Villa and Express must decide which way to go now

By Aldrine Nsubuga

In pure football terms, any attempt to defend Villa and Express current standing in the Ugandan game would be misguided

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Top three last season but now, bottom four this season, SC Villa's journey to oblivion has been baffling.

For the most part of last season, they were competing for the title. For the whole of this season, they have been battling relegation.

And two seasons ago, they finished second, eight points behind eventual champions KCCA FC.

How does a record league champion mutate from potential champions in two successive seasons (2016-17; 2017-18) to the drop zone in the next?

If that isn't confounding wisdom, then perhaps this will - last season, it was another traditional giant Express FC who survived relegation by two points.

Two of the best-supported clubs in the country, also among the most successful, can no longer keep their heads above water in a normal swimming routine.

With four games left in the current 2018-19 season, Villa are 27 points worse off than they were last season when they finished third. That is 28 points behind current table leaders KCCA.

To understand the absurdity of Villa's fall, one has to consider the consistent dominance that fellow giants KCCA and Vipers have had of the league in the same period.

Both have not moved out of the top three for the last three seasons, each winning the title once and either of the two guaranteed to win again this season.

With a vibrant new administration, Express are two points better (33) than they finished last season but could add to this tally as they have three games left to play.

They are 11th on the table, eight points above relegation with just five teams worse than them. Their clear target for the season was to finish among the top four but they are nine points behind.

The season has seen them change coaches twice from the Express old boys association and also boost the squad mid-season but the results have remained the same.

During this time, Express have been able to attract at least four corporate sponsors which, on the administration side, is the least they could have done to ease on the club's financial woes.

The spin-off has been a renewed interest in club affairs and football matches from the fans, again, adding to the revenue collection through increased match ticket sales.

Clearly, the club approach has been first, a return to the basics and then, luring the old faithful back to re-invigorate the ‘mukwano gwa bangi' spirit.

The difference between KCCA, Vipers and Villa, Express, therefore, is in the longevity of the administrative structures, financial backing and systems stability.

While the brand appeal, club infrastructure, stability, clear vision and financial muscle has endeared quality players to both KCCA and Vipers, the lack of a clear vision and mission at Villa and Express has left them with second rate players and coaches of untested quality.

Like a cycle of success, to achieve this on and off the field has bred more success for KCCA and Vipers while the reverse is true for Villa and Express.

This notwithstanding, it's hard to imagine that the two clubs that once set the benchmark for Ugandan football are today streets behind even Johnny come latelies Mbarara City, Onduparaka, BUL FC, Tooro United and Kirinnya Jinja SS.

That these can be assumed to have more resources than the two traditional giants is sad if not obscene.

Truth be told, however; even the quality of players at these clubs is better.

In pure football terms, any attempt to defend Villa and Express current standing in the Ugandan game would be misguided. Big teams are big teams.

No longer can Villa and Express hide behind the fact that they are community clubs that lack the support of big institutions behind them.

Mbarara, Ondupuraka, and Tooro have no institutions backing them.

As the 2018-19 season ends, it is time for Villa and Express fans to decide whether their clubs are in it to compete and return to the top or have long accepted that they have become ordinary clubs in the league than any other.