Falcons face Our Saviour in a must-win game for the former champions to stay afloat in the national basketball league.
However, it is unlikely that Our Saviour can offer Falcons a free pass to salvation tonight at the YMCA courts in Wandegeya. Falcons, the record six-time league champions, must fight to earn any reprieve. Otherwise, a loss will draw them closer to relegation.
Falcons are involved in a battle with the UPDF Tomahawks for the one slot not to join Nkumba Marines (the two-time league champions), who have already been relegated. For Falcons, if the guillotine lands on them this time, it will be a case of long-time coming.
Falcons’ last league title was in 2007 and they last reached the play-off finals in 2013. Since then, a period that coincided with the death of club patron John Ssimbwa, only to be replaced by Dennis Mbidde, the club has been in a slide.
At one time, Mbidde was pushed out unceremoniously because of alleged mismanagement of players’ welfare.
Counsel Friday Kagoro then took over. But the team’s image had already been dented. Falcons could no longer attract as many top players. Yet, they have been able to get the funding of StarTimes pay television to a tune of Shs 60 million annually for the last three seasons.
In fact, StarTimes vice-president Aldrine Nsubuga said they have kept their side of the bargain, giving the team cash in the agreed time. While the team looked smart in the StarTimes-branded jerseys, they were not happy.
Mbidde, who returned to the team this year, has faced a rebellion as club imports Jacob Chilube, Julius Kikiny and Serge Kabangu went on strike.
Last season, club legend Stephen Omony left for City Oilers; coach Brian Rugyendo quit while experienced players Joseph Ouma, David Kiberu, Peter Elungat and Derrick Mbusi, left the team as well.
The team has only won five out of 20 games, their worst return since club’s formation in 1998. But Falcons coach Bernice Ankunda remains positive, probably banking on the fact that as a player with Nkumba, he won the league in 2005 and 2006, before coaching Power to the 2010 and 2011 titles.
“It is in our hands. We beat Our Saviour, and we will be good,” Ankunda said.
Falcons still have to play the UPDF Tomahawks next Wednesday, where the winner will take it all. But first, Falcons must subdue Our Saviour for the UPDF fixture to be of value.