Villa was once the pride of Ugandan football
The 2018-19 league season is over. Congratulations KCCA Football Club.
It’s a story that has become too familiar. Talk champion for the last five years and there’s been an inevitability of mentioning KCCA and Vipers SC.
While the top end of the discussion is now a predictable affair, the lower end has been unpredictable but only in as far as the extent of involvement for Villa and Express would be.
Unbelievable that for two successive seasons, two of football’s traditional giants have been involved in the relegation battle.
Today’s column will focus on Sports Club Villa, the club that dominated local football for two decades between 1982-2005.
That dominance eventually translated into 16 league titles, eight Uganda Cup wins three CECAFA Club championship titles.
Then, it didn’t matter who was handed the job of coach. The club administration, financial resources, quality of players and fanatical fan base almost guaranteed success.
It was easy then to attract the interest of big-name coaches like George Mukasa, David Otti, Timothy Ayiekoh, Polly Ouma, Geoff Hudson, Paul Hasule, and Milutin Sredojevic who all delivered league success.
Villa was the pride of Ugandan football.
For 16 years since their last league success, they’ve been a club in turmoil.
They have had 17 coaches in that period, as many as 12 different parties have claimed club ownership and they lost their original vision along the way.
Individuals have tailored their own visions to define the direction of the club as different sections of fans have fought for control.
Their 12th place finish this season with 34 points, 32 behind champions KCCA and 11 places below is the worst return in their 40-year-old history.
That seven points are the ones that kept their heads above sea level is disturbing.
That KCCA, who at the turn of 2010, trailed Villa by more than 10 league titles are now just three behind on the count, must be unsettling.
The club that once gave corporate sponsors the best value proposition is now the only one among the top 10 clubs in the StarTimes Uganda Premier League without a known close association with a sponsor.
In the ended season, tales of internal sabotage, blackmail, in-fighting and betting have been more consistent that points collected on the field.
Players, coaches and staff in the administrative ranks have divided loyalties to leadership.
There’s a group that broke ranks with the interim leadership and has been receiving orders from powerful individuals outside the day-to-day running of the club.
This group badly wanted the club to be relegated. The other group still identifies with the history of the club and fully identifies with William Nkemba’s interim leadership which was endorsed by Franco Mugabe alongside Omar Mandela.
The rebel group within is fighting a clandestine war to force elections to fit their plan of taking over but the historicals prefer to follow the traditions of the club in choosing leadership.
This impasse led to a failure by the interim administration to fulfil their promise of paying staff salaries and incentives but also, failure to pay transfer fees for new signings.
A private player agent company belonging to one of the aspiring leaders has also been cited in the confusion as it has led to a lack of commitment from the playing staff.
For much of the season, therefore, it was left for Villa to rely on external help from other league teams to fight their cause as their own players lacked the will to fight.
The fans are the only ones who have come through the season with flying colours.
No matter what’s been happening behind closed doors, they have cheered the team on and attended their matches.
Surprisingly, it must be said, it’s Villa fans who again have been most visible during the season.
The problem at Villa then has been orchestrated and nursed by their leadership who sadly have taken sides in political battles they don’t understand.
As a result, the players and coaches have been used as pawns. It’s a chess game.
If no one at Villa feels embarrassed by what happened this season, the club will need a miracle to survive the coming years.