It was SC Villa’s most legitimate shot at claiming the league championship in Eng. Ben Misagga’s era as club president.
Many would argue that the 2014/15 campaign was more genuine but hey, Villa earned close to 10 points in the boardroom towards the end of the season.
Enter 2017/18, they were the runaway champions until the 17th of April enjoying a five-point lead with three games to go when they fell to Vipers SC at their fortress Masaka recreation grounds where they had not lost a game in 12 months.
It marked the third year of near misses and that remains as SC Villa’s last shot at clinching the elusive 17th league title, a championship that has eluded them for 15 years now.
We look back at events that conspired to deprive the Jogoos of their success that season.
The Lack of a consistent lethal striker
On July 6th 2018, this website reported that Nelson Senkatuka was on the verge of joining SC Villa to replace the departed Emma Okwi who had left for Tanzania after a very stellar season.
SC Villa distanced themselves from the move and rather ended up signing a less known George Senkaaba from Kirinya Jinja S. S. Senkatuka later joined Bright Stars and he managed a respectable figure of 13 goals and a serious contention for MVP of the season.
On the other hand, SC Villa’s lead targetman Senkaaba managed four goals and SC Villa were the team with the least goals among the three contenders.
They heavily relied on wingman Martin Kizza and they fired blanks when he got off the boil.
Villa only scored 28 compared to Vipers’ 40 and KCCA’s 46.
The failure to kill off games
Villa found themselves guilty of losing valuable points in the late minutes. They developed a knack of hanging on 1-0 leads which cost them dearly. Patrick Gonahassa’s 93rd equaliser against Maroons in Luzira, Fred Amaku’s 94th equaliser at Bugembe and Emmanuel Obinna’s late leveller penalty in Mbarara cost Villa a minimum of six points which would have been a huge ammunition in the title quest.
Internal disorders and fights
This was the last straw in SC Villa’s coffin, Wasswa Bbosa’s four match suspension after his attack on referee Deogratius Opio during the Soana game at Kavumba was a huge eye opener on what was really going on at Villa Park and kept under wraps.
This meant Paul Mukatabala was to take over the duties on the touchline but under Bbosa’s guidance. Problems unmasked when Bbosa ordered Mukatabala to make some substitutions which backfired with Mbarara’s late equaliser that spelt doom to Villa’s credentials.
Fans attacked Bbosa accusing him of incompetence and sending poor tactics to his assistants.
The loss to UPDF FC in Bombo finally revealed everything that was left uncovered. After the match, Bbosa physically attacked Mukatabala accusing him of intrigue and losing games with an intention of discrediting him. Mukatabala later swore not to return to Villa Park until the matter was properly handled by the superiors.
Lack of genuine quality and strength in depth
Every title winning squad is built on pillars of cohesion, quality and numbers. SC Villa were lacking in some of the key aspects of a real title challenger.
They started the season with only one recognized goal keeper after the untimely departure of the young Sanon Mulabi who was signed in the preceding transfer window from Agape S. S. They quickly fixed in Samuel Kivumbi another inexperienced youngster to deputise for Samson Kirya.
Whereas Vipers were equipped with James Alitho as Ismail Watenga’s deputy, KCCA also had Jamil Maliyamungu and Thomas Ikara in their arsenal.
Other departments like the defence and midfield looked somewhat better stocked but still lacked on quality. They struggled in matches where Martin Kizza, Allan Kyambadde and Nicholas Kasozi laboured. Yubu Bogere, George Senkaaba and Alex Kitatta “Benzema” were the only other options going forward.
Insufficient remuneration and motivation
Towards the December break, voices began to come out from the playing staff that salaries had become hard to come by which was also a chronic disease at Villa since time immemorial due to the lack of a main source of funds for the club.
They were mainly dependent on the big willy wallet of president Misagga and suffered during times of his bank account drought.
On the contrary, KCCA FC were blessed with embarrassment of sponsors at their disposal on top of being run on a tax payer’s budget.
Vipers too up to this day are bankrolled by business mogul and owner Lawrence Mulindwa who ensures timely payment of the players’ cheques and other emoluments.
Having heard of the players’ plight, a section of fans (Makerere branch) started an initiative of raising funds to award the best performers on match days in a bid to motivate the players more. This only proved to be a drop in the ocean.
The dreadful away form and failure to punish their opponents
SC Villa lost a total of 21 points on the road and their biggest win of the season came from the relegation bound Masavu FC. Whereas Vipers won seven games on the road, SC Villa only managed four. SC Villa lost six points to Vipers and three to KCCA, the eventual champions on the other hand only lost three points to the other title challengers.
It would not be a complete apportionment of the blame if management had not taken their share, some management issues were not dealt well with and dearly cost the club.
The way in which player grievances were handed left a lot to be desired. Farouk Musisi Kizito complained of mistreatment by the coaching staff but management paid a deaf ear and he left for Zambia. Vitalis Tabu, a then talented young midfielder who was tipped to take the league by storm, went AWOL only to reappear during the later stages of the season.
Davis Kasirye who was signed in the January window to boost the forward line also vanished in thin air without anyone’s consent. Some circles claim he was sold to India and others say, he just switched his phones off and went AWOL.
Others may argue that fate and many other reasons not pointed out here could have conspired to deny Uganda’s most successful club their title number 17 but up to this day it has remained elusive.
The following season, Villa only managed to keep four players of that title challenging team, Joseph Nsubuga, Samson Kirya, Ambrose Kirya and Samuel Kivumbi. They fought against relegation and during the recently concluded season, Villa flattered to deceive as mere title pretenders.