It was a 0-0 stalement as Express FC took on defending champions, Vipers SC at Wankulukuku stadium in the Uganda Premier League (UPL). Both teams were playing their twelfth league game of the 28 in the 2022/23 season.
On paper, this was a potential top of the charts clash. Yet, the difference going into this game, could not be more stark. Vipers were second on the log with 23 points, two points behind KCCA FC, but nine points in front of Express, the team they dethroned to win the StarTimes UPL last season.
However, by the time Express were readying themselves for the clash with Vipers, they were on a four-game losing streak, staring at a fifth in a row. They had scored only twice, and conceded nine, lounging in tenth place on the 15 team log.
For a team that won the 2020/21 league title, Express has fallen from grace, something hinged to the collapse of the club’s management. There are no two ways about how success in football normally comes about. Teams with the most steady administration usually affect the matters on the field positively.
It is against that background, that SC Villa dominated between 1998 and 2004, when they won seven successive championships. Before then, under the late Patrick Kawooya, Villa reached two continental club finals in 1991 and 1992. Bbale Mugera’s astuteness at Express chairman, saw the club reach the 1995 Caf Champions League semi-finals.
KCCA FC and Vipers are the benchmark of Ugandan football today, because of how organized they are at the top compared to the rest. But since the beginning of last season, after Express won their first Cecafa club title, it is reported that the club chairman, Kiryowa Kiwanuka (KK), who is also the country’s Attorney General has never been seen.
Instead, much of his work, he appears to have delegated his younger brother, Ssubi Kiwanuka, a board member of Express FC. Rumours were abound after last season, that KK, as he is commonly referred to, had dropped the ball, and was quietly leaving Express. It was suggested he had become disinterested, apparently because he wanted to see the club generate its own money, other than having to depend on his pockets.
When Ssubi was contacted about it, he said that those rumours were untrue, and that his brother was fully committed to Express; and determined to see through his pledges of returning the club to its glory days of dominance.
But the fact that for over a year, KK has not been seen, maybe the suggestion he left without saying good-bye, is true. In fact, according to Ssubi, Express is not a one-man team, and that KK built good enough institutions with a fully equipped secretariat, led by the chief executive officer, Isaac Mwesigwa. But then, even that secretariat has decimated.
The communications and media department saw individuals like Peter Tabu and Aminah Babirye leave. And the reports were that it was a result of non-payment of their arrears. Before then, there was a sit-down strike involving players last season, instigated by former coach Wasswa Bbosa, sighting the non-payment.
Actually, Express almost failed to honour their final day fixture last season away to Arua Hill, because there was no money to transport the players. They eventually travelled, but late in the night. It was no longer the earlier arrangement, that used to be at the club, where they travelled for upcountry fixtures a day in advance.
As a result, the team that won the league and Cecafa in 2021, lost many individuals, because of financial problems. Some critics, say that KK just did not set up strategies from which the club would generate revenue. Others say, that there was a case of poor cash management blamed on Mwesigwa.
Mwesigwa actually laughed at any of such suggestions, saying: “We are a club with financial controls.” Essentially, Mwesigwa’s stand is that if there had been any discrepancy in his financial management, he would not be in the job. Ssubi added that as a club, they were happy with the way the CEO was running the club.
Nonetheless, the fact that several of the club board members do not appear at the club anymore, and have not shown up for meetings, is a pointer to how KK’s new dawn is turning out into a false dawn; Express returning to where he found it- in the abyss.
Right now, players’ daily transport allowances have not been coming. So, on several occasions, training sessions have had 10 or 15 players instead of the full squad of 26. This is because they have no money for transport. Even lunch has become irregular. During their last training on Monday, December 12, they did not have it.
Worse still, the situation, according to Ssubi, he promised would be sorted by end of November. The players have gone four months without pay. Some of the club’s technical staff have also gone absent without leave.