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How Vipers burnt their fingers to hand KCCA FC league title

By Peter Tabu

Three league titles and a domestic cup in 13 years of playing in the Ugandan top flight certainly shows the ‘dominance’ of Vipers Sports Club, formerly Bunamwaya Sports Club.

Having gained promotion to the Ugandan Super League in 2005, the club has always mirrored an academy like structure with most of the players coming from St. Mary’s SS Kitende, a secondary school owned by club Patron Lawrence Mulindwa.

Fast forward to the 2018/2019 season. Having picked up their third league title last season under Portuguese coach Miguel Da Costa, preparations for a new season were in high gear, one that saw them playing in the prestigious CAF Champions League.

With a newly refurbished stadium, confidence was high that they would seal a spot in the group stages of the 2018/2019 Total CAF Champions League. Unfortunately for them; behind the scenes, a wave of changes was in the pipeline. That wave was highlighted by the sacking of Miguel Da Costa.

Two months earlier the Portuguese had led the club to their third league title and finished runners up in the Stanbic Uganda Cup. That wasn’t enough for him to keep his job as he was dully replaced with Mexican, Javier Martinez Espinoza on a three-year deal.

Portuguese Miguel Da Costa (L) combined with Edward Golola to deliver Vipers’ third league title last seson | Daily Monitor Photo

The Mexican had only managed clubs back home in Mexico, and how he would fare in Africa for the first time was everyone’s guess. On top of Espinoza’s capture, Vipers also beefed up their squad with the ‘major signings’ in Noah Wafula, Davis Kasirye, Livingstone Mulondo and Ibrahim Kiyemba.

Although in the January transfer window, Vipers released Noah and Kasirye, signing Karim Nzigyimana and Innocent Wafula. Espinoza started off well, going 11 league games unbeaten but his actual task was to guide Vipers to the CAF Champions’ League group stages. A task at which he failed.

Vipers looked to be in control when they went past El Merrick on the away goals rule (after the aggregate was tied 2-2) to book a spot in the first round of the CAF Champions league. They lost 3-0 on aggregate to Algerian side Constantine, and eventually were knocked out by Tunisian outfit CS Sfaxien in the Confederations Cup play off.

Amidst all this, the Kitende based side was dealing with player in-fights, backroom staff misunderstandings and boardroom divisions which thus culminated in the sacking of Espinoza after a mere 143 days into his 2 year contract.

Forty-eight hours later, the club announced Kenyan coach Michael “Nam” Ouma along with Edward Golola as his assistant on an interim basis. The two were tasked with ensuring Vipers defend the league title.

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From L-R, Edward Ssali, Edward Golola, Micheal Nam Ouma (with ball) at St Mary’s Stadium Kitende / Vipers Image

Currently on a run of about 16 games and counting in all competitions, a lot of water has gone under the bridge with Proline having dumped Vipers out of the Uganda Cup on top of losing the league to KCCA FC with three games to spare.

The league title run in started in March with a trip away at relegation threatened Ndejje University FC, the visitors failed the test losing 2-1, on the same day KCCA FC shared spoils with Tooro United in Buhinga.

A win for Vipers would have taken them a point behind KCCA FC not putting into consideration the latter’s draw in Tooro but instead the Lugogo based side went four points clear. Vipers still had a chance to narrow the gap when the two met at Lugogo in April but shared the spoils in a 1-1 draw.

Michael Ouma’s charges failed to convert several chances, an issue the Kenyan coach revealed in the aftermath of the game.

“We didn’t do our best, sometimes you need to kill off a game like this, the boys knew how important this was but that’s the best we could do, we now hope they (KCCA FC) drop points and we win more” a visibly sad Ouma revealed.

The last nail in the coffin would be the loss to URA at Kitende while KCCA FC beat Express 3-1 on the same weekend to go nine points clear.

For Vipers’, a season that had promised alot with such huge investments done at the start is destined to end in massive disappointment with lots of reminiscing of what might have been.

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