The two crown jewels of Ugandan football; KCCA and Vipers, have been at each other’s throat over the last six seasons
A sea of yellow and red. For a stadium whose maximum capacity is approximately 7,000, the KCCA-Vipers second round fixture on Thursday attracted over 15,000 spectators, the majority of whom were stuck outside.
This wasn’t a cup final and neither was it a Uganda Cranes match but it had been the talk of the town all week.
Separated by four points at the top and with six matches left, the outcome at the StarTimes stadium would be significant. To the fans though, it would be decisive.
And so, like bees, they descended on the stadium in their tens of thousands, more than any number seen at a local football stadium for a league game since the early 2000s.
Nakivubo War II Memorial stadium was the last place to inspire such a mammoth crowd in the days when VEK was still active as the umbrella for the three traditional giants.
It was nostalgic witnessing the thousands locked outside the stadium gates for lack of space – even for breathing – inside. That the game was played on a working day; Thursday, sums up the intriguing, sometimes even unbelievable story of how local football has finally returned home.
If the night football game that attracted thousands between SC Villa and Mbarara City the day before was not enough to ring the bells, then the KCCA-Vipers do-or-die encounter, did.
By 8 pm Wednesday night, the Mandela National Stadium car park was already full. At the gates, fans were trickling in with zest and speed as though some famous artist was about to launch a new album. Villa; three points above the relegation zone needed a breather off Mbarara who are relishing a chance to finish in the top three for the first time in their short league history.
Whether it was the innovative concept of night games or the importance of the three points at stake for both teams that inspired the massive attendance is hard to tell. What isn’t in doubt is that Mbarara City fans travelled en-masse and Villa fans packed the home stands. The excitement of the league and passion is back.
By the time Mbarara goalkeeper Ali Kimera decided to become the star of the show, though unbecomingly, the fans had already taken the day.
A season ago and more, games involving teams that had no business competing for the title at this stage of the season had sure empty stadiums.
And rather than abandoning their team whenever the season turned out a failed one for Villa, Express and KCCA fans, the threat of relegation did not keep away Villa fans this time. Kimera’s playboy antics that cost Mbarara the game are not the first in history, certainly not even at this level, but he’s been suspended by the club along with the goalkeeping coach.
That’s how serious clubs have become with performances and results. The two crown jewels of Ugandan football; KCCA and Vipers, have been at each other’s throat over the last six seasons.
Mike Mutebi’s team winning the title four times (2013, 2014,2016, 2017) and Ouma’s team two times (2015, 2018).
This battle of supremacy has become so exclusive between the two sides, even the top scorers' gong had to exchange from Geoffrey Serunkuma (KCCA) in 2016-17 to Dan Sserunkuma (Vipers) in 2017-18.
When KCCA replaced natural grass with artificial turf in 2016, Vipers did the same in 2018. Little wonder, corporate sponsors and players are having a problem choosing between the two clubs whose value proposition is at the moment immeasurable.
The 1-1 draw was no doubt the fairest of results and KCCA will feel upbeat about their chances to regain the crown they lost last season from the defending champions.
The title is still there to be won. This is why my interest this week is the general mood surrounding the local league.
It’s taken some time but there’s no doubt any more than the passion for local football is back.