It’s like asking Jesus to save the devil from hell.
When Express FC hire George ‘Best’ Nsimbe to help save them from the drop, you know these are desperate times for the club. It’s like asking Jesus to save the devil from hell. From way back in time, a frosty relationship has existed between the two traditional rivals.
In the 1980s and 1990s, a blood bath was expected whenever the two sides met. The term ‘mutual respect’ did not exist. This derby was unlike KCCA/ Villa or Villa/Express.
There had to be on-going battles in the terraces, outside and beyond Nakivubo stadium. It was war. Both sets of fans loathed each other so much, KCC fans invented a name for Express; ‘Abayaga’ while Express referred to KCC as ‘Kasasiro.’
Deep seated hatred Contrary to what some supporters thought, these were not fond names. They were an expression of the deep seated feelings of hatred that both sets of fans had towards each other.
For Express fans, losing to KCC was unthinkable.
Whenever KCC led in the derby, the referee was forced to temporarily halt or abandon the match as a result of hooliganism.
Express fans were always the aggressors. The forced replays were usually won by Express, which heightened the tensions even further resulting into permanent animosity. It was unheard of that a player or coach would directly switch from either of the two clubs to the other. In fact, it was easier for a player to join from KCC to Villa, than KCC to Express or vice versa.
The cases of Joakim Matovu, Issah Sekatawa, Kassim Katumba, Jamil Kyambadde and Kefa Kisala who crossed from Express to KCC at some point all had a common denominator; the players were self-professed KCC supporters.
When Sam Ssimbwa joined Express as coach, it shocked many. Yet, he won a Ugandan Cup for the club in spite of the protestations that followed.
Mike Mutebi failed to make an impact on SC Villa the short stint he spent at the club because the fans refused to welcome and accept him as a known KCC supporter.
Nsimbe’s arrival at Wankulukuku last week was a big surprise therefore. On his part, he’s a professional coach who will take on any job that avails itself. His most important brief in this moment is to help Express gather the minimum points required to stay in the Premier League.
Sign of the times.
This was unthinkable 15 years ago. Those were the years when every KCC fan wished that Express were banned or demoted to the first division; if not for the gross indiscipline of their fans at least for the lack of minimum points required to stay up.
Today, the only reason a KCC fan wants Express to stay up is for the benefit of the Premier League whose development is still in infancy.
Local football needs the passion and fanaticism of the Express fan. Over the years, it has also become apparent that the likes of URA, UPDF,
Police will never measure up to the pedigree of Villa, KCC and Express despite being institutional clubs. They don’t have a fan base.
In their place now, are Vipers SC and Onduparaka. Both vibrant, fast growing and ambitious. They have both built a fan base which can only grow bigger with time.
Neither, however, can take on the life of Express (mukwano gwa banji) who have never been relegated from the top division.
The neutrals will argue that the Premier League can’t afford to lose Express and would support any initiative from whatever quarters to save the club from relegation.
The recruitment of a KCC loyalist – Nsimbe – is a brave move but not braver than the tactician’s own decision to accept the invitation. Amongst Express’s biggest problems is their inability to pay salary to their employees which has turned them into to nomads.
Nsimbe desperately needed a job which could bring him back in the limelight and Express is desperate for salvation.
It’s a fickle marriage. A marriage of convenience. Nsimbe passed his first test with a 4-0 victory over Soana.
Can Express give him the job permanently if he can replicate the result in the remaining games and save the club? It remains to be seen.