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SC Villa: Why title no.17 is sweetest

CHAMPIONS: SC Villa fans and players jubilate with the StarTimes Premier League throphy after beating NEC FC 2-0 on Saturday, May 18 at Lugogo

CHAMPIONS: SC Villa fans and players jubilate with the StarTimes Premier League throphy after beating NEC FC 2-0 on Saturday, May 18 at Lugogo

Older fans of SC Villa may beg to differ, having watched the club go toe-to-toe with rivals Express FC and KCCA FC in the club’s glory days so many moons ago.

There were some championships which went down to the wire, and were achieved in an era where the quality of competition was as exhilarating as it was enduring.

Yet in terms of significance and the emotiveness of the occasion, SC Villa’s record 17th Uganda Premier League title has got to go down as the sweetest of all championships the Jogoos have lifted in their 49-year history.

The euphoric scenes that engulfed the MTN Philip Omondi stadium were both a stark reminder of how long it has taken SC Villa to celebrate league success, and why it remains the best supported club in the country despite those 20 lean years.

Lugogo was so small a venue for the occasion that many fans had to turn back and rush to catch the game on television. In attendance were distinguished SC Villa luminaries such as the club chairman Hajj Omar Mandela, Buganda kingdom Katikkiro Charles Peter Mayiga, former SC Villa and Cranes coach Micho Sredojevic and Jogoo legends Hakim Magumba and Denis Onyango, among others.

While Lugogo was packed to the rafters, it wasn’t lost on the thousands of SC Villa fans in attendance that the club had given away the championship on the final day of the 2022/23 season. Needing to beat URA FC at Wankulukuku to be awarded a first title in 19 years, Villa floundered badly, allowing Vipers to claim the most unlikely UPL trophy.

By halftime, all three clubs that were mathematically in contention – Vipers, BUL and Kitara – were enjoying comfortable leads and the pressure could be felt by a partisan blue crowd at Lugogo. The heartbreak of last season was so perched in their memories, and barely 365 days later the club’s fans found themselves perilously close to a scene of dejavu.

But when Charles Lwanga finally broke the deadlock on 67 minutes, the delirious pandemonium that swept through Lugogo stadium was not going to be stopped by whatever NEC FC put up. The stars were aligning for the Jogoo faithful who celebrated with perhaps the loudest roar the stadium had experienced this season.

Eight minutes later, Hakim Kiwanuka struck a beauty that all but sealed the club’s two-decade wait for league success. The full-time scenes that witnessed fans flooding the pitch in unconfined joy were a reminder of how much SC Villa fans truly care for their club. Likewise, the moment highlighted how important a competitive SC Villa is for Ugandan football. No team’s fans in the Uganda Premier League would have replicated that moment.

How SC Villa recovered from the dead to lift the 2023-24 title is a story that will be told for the ages. Two nil down at 65 minutes in the home match against Wakiso Giants, the club somehow engaged a new gear to dig themselves out of a terrible abyss to prevail 3-2 in the fourth last game of the season.

Against URA in the penultimate game of the campaign, the Jogoos trailed with seven minutes left on the clock before defenders Umar Lutalo and skipper Kenneth Ssemakula struck late goals to leave the club on a cusp of a first title in 7,320 days.

Dusan Stojanovic’s side seemed to be locked in a massive fight against history, but last Saturday the club earned its long-sought holy grail to end the longest trophyless period in the club’s history, one that had turned the Blues into a laughing stock for rival fans.

When SC Villa last lifted the title in 2004, the league still had teams like Moyo Town Council, Ruhinda FC, Old Timers, TOP TV, Ggaba United and Mityana UTODA. Masaka Local Council and Kinyara Sugar Works were also topflight sides. The golden boot of that campaign was shared by URA’s David Kiwanuka and Simba FC’s Robert Ssentongo, who scored 10 goals.

In fact, the MTN Omondi stadium that hosted Villa’s championship-clinching 2-0 victory over NEC was still a bare ground, where KCCA – then called KCC – held their training session.

Villa’s last championship was achieved at a time when the league was stained by match-fixing allegations involving VEK sides. And being a sixth title in a row, there was a certain dreary fatigue for both fans of SC Villa and the rivals.

It is for the aforementioned reasons that the 2024 title will live long in the memory for every Jogoo fan, young and old. It ranks as the sweetest of them all given how it was achieved, and after how long the club had endured years of championship-starvation.

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