Many sports enthusiasts have described last weekend's three-way climax of the Uganda Premier League (UPL) as the closest in history of the Ugandan top-flight.
From the records, there are a number of similar league endings albeit with more drama and a dose of controversy much as the 2003 season should be disregarded for obvious reasons. Here are some of the most nail-biting endings to a league season.
In 1975, the National Football League (NFL) title went up to the last day, with all three clubs, namely defending champions Express FC, Simba FC, and Kampala City Council (KCC) FC, having fair chances of winning the title.
On the last day, the trio were tied on 25 points, with KCC leading the table on better goal difference, followed by Express. The league consisted of 10 teams and unlike today, a win was two points. Incidentally, the games were not all played at the same time.
In fact, KCC played a day earlier and was held to a goalless draw against Kilembe FC. The following day, Simba played early in the day and was also held to a 2-2 draw by Police FC. Express played last and defeated Gangama 2-1 to win the title.
The 1985 league title was hotly contested by four teams: KCC FC, Express, Coffee, and SC Villa, but on the final round of the season, only Express and KCC remained in contention and were tied on points.
Yet again, there was no final-day drama. On November 7, Express visited Nile FC at Bugembe stadium and ran away 2-1 winners. Two days later, KCC took on Uganda Airlines FC at a fully-packed Nakivubo stadium knowing a win would hand them the title.
However, it was a nervy game for KCC players as Express fans turned up in huge numbers to support the underdogs. In the end, KCC won the game 3-0 to clinch the title.
This was an unusual season. The title chase was between SC Villa and Express and there was a lot of animosity between players and officials of the two teams. It was that tense.
With three rounds to go, KCC defeated SC Villa 1-0 and in their next game, they dramatically lost 0-6 to Express in a game many believed to have been fixed in Express’ favour. This ensured that Express went into the final game leading the table on 46 points while SC Villa placed second with 44 points.
As fate would have it, Villa and Express were to meet in the final round October 23, 1993 at Wankulukuku. Given the stakes, Fufa conducted lots among the four referees and picked Arthur Bukenya, assisted by Ali Waiswa and Siraje Katono.
Express needed a draw to win their first league title in 18 years, while SC Villa needed a win to retain the title. Express got the lead through Fred Tamale but Moses Basena equalized for SC Villa. The result handed the title to Express amid wild celebrations in Kampala’s streets.
In 1994, the title race yet again went to the wire when Express went into the final game with a one-point advantage over arch-rivals SC Villa.
Express had 65 points compared to SC Villa’s 64 and the two teams were set to meet yet again on the final day of the season. Villa’s advantage was that the match was due to be played at its home of Masaka recreation ground.
Express just needed a draw to wrap up the season, while SC Villa required a win to reclaim the title. The tension-packed game was watched by a capacity crowd. Express started in top gear and won a penalty, which skipper George Ssimwogerere kicked wide.
With the title drifting away, SC Villa defender Simon Ssimwogerere scored a screamer, which handed the Jogoos the title.
All three teams—Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) FC, SC Villa, and Kampala City Council (KCC) FC— had chance of winning the league title.
However, SC Villa bowed out towards the end after losing to Nalubaale FC and drawing against Boroboro, leaving only URA and KCC in the race.
The second and last games were played on the same day at Nakivubo stadium. URA played first and defeated Bunamwaya 1-0, courtesy of Patrick Ochan’s goal, while KCC dismissed SC Villa 2-1 via goals from Anthony Bongole and Brian Umony.
This took both sides to 74 points each from 32 matches. Interestingly, the two sides contested the league’s last game at Namboole stadium in June, 2009. URA had a better goal difference and thus needed a draw to win the title, while KCC, with its inferior goal difference, needed a win.
KCC grabbed the lead through skip- per Sam Mubiru, but in the second half, URA’s Sam Mubiru (same name, different clubs) headed home the equaliser to give his club the third title.