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Traditional rivals Express, Villa clash in least-hyped match

Faisal Sekyanzi (L) of Express and David Owori of Villa battle for the ball

Faisal Sekyanzi (L) of Express and David Owori of Villa battle for the ball

Both SC Villa and Express FC are into another team-rebuilding season. It is an issue that has become endless over the last few seasons for the two historical giants of Ugandan football.

Almost every season, they have a new team, because they can no longer hold onto their best players once the likes of Vipers SC, KCCA FC and URA FC come calling.

In fact, few would consider Express and Villa as real championship contenders this season despite the latter’s close push for it last season. It all seems to have been a lucky punch of sorts, like the one that saw heavy-weight boxer Andy Ruiz knock out Anthony Joshua in June 2019.

Little has been heard of Ruiz since then, just as it has become of the Express/Villa rivalry, which remains a big question, before they battle at the Mutesa II stadium in Wankulukuku on Friday, December 8 in the Uganda Premier League (UPL).

Twenty years ago, a clash between Express and Villa brought the country to a standstill. In February 1998, when the two sides clashed in what was officially the first-ever competitive game at Namboole stadium, it was packed to the rafters with over 40,000 spectators. Today, the game would struggle to have 3,000 fans in the stadium.

Aldrine Nsubuga, the vice- president of StarTimes, the title sponsors of the UPL, said: “Most of the loyal fans that followed those sides  have deserted, because there is no sense of attachment anymore. Villa has now gone 20 years without a league title; so, the generation that watched them dominate Ugandan football have largely quit the game. Without success, fans easily get bored, sadly.”

However, Alex Munobe, who has been an Express fan all his life for at least 30 years noted that back then, the quality of footballers gave them reason to follow their team religiously. The thought, for example, of defender Isaac Nkaada marking Majid Musisi (RIP), Villa’s former marksman, brought a lot of excitement and tension.

This would be a feisty battle all afternoon at Nakivubo stadium. But at the same time, there was a lot of hype created by the club’s management, the likes of Kassim Buyondo and Bbale Mugera, who hardly had any kind words for Villa. The no-love-lost attitude was equally shared by the late Patrick Kawooya towards Express.

Former Villa president Ben Misagga is hurt that both Express and Villa are where they are. In his view, it has affected the Ugandan game quite significantly.

“Both sides used to compete in the transfer market for the best players. Today, we acquire rejects and novices. Without big-name players, there can never be any frenzy, let alone rivalry,” Misagga said.

Presently, in Express, there are only two players from the squad that won the UPL title in 2021, because the club could not afford to pay them. For Villa, they could not even keep, Charles Bbale, the league’s second top-scorer with 12 goals last season and their captain, Fred Gift. It is no longer the times, like in 2000, when Express took striker Hassan Mubiru from Villa.

Yet, as Express celebrated their coup, Villa returned the favour by taking striker Morris Sunguti; a real equalizer very late in the game. Oftentimes, this would result in fights between the two sets of fans in the stands.

Such was the hate for each other, which made the rivalry feared. By last evening, the two sides were on 12 points, with Villa seventh and Express eighth. They played Bright Stars and Bul respectively as a precursor to their game on Friday.

Today, Dec 6@4pm:

• Mbarara City v KCCA FC - Mbarara
• Busoga United v Maroons - Njeru

• NEC FC v URA FC - Lugogo (7pm)
• Gaddafi FC v UPDF FC - Jinja
• Vipers v Kitara FC - Kitende (7pm)

Friday, Dec 8@4pm:

• Express FC v SC Villa - Wankulukuku

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