On 23 July, 2017, Express FC chairperson, Nakiwala Kiyinji – also minister of State for Youth and Children – addressed the media at her office located at the ministry of gender and social development.
With a straight face she announced that the club had finalized talks with a new betting company, Sportspesa, to sponsor them to the tune of US$ 200,000 per year.
Indeed, Sportspesa officials arrived in the country a few days after and even met his Excellency, the President, Yoweri Museveni Kaguta.
Almost two months later, the status quo at Wankulukuku remains; Express are still as broke as a church mouse with no hope of redemption.
It gets worse – this week, head coach Matia Lule and his technical team resigned and so did the Chief Executive Officer, Ivan Kintu together with the fans club chairman, Gonzaga. The enmasse resignations are unprecedented in not just the history of the club but Ugandan club football history as well.
It’s too early to say that Nakiwala lied about the Sportspesa sponsorship. But tell that to Lule, Kintu, Gonzaga and star players Simon Sserunkuma, Mahad Kakooza, Allan Kyambadde and Musa Mukasa who have all walked away from the club with just days to the start of the new league season.
Lule and staff haven’t seen pay for four months and the players for much longer, which is why they had no contractual obligations. Matching the pompous style of Nakiwala’s management with tangible results appears to be the problem for the Express employees.
Two months ago, I heavily criticized Nakiwala for her amateurish handling of defender Vincent Onyembuchi’s situation after the Nigerian had broken his leg while on club duty. Politics and inexperience was written all over her. The question now is whether the minister is also a serial liar.
Where are the filthy rich supporting individuals she promised to bring on board on the day she was unveiled as new chairperson more than a year ago? Where is Sportspesa? Where is the personal investment she says she makes in the club?
Upset by my scathing criticism of the minister, a senior Fufa official sought my audience to present her defense. Among them; that Nakiwala deserves appreciation and encouragement not discouragement because she’s a rare woman who has sacrificed for football at a time when many able bodied men have shunned the game.
He also argued, that the Express chair person was single handedly financing club expenses including player salaries and the pressure is too much on her. Both plausible arguments, except that I am not one to rely on treacly sentiments when critiquing football administrators.
Whether player, coach, fan or administrator, football is not for the faint hearted. There is nothing fair about this game. Illegitimate goals are awarded, undeserving teams win, referees dictate results. The best players are sold, winning coaches are sacked, the most qualified administrators never get the chance to run the game. Similarly, Nakiwala should have known that she’s coming into a game that has no time for semantics or romantics.
Express FC is a traditional giant who has fallen so short of the standard expected and this has gone on for a decade. Once the best supported club in the land, they want to return to the big time now not tomorrow. The job of club chairperson was never going to be easy for anyone, certainly not a new comer.
No one expected Nakiwala to convince herself that her limited personal resources were ever going to solve the club problems. Under her management, Express has completely lost form and structure.
No money, no coaches, no players, no fans. No office. The coffee is smelling and the aroma is strong. It’s time to make a decision. To stay on as chairperson is her prerogative but the honeymoon is surely over. If the Express fans have not given up on their club already, the dark clouds are gathering.
Soon, the heavy rains will start. This is the time to show strong leadership. The time to be ingenious. Saving Express must be the priority of everyone associated with the club or else the minister will get burnt.