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Kitara FC aims at Uganda Cup

Vipers’ Rodrigues Shamamba (L) in action against defender Max Owagchiu, the captain of Kitara FC, during a league match earlier this season

Vipers’ Rodrigues Shamamba (L) in action against defender Max Owagchiu, the captain of Kitara FC, during a league match earlier this season

At the beginning of the 2023/24 top-flight football season, no one predicted that Kitara FC would be a key protagonist.

But they remain atop the Uganda Premier League, and if they can win their remaining five games, they will be champions. Yet, that is not the farthest the Hoima-based side, that plays its home games at the Masindi Municipal stadium, has thrown its weight.

They are in the quarter-finals of the Stanbic Uganda Cup, ready to battle the defending champions, Vipers SC this Sunday, April 14 in Masindi. And according to their coach, Brian Ssenyondo, they are ready to have a real go at them.

“In the first round, we played a very close game with them in Kitende, although we lost it at the end. But we learnt a lot from it, like we have from the other games we have played this season. We have grown from strength to strength,” Ssenyondo said.

If Kitara were to go on and win the league and cup double, Ssenyondo, 30, would be the youngest coach (his good friend Mike Mutebi almost did it in 1997 aged 27) to achieve that. While he is not shy to say that he is pleased by how far he has come in the game, having started his coaching career at Masaka SS, as a senior four student in 2012, he admitted that the situation he is in today, is a unique one.

NO PEDIGREE

“Previously, I was at clubs like UPDF FC last season, where the pressure was on ensuring that we remained in the top-flight. At Kitara, we are at a stage where we are being talked about as potential league and cup champions. I do not think Vipers, KCCA FC or Bul FC find that situation overwhelming because for them, they have been recent winners of at least one of those trophies,” Ssenyondo said.

However, Ssenyondo does not want to suggest that Kitara is under pressure because they do not have the pedigree. Instead, the message he has given his players is to relish the moment and challenge the status-quo. Ssenyondo reasoned that the big games have brought the best out of his charges.

Ssenyondo added: “The prospect of upsetting a big team like Vipers, is a big motivation for every player to bring the best of themselves.” In fact, already this season, Kitara has managed victories over KCCA, URA and SC Villa. And more often than not, Kitara have played well. So, when Vipers visit Masindi on Sunday, more of the same is expected.

In the round of 16, Kitara knocked out SC Villa 2-0, a fact that should boost their self-esteem. Yet, going by their last two league games, the goalless draw with Bul, that was followed by the 1-0 loss to NEC FC in Lugogo last week, could there be a weakness therein?

While it was Kitara’s first loss in eight second round games, some observers feel that Ssenyondo’s decision to leave Paul Mucureezi, Living Kabon and Frank ‘Zaga’ Tumwesigye all out of his starting 11, left his side bereft of craft. In his defence, though, Ssenyondo insisted this is not a time for sentimentalism, but picking those he deems to be in the right mind frame to perform.

INCONSISTENT

Yet, because Kitara are in a unique position, the pressure of winning every game may overwhelm them, too, now. One way or the other, Ssenyondo has to find a way of getting his marquee players, particularly the ones that have won the league before, performing at this crunch time. That is midfielders Mucureezi and Tumwesigye.

Critics feel that their performances have been inconsistent. The last time Mucureezi put up an impressive showing, was in the last seven games of the first round, a period in which he scored five goals, many of them, winners.

But Ssenyondo does not want the discussion of his team to focus on just individuals. He insisted that it is about the collective. Everyone has got to put in a shift. And if they all do like they have for much of the season, he sees no reason why they cannot go all the way to the holy grail.

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