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UPL kicks off: Villa, KCCA top challengers to Vipers for league title

Salim Abdallah (L) of URA FC and Ashraf Mugume of KCCA during last season. URA FC play UPDF on September 17

Salim Abdallah (L) of URA FC and Ashraf Mugume of KCCA during last season. URA FC play UPDF on September 17

Last season’s final day of the league season delivered one of the most dramatic finishes in the Uganda Premier League’s 55-year history.

On Friday, September 15, the new season kicks off in earnest and all factors point to another season in which Vipers, KCCA and SC Villa will be fighting for the title, writes MARK NAMANYA.

A league football, so they say, is the bread and butter of the game in every soccer country in the world. That precisely explains why Uganda Premier League (UPL) fans can’t wait enough for the kick-off of the new season, which falls on Friday afternoon across three grounds in the country.

SC Villa, whose wait for a League title enters a 20th season, will open their season with a tricky home tie against Kitara at Wankulukuku stadium. The Jogoos squad that will take on Kitara is a new-look team with a new coach in Dusan Stojanovic, who replaced Nelly Magera after the end of last season.

The Wankulukuku-based club released Charles Bbale, Travis Mutyaba and Gift Fred, three of their best performers last season, and have entrusted their rebuilding process in a youthful squad. Replacing all three players is no simple feat, but the Jogoos are confident of building from the decent season they had when they finished third on the table.

The club has acquired a number of players who, they are confident, will add depth, quality and quantity to their ranks. Villa have recruited Peter Onzima, Charles Lwanga, Hakim Kiwanuka, their former defender Gavin Kizito, Abbas Kyeyune, Diego Ssemugera, Denis Ojara and Norman Angufidru.

Kitara will be hoping to pose an opening day upset. They are certainly not short of experience, seeing how they have Paul Mucureezi, Paddy Muhumuza and Frank Tumwesigye aka Zaga to call upon. Kitara’s main ambition will be survival, considering that they were only promoted to the topflight after the Big League last season.

The other matches on the opening day will see Bright Stars host BUL, whose emergence as a formidable side was reinforced by their victory in the Fufa Super 8 last week. At Kakyeka stadium in Mbarara, the home side will be hoping to dish out a baptism of fire when they welcome NEC FC, who are also new entrants in Uganda’s topflight.

Sunday’s main tie has the league champions Vipers travelling to Jinja to play Gaddafi at the Gaddafi Arena. The Venoms are still smarting from their heartbreaking elimination from continental football, and as such, will be keen to hit the ground running on the first weekend of the season.

Despite winning their first-ever League and Cup double, Vipers’ camp has been anything but calm. The controversial departure of coach Alex Isabirye, the appointment of coach Leonard Martins Neiva, the signing and sudden departure of Brazilian striker Giancarlo Lopez Rodriguez and the exit from the preliminary stage of the Caf Champions League have all combined to leave observers wondering which direction the club will go this campaign.

Vipers owner Dr Lawrence Mulindwa is also not renowned for patience, and it remains to be seen whether Neiva will last the course. Nevertheless, the Venoms have the depth in strength to mount a formidable defence of their title.

In fact, being knocked out of African club competition could be the tonic for their season, considering that the attention will all be firmly fixed on the Uganda Premier League. Other Sunday games are Maroons versus Wakiso, UPDF against URA and Busoga United versus Arua Hill.

UGANDA PREMIER LEAGUE

Friday, Sept 15@4pm:

SC Villa v Kitara – Wankulukuku
Mbarara City v NEC – Kakyeka
Bright Stars v BUL – Kavumba

Sunday, Sept 17@4pm:

Arua Hill v Busoga United – Paridi
UPDF v URA – Bombo Baracks
Wakiso v Maroons – Kabaka Kyabaggu
Gaddafi v Vipers – Gaddafi Arena

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