UPDF 70 Falcons 66
The great Falcons are gone. The Red Empire is no more.
The past may still carry the glory of the record six National Basketball League (NBL) championships but the present is empty with darkness and the future is unknown.
The Falcons were relegated Tuesday night after going down 70-66 to the UPDF Tomahawks in a win-or-drop showdown at the YMCA.
Both teams needed victory to survive demotion to the second tier but all the pedigree, the history and goodwill of the Falcons were of no avail in the hour of adversity.
There was, to be fair, a strong sense of inevitability about the ending.
The writing has been on the wall particularly for the last two years but the foreboding began with the demise of legendary club founder John Simbwa in 2011.
Long time coming
Simbwa poured his heart and soul Henry Ssemanda says it aggravated his ill-health leading up to his death.
Simbwa’s commitment to the Falcons was extraordinary and the year before his death, he splashed millions to build a super team that would return the Falcons to the summit of Ugandan basketball.
He signed a young Sudi Ulanga, a freaky athlete named Michael Buzangu, Bienvenue Ngandu and an unknown Kami Kabange, just to mention but the stars.
But no sooner had he completed his shopping than he suffered great financial and health troubles, making it impossible to maintain the expensive team.
Nearly all the imports went back to Rwanda when the cash run out, leaving the Falcons to stumble into the playoffs, where they were eliminated by Power in the first round.
At this point Simbwa sensed that his time was drawing to an end and handed over the reins of power to Denis Mbidde, whom he had recently interested in the club.
Post Simbwa era
When the Falcons failed to qualify for the playoffs in 2011, Simbwa’s immediately be followed by that of his club.
But Mbidde rallied forces and helped the club reach the NBL finals in 2012 and 2013, losing to Warriors and City Oilers in epic series.
The 2014 season saw Mbidde make way for associate Friday Kagooro, who promised to bring back the glory days to the club.
“We have big plans for the future,” the big city lawyer said at a press conference to announce the dawn of a new era.
In 2015, Kagooro helped the Falcons sign a mega sponsorship deal with StarTimes, which he hailed as a game-changer.
“We can comfortably say we have the money,” Kagooro told the media at the unveiling of the StarTimes deal.
How strange those words sound now. The deal would not restore the Falcons as it ended after one year.
And when it did everything changed. The money dried up. Mbidde left. Kagooro left. And now the Red Empire is gone.
Falcons celebrate winning their sixth basketball league trophy in 2007 The great Falcons are no more.