KCCA FC’s late goal on Tuesday at the StarTimes stadium in Lugogo saved the 2017/2018 Uganda Premier League (UPL) season.
You see, before KCCA’s forward Derrick Nsibambi leaped high on 94 minutes to find a second goal and ensure that they edged BUL FC 2-1, Vipers SC, who, moments earlier had just crushed Express FC 5-0, were declared champions!
Celebrations at the St Mary’s stadium in Kitende were already in motion, as the chorus went: ‘Campeones, campeones……..ole, ole, ole’…..As it turned out, Vipers had been a victim of ‘fake news’, and indeed their celebrations had been premature.
However, although this must have been embarrassing for Vipers, on the flip-side, KCCA’s win is the major reason there is heightened anticipation today, the final day of the season in actually more ways than one.
Fans across the country will be waiting with bated breath, once the action gets underway. Vipers, the current league leaders on 62 points are like an F1 car going into the final laps on the circuit in top mechanical condition. KCCA are on 60 points.
And the relegation threatened UPDF FC on 29 points, whom Vipers face, are the unforeseen danger that lies ahead. UPDF is there to derail Vipers’ anticipated success, because that is the only way they can save themselves from the drop to the Fufa Big League.
Yet, if KCCA had not beaten BUL, and Vipers were champions, common wisdom would have it that UPDF would not face as much resistance from Vipers. Therefore, it would have been easier for the army-side to secure the required result to stay afloat without dropping much sweat. Well, at least it is presumed.
That would mean that Express, Proline and Masavu have little chance of beating the drop. Essentially, there would be no excitement left in the relegation fight, because UPDF would meet a weakened Vipers side in all likelihood.
Vipers have a first leg semi-final game against SC Villa on Sunday May 27 at the Mutesa II stadium in Wankulukuku. So, much of their attention would have been on that instead. But with Vipers finding itself in a situation of it is not over until it actually is, they will come out guns blazing against UPDF.
It will be with added pressure for the table leaders more than it will be for their main chasers, KCCA. This is because the writing on the wall is that it is Vipers title to lose. That said, the final day of the season is bound to poses a challenge for the league broadcasters and sponsors, Azam TV.
Since, never in their three and a half year sponsorship of the league, has there been such a scenario, where two teams going into the final day hoping to win the league, where the trophy is placed, will be intriguing. Out of respect, the trophy must be where the leaders are playing.
But then, what happens if UPDF upsets Vipers, then Police FC crumble under the KCCA pressure? It is a while since the league has gone into the final day this tightly contested. The last time such a scenario ever occurred, was back in the 2011/2012 season, when Express, URA and Vipers all could win it on the last day.
Going into the last round of fixtures then, Express led the table on 51 points, URA 51 points and Vipers had 50 points. Both Express and Vipers won on the final day, while URA lost, which gave the league a photo finish in the title race.
When Vipers remember how UPDF frustrated their title charge in the 2015/2016, there should be a sense of vengeance on their part. UPDF, then known as Simba FC travelled to Buikwe, which was Vipers home base needing a draw to stave off relegation.
Vipers needed a win to remain in title contention going into the final fixture. UPDF stole a point off them in a goalless draw, to save their league status, yet handing the title to KCCA instead.
And according to their captain Dennis Ssekitoleko, they will give everything to remain afloat. Meanwhile, Express FC on 28 points, and second from bottom will hope that Vipers can beat UPDF, and they win in Bugonga against bottom placed Masavu on 26 points.
For Express, the advantage of having destiny in their own hands, has been lost. If Proline FC beat URA FC, their situation will be complicated. Herein the aspect of goal difference will come into play, meaning that Express has to score many goals too, something they have not done all season, seeing the table as it is.
In addition, Soana FC (31 points), who host Maroons FC can still be dragged down into the relegation zone. If UPDF beat Vipers and Proline edged URA, Soana run a huge risk if they fail to secure even a point against Maroons FC. A point for Soana would place them on 32 points and out of harms way.
With a goal difference of negative 16, Soana must tread carefully to avoid being dragged down. Proline is on negative 6 and Express is on negative 7, which makes for a really dicey situation, as the league wraps up.