been an average team for the past three years and the situation is not likely to change; they will fight for survival this season again.
Crippled by financial squeeze, the Cops haven’t had any major signings but they can pride in Coach Angelo Lonyensi, who is familiar with relegation dog-fights.

Express FC

Last season: Tenth
Coach: Wasswa Bbosa
Star man: Simon Sserunkuma
Home ground: Wankulukuku
Projection: Despite their continued financial and administrative woes, the Red Eagles should improve on their 10th-place finish last season.  The return of Noah Ssemakula (from SC Victoria University) and arrival of Simon Sserunkuma (from Vipers) boosts the Red Eagles squad.

Simba

Last season: Elenth
Coach: Fred Kajoba
Star man: Jimmy Kakooza
Home ground: Bombo
Projection: The army side, which finished outside of the top 10 last season, should bounce back where they belong. Although with no new big signings, Simba’s players have gained experience and improved their performance as reflected in the team’s display in the recent East African Military Games in Zanzibar where they finished runners-up.

Bright Stars

Last season: Twelfth
Coach: Paul Kiwanuka as caretaker
Star man: Bernard Muwanga
Home ground: Lugogo
Projection: The Kawempe-based team escaped the relegation monster in their debut season (they finished 12th), but their officials have set target of breaking into the top 10 bracket this season.

Mathias Kigonya is the only signing for the club from top flight (Soana); others have come in from lower division clubs: Joseph Nsubuga (Buwekula in Masaza Cup) Opejo Kokas (Kumi University) and Joshua Kawadwa (Mpoma Tigers).

Entebbe

Last season: Thirteenth
Coach: Alex Gita
Star man: Godfrey Sserubogo
Home ground: Nakivubo
Projection: No new big signings and there is reason to expect the worst for the club that narrowly survived relegation dog-fight last season. They have lost key striker Yusuf Kinene who joined Bidco and midfielder Siraje Ssentamu has left for Vipers. It could be a harsh prediction but given the departure of key players and the absence of solid replacements, Entebbe is already staring into the relegation monster’s eyes.

Sadolin

Last season: Promoted from Big League as winners of the Elgon Group
Coach: Musafir Semaddu
Star man: Suudi Kayemba
Home ground: Bugembe
Projection: The arrival of Katumba and Suudi Kayemba who are all on loan from Bidco, their experience in top flight will play instrumental role fighting relegation. They have played almost seven pre-season games and only lost to BUL. Pay rise in terms of bonuses, salaries and match allowances may motivate the players to do the needful in the league.

KJT Rwenshama

Last season: Qualified for top flight via play-off after finishing second in Big League’s Elgon Group
Coach: Shafiq Bisaso
Star man: Gaddafi Kiwanuka
Home ground: Mityana
Projection: The team comprises of young, inexperienced players but with additions of Gaddafi Kiwanuka (from KCC), Robert Kimuli (formerly with Vipers) and Hannington Kalyesubula (not attached), the team is more likely to fight for the survival in the top flight. Playing in Gothia Cup and also other European tournaments in the pre-season has certainly boosted the team’s confidence and match fitness.

Lweza

Last season: Qualified direct from Big League after top finish in Rwenzori Group
Coach: Vialli Bainomugisha
Star man: Mahad Kakooza
Home ground: Wankulukuku
Projection: As it is always for the newly-promoted teams, Lweza is only expected to fight against relegation but the arrival of Ayub Kisalita (from SC Villa), Mike Sserumaga (from SC Victoria University) and Sadala Ddumba (formerly with Entebbe FC) could boost the team with top-flight football experience.

mugalu@observer.ug
kyeyunesport@gmail.com

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