Onduparaka forward Viane Ssekajugo is favourite to win the car during the Fufa/Airtel awards tonight at the Speke Resort in Munyonyo.
This would make him the second player from the northern Uganda based football club to win the best player of the year award in three years, following Muhammad Shaban’s success in 2016.
The likely possibility of Ssekajugo winning this award will jerk many, as was the final shortlist of the three nominated players, including Vipers SC’s Moses Waiswa and KCCA FC’s Allan Okello, when they were announced last month. But Ahmed Hussein, the Fufa public relations officer said the nominees were the choices made by the 16 Uganda Premier League coaches.
However, from the investigation carried out by The Observer, Ssekajugo was only nominated by three coaches: Asaph Mwebaze, the former Onduparaka coach, Alex Isabirye, formerly with Soana FC and Alex Gitta, who handled Masavu FC last season in the UPL. This confirms what the football fraternity has always suspected, that Fufa chooses who wins this award by affirmative action.
For the elimination of doubt, The Observer learned that actually, only 13 UPL coaches, present and past were contacted during the nomination process. For example, former SC Villa coach, Moses Basena said that he was never involved in the player nomination process. Perhaps, Fufa justifiably saw no need of contacting him, since he did not coach at any club during the 2017/2018 season.
But then, coaches like Douglas Bamweyana and Shafik Bisaso, who handled Express FC in the aforementioned season, deny ever taking part in the nomination process. In addition, according to the spokesman of Vipers SC, Abdu Wasike, no one at the UPL 2017/2018 champions, was contacted for their nomination.
Maybe, since coach Miguel Da Costa, who guided Vipers to their league title was already gone at the time the nomination process was done at the end of October, Fufa had no one to consult in Kitende.
But Wasike feels Da Costa’s assistant, Edward Golola could ably have done that task. That said, there were several people disappointed that the 2017/2018 league top-scorer, Daniel ‘Muzeyi’ Sserunkuma, who inspired Vipers to their league title, was not on the final shortlist. Ordinarily, going by Hussein’s explanation, the coaches did not nominate him. But actually, Sserunkuma was nominated four times, one time more than Ssekajugo.
Observers feel, that because Sserunkuma was twice voted player of the year in the Kenya Premier League between 2012 and 2014, an honour, that earned him many prizes (money deals), he is considered rich enough already. That would not be the case for Ssekajugo, who has struggled up the ladder from relegated teams like Masaka LC, JMC Hippos and The Saints, which later turned to UPDF FC.
Ssekajugo’s rise to become a star at Onduparaka FC, even though it won nothing, is merited on the fact that he was the team’s top-scorer in the 2017/2018 season with 8 goals. Furthermore, Ssekajugo helped the Buganda region team win the Fufa Drum tournament in its inaugural season, this year. Although Ssekajugo did not excel throughout the tournament, he scored his six goals from the quarterfinal stage to the final.
In fact, in the final first leg against the West Nile, Ssekajugo scored in the 1-0 win in Mukono, before scoring in the 1-1 second leg, which gave Buganda a 2-1 aggregate win. On the basis of that, Ssekajugo did well.
And knowing how much Fufa would like to ensure that the Fufa Drum tournament gets public acclaim, Ssekajugo being crowned footballer of the year, gives their new tournament huge mileage. No doubt, the Fufa Drum tournament drew so much following especially upcountry. Yet, for the critical thinkers, how high would it rank in terms of prestige, when compared to the UPL, the Fufa Uganda Cup or a Cranes cap?
Speaking of The Cranes, it is highly thought that because Waiswa impressed against Tanzania on his home debut during the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers, and relatively in subsequent ties against Lesotho and Cape Verde, he made the shortlist for this year’s best player award.
Talented and skillful as Waiswa is, few really considered him as consistent enough (he was nominated five times), as some of his other team-mates, say Taddeo Lwanga, Nicholas Wadada, Sserunkuma, Milton Karisa and Isma Watenga at Vipers. But because of the manner in which the nominations were done, he was a fortunate recipient of the vote. Fred Kajoba, Cranes goalkeeping coach and head coach at Bright Stars is one coach that nominated Waiswa.
He told The Observer, “I was driving from Mwererwe one afternoon, when I received a call from someone at Fufa asking me to nominate. But I had no prior notice, that I would be doing that. So, I just gave them the three names, that came off my head without much though.”
Police FC coach, Abdallah Mubiru added that he was on a boda-boda, when he received his call. And even though he has to be given time, to think through his choices, he was told there was no time. So, he went ahead to mention whoever he could think of. With such a scenario, it is difficult to put detail to the nominations made. But at the same time, it proves that detail is not what Fufa looks for, especially because they already have their choices before hand.
According to Proline FC director Mujib Kasule, “We as club officials, are only phoned so that Fufa validates the process.” Perhaps, it is because of that rushed process, that Okello found himself nominated seven times.
You see, big players do not only decide big moments, but also thrive in them. While KCCA manager Mike Mutebi thinks Okello merits a place on that shortlist, very few agree with him, including some within the corridors of his own club.
According to Mutebi, Okello helped them contest closely for the league with Vipers and also helped them win the Uganda Cup. Okello set up teammate Julius Poloto for the only goal that settled the Uganda Cup final in Bukedea in June. He was also voted player of the tournament. He scored five goals therein. Okello also scored one of KCCA’s goals in the 2-0 win over Onduparaka in the Fufa Super 8 final in August.
Nonetheless, Okello was not as consistent as the likes of defender Timothy Awany, goalkeeper Charles Lukwago or left-back Mustafa Kizza, who had most assists, 12, were. That is not to mention striker Muhammad Shaban who scored 13 league goals for KCCA, and whose goal against St George FC of Ethiopia, sealed their place in the group stages of the Caf Champions League for the first time in Ugandan history.
Just those moments, when Okello has scored the spectacular, like the beautiful goal against Al-Ahly in a 3-4 loss in Alexandria, probably earn the youngster the plaudits; the free-kick against SC Villa in the 1-0 league win in February, and his goal against Express FC at Wankulukuku in May in KCCA’s 2-1 win, just to mention. But up to this point, Okello has scored seven league goals this year, three of which are for the current season.
Vipers’ Sserunkuma has scored 15 league goals this year alone, including the four in this running season. Bright Stars’ Nelson Ssenkatuka has scored 14 league goals, five of which are in this running season. Sserunkuma’s 17 league goals in the 2017/2018 season inspired Vipers to the league title, while Ssenkatuka’s 15 league goals last season lifted a lowly side as Bright Stars from 34 points in the 2016/2017 season, to 38 points the season after.
Yet, it can be no mean feat, for someone like Ssenkatuka, to manage all those goals, considering the minimum creativity at Bright Stars. Goals alone can be misleading. But then again, in the Ugandan context, no other statistics have been considered. Instead, like the case has been in the last two editions, the Fufa/Airtel Football Awards have been capped by both the men and women’s winners being first timers.
The organizers’ presumed modus operandi, has apparently, picked someone, who has never won before. Yet, even for that “unwritten” rule, to which many should be used by now, there was a lot of criticism levelled against Fufa.
On the basis of performance (impact at club) and statistics, plus consistency, of the three nominees, Ssekajugo is more deserving of the award. What Ssekajugo did for Onduparaka and Buganda region, Waiswa and Okello did not do for their respective clubs at a consistent level.
But if the most deserving nominees, say, Awany, Sserunkuma, Karisa or Lukwago were considered on that shortlist, Ssekajugo would stand very little chance, since they won the more important trophies.
HOW THE COACHES VOTED…..
1. Mujib Kasule: Charles Lukwago, Moses Waiswa and Dan Sserunkuma
2. George Nsimbe: Asadu Bugembe, Milton Karisa and Allan Okello
3. Kefa Kisala: Dan Sserunkuma, Julius Poloto and Milton Karisa
4. Charles Ayiekoh: Allan Okello, Derrick Nsibambi and Moses Waiswa
5. Abdallah Mubiru: Samson Kirya, Timothy Awany and Dan Sserunkuma
6. Mike Mutebi: Allan Okello, Milton Karisa and Nicholas Kasozi
7. Steven Bogere: Allan Okello, Milton Karisa and Timothy Awany
8. Sam Ssimbwa: Allan Kyambadde, Allan Okello and Moses Waiswa
9. Asaph Mwebaze: Milton Karisa, Mustafa Kizza and Viane Ssekajugo
10. Wasswa Bbosa: Dan Sserunkuma, Martin Kizza and Allan Okello
11. Alex Isabirye: Nicholas Ssebwato, Viane Ssekajugo and Allan Kayiwa
12. Fred Kajoba: Dan Sserunkuma, Nelson Ssenkatuka and Moses Waiswa
13. Alex Gitta: Viane Ssekajugo, Moses Waiswa and Allan Okello