SC Villa coach Wasswa Bbosa took a dig at Emmanuel Kiweewa, the centre referee, that handled his team and Vipers SC’s Stanbic Uganda Cup semi-final second leg at the St Mary’s Stadium in Kitende on Tuesday June 5.
During the post-match press briefing, Bbosa said that Kiweewa “made an assist” for Vipers, when he awarded them a free-kick on the edge of Villa’s penalty area. This free-kick was finely dispatched by substitute midfielder Brian Nkuubi on 69 minutes, to help Vipers on their way to the Uganda Cup final tomorrow, with a 1-0 aggregate win.
Bbosa’s reaction suggested that Kiweewa was out there on the field to get his team. However, concentrating on what Bbosa said about the referee can only be deemed valid if put to the test to eliminate the danger of feeding into a possible defeatist narrative.
The incident from which the deemed to be controversial free-kick resulted was fast. Yet, because it involved three players, two of Villa and one from Vipers, it was a bit of melee. It was between Villa’s two centre-backs of the day, Henry Katongole and Isa Lumu against Viper’s Milton Karisa.
And because of the nature of football, a physical sport, one expects that there will be jostling. And indeed there was for the ball. Villa’s Katongole, tagged at Karisa’s shirt, as he entered the penalty area. But it was a brief and quick tag.
Not the kind that would bring Karisa down or restrain him significantly. However, that depends on the referee’s interpretation and discretion. Kiweewa has that prerogative. No matter what, it remains illegal to tag at an opponent’s shirt, and Katongole, a seasoned defender knows that you do not flirt with the devil, lest you sin.
Beyond that, because Karisa found himself sandwiched inside the box, the power of the two Villa defenders, led him to lose his footing, and down he went. In fact, when Kiweewa blew the whistle at that point, some thought he was going to book Karisa for going down easily. For the more optimistic ones, it was probably a Vipers penalty, but a soft one it would be.
Surprisingly, Kiweewa’s call was a free-kick outside the box. The interpretation was that Kiweewa either feared to penalize Villa, which was the only near sensible outcome from the incident, in any case it was called in Vipers’ favour, or waving play to continue should have sufficed.
Making a free-kick call suggested that Kiweewa was preferred to penalize Villa for the earlier shirt tagging incident, seeing that Karisa had lost advantage of the ball in the box. If that is what Kiweewa had in his mind, his decision came late. But again, referees have the mandate to call back play, so Kiweewa can still get off the hook of suspicion, as Bbosa alleged.
The fact that Villa conceded from that incident did not help matters. As such, there was no chance for Kiweewa escaping recrimination. Seeing how this whole incident played out, few defeated teams would not put the referee out to dry even though, his overall performance, for a young and upcoming referee was commendable, the Police FC coach Abdallah Mubiru noted.
Notably, Kiweewa exercised great restraint in seeing the game to a successful completion, otherwise, a couple of Villa players could have seen red for pushing and shoving him, whenever they protested his decisions.
For Villa, the free-kick incident did not only overshadow the fact that their coach’s contract had run out going into this game. But also, the fact that some fundamental discrepancies continue to affect Villa, and, were glaring in the return leg in Kitende.
First of all, Bbosa’s relationship with some of the club’s fraternity has been broken for some time now. It is probably the club boss, Ben Misagga, who still vouches for him. With such at play, inevitably, Villa went into the game lacking togetherness, as a number of Villa officials want Bbosa out.
In fact, there are some, that are happy the team failed, because it will expedite Bbosa’s departure. With these divisions, it was going to be hard for Bbosa to motivate the team. It should be noted the stadium section left for the Villa fans hardly had any life or voice. It was isolated, following the decision by many Villa fans not to watch the game in protest.
A week before the return leg, the management of Vipers SC issued a list bearing names of Villa fans, that would not be allowed in the stadium. This is because the last time Villa had played in Kitende (September 2017), some fans vandalized the stadium. Vipers received no compensation for the destruction.
As a result of the few Villa fans in the stadium, much of deafening cheers were for the home side. But that did not stop Villa from making its presence felt, much to the chagrin of the home support. The Jogoos created a few good chances, clearer than the ones the home side had created and could have even taken the lead with better finishing.
Villa could only fault itself for not being clinical. Deep in the first half, Villa were faced with a gaping goal, at the mercy of midfielder Mahad Kakooza. But still failed to capitalize. Such has been Villa’s problem especially at the tail-end of the season.
Actually, in the last six league games, Villa only scored three times. And although the goal they conceded in Kitende this week, was the first in this season’s Uganda Cup, credit to their tenacious defending, up front, the likes of George Ssenkaaba, Yubu Bogere and Alex Kitatta have been wanting.
Also, matters were not helped in the entire tie by Bbosa’s tactical approach. In both legs, Bbosa’s team showed that they were playing a hold out, wait and see game. They rarely played on the front foot. They were defensive. For example, in the return leg, which was locked at 0-0 from the first leg, Bbosa chose to start with seven defence minded players in his line-up.
From Joseph Nsubuga at right-back, to John Adriko, who is customarily a left-back, but this time played as a left-winger, only Allan Kyambadde, Abel Eturude and Martin Kiiza, all attacking midfielders, provided Villa’s main threat. But without a centre-forward to spearhead the attack, Villa were limited in posing much danger to Vipers’ goalkeeper, Isma Watenga, let alone the defence, which played a relaxed game.
The few chances that fell to Villa’s attacking midfielders, used as pseudo strikers, were met halfheartedly. You see, oftentimes, when a player is fielded in a position they are not used to, they play with minimal conviction.
This is not because they do not want to, but because they are in unfamiliar territory. It is made worse, when one is struggling for confidence, like many Villa players appeared on the day. They easily ceded possession. A player like Adriko did not deliver any substantive crosses from the left wing position he was supposed to execute.
Most times, he was trying to help the day’s left-back Arthur Kiggundu, to stop the marauding Nicholas Wadada, Vipers’ right-back and Captain. It was actually perplexing that two left backs, were struggling to keep Wadada in check, as he intermittently kept them on the back foot.
Perhaps, Bbosa had decided to keep his three centre-forwards: Ssenkaaba (6 league goals), Bogere (3 league goals) and Alex Ssemuyaba on the bench, owing to the fact that their return this season has been low. The club’s top-scorer this season in the league was Kiiza with 10 goals.
Bbosa said, “Having been with these players all season, I know them very well. Some were not even fully fit coming into this game. So, I picked the best line-up for us, and I have no regrets.” While Bbosa’s stand may have weight, it is dismissed by the fact, that he chose to bring on Ssemuyaba as a substitute, who for the entire season hardly saw any action.
Coming on at a pressure moment, Ssemuyaba was considered so inexperienced for the occasion. Banking on him as Villa’s tramp-card was being over presumptuous if not naive on Bbosa’s side. Experience wins Cups, and most certainly knows how to capitalize in critical moments.
For Bbosa to have decided to keep intelligent and creative players such as Vitalis Tabu and Ambrose Kirya glued to the bench for the entire game (for Bogere and Ssemuyaba), yet they have proven to even be bigger match winners in the past for Villa, especially at the big stage, left a lot to be desired.
Basing on that, Villa also turned out to be their greatest enemies in the tie. The few chances they created, albeit the fact that they edged Vipers on count, were not utilized. This included a couple of free-kicks in a similar position Vipers took its, but all were put to waste.
Meanwhile, Bbosa condemned Vipers’ action for keeping them at the gate for hours. He cited this as something that disorganized and frustrated his team. When Haruna Kyobe a Vipers official was contacted on this claim, he said, Villa reached the stadium at 2:27pm, and they were let in by 3:05pm.
Kyobe noted, that their security detail decided that every vehicle, that entered the stadium had to be evacuated to ensure that no wrong elements got into the stadium, and sabotaged the fans safety. But that the Villa contingent refused to comply.
In the end, the stadium management let the Villa players’ bus in, and the security check was done at the entry point to the dressing room instead, according to Kyobe.
Fufa, the national football governing body will have to investigate this matter to its conclusion especially if Villa petition.
In a nutshell, a lot went on in this Vipers/Villa tie. And whether Villa’s crying foul claims are valid, or mere scapegoating, make your pick.