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Ssenfuka to Wakiso: Manner of midfielder’s exit shows skewed priorities at Vipers

By Shafic Kiyaga
Rahmat Ssenfuka | Vipers SC photo

Another transfer window of frenzied trading in Uganda slum shut on Monday. While there was no flurry of late drama, it did serve up an exciting conundrum at the home of the league champions Vipers.

Rahmat Ssenfuka must have been the last piece of business done in the local transfer window as he shockingly left Vipers to join Wakiso Giants on a short-term contract late on deadline day.

Ssenfuka still had two years left on a four-year contract he signed with the club while joining from Police FC in June 2018, but the club decided against keeping him as they released him hours to the deadline.

So how did we get here?

While the midfielder was not always the first choice at the club, he often showed up when called upon to execute specific responsibilities in different and difficult situations.

He played 17 times for the Venoms last season as they won their fourth league title and he seemed to find more regular playing time and a definitive role at the club especially under Fred Kajoba.

In fact, only Siraje Ssentamu played more of all the Vipers midfielders with AbdulKarim Watambala forming the more used midfield three at the club last season.

But for some reason or the other, he was never looked at as a player who had a long-term future at the club. Football256 understands that individuals within the club’s hierarchy wanted him out of the club – to create space for players coming through the ranks.

Information privy to this writer indicates that Ssenfuka was first made aware that he did not have an immediate future at the club in June and was presented with an option for a loan move.

The midfielder and his representative did not favour a loan move by then, with further talk with Kajoba giving the indication that he was very well cemented in the coach’s plan for the new season.

In late August, he was included on Vipers loan list and was then presented to Wakiso Giants as an option for loan. Wakiso turned down the offer as they had agreed with their technical team on who they needed in the transfer window.

Seeking to settle his future quite early to avoid the drama of a late move, he sought another meeting with Kajoba over what his future at the club held. However, in an adjacent boardroom, another meeting of top administrators was deciding on who was to leave.

When it seemed like all the dust had settled, with the player returning for pre-season training, a call from club CEO Simon Njuba titled the narrative once again – The club had decided he was to leave. For good if a loan move could not be finalised.

With 24-hours of the transfer window to go, Ssenfuka was given his release letter and his contract terminated by the club.

His representatives worked around the clock to finalise a move to Wakiso Giants which was finalised less than five hours to the deadline; negotiations are still going on as well over a compensation package for the midfielder.

If for anything stay and play for me

Ssenfuka loves Vipers and was willing to stay despite the misgivings and small ‘issues’ making him unhappy.

Put simply, Ssenfuka was a decent, dependable and as it turned out fairly disposable midfielder and his release is not one which is expected to cause excessive display of concern or distress among the club’s fans.

While his significance may not be spelt by the fans, Vipers technical team valued him as pivotal to their plans for the season which will see them try to defend their league title and reach the group stages of the Champions League for the first time in the club’s history.

Ssenfuka’s plotted exit from St Mary’s Stadium prompted a hand wringing reaction from the head coach Kajoba who detested letting the midfielder leave so late in the transfer window with no time to find replacements.

On Saturday, Ssenfuka said his goodbyes to the Vipers squad and the technical team with Kajoba left puzzled on how the club had moved through with the plan to release the midfielder.

In one of the last conversations between the two, Kajoba reportedly told Ssenfuka; “If not for anything, stay and play for me, we have a lot we can achieve together at the club.”

A statement not to insinuate he was begging the player to stay, but at that time the coach had advanced his plans for the new season and they were about to get ripped to shreds.

So same old Vipers?

For a while, Vipers had looked like they had turned a page, one that called for proper planning, stability and taking calculated decisions.

The manner in which they handled their business in the market suggested that they had perhaps found progress.

The arrivals which included David Bagoole, Jamil Kariisa, Dissan Galiwango and Ibrahim Orit were deliberate. The departures save for Fahad Bayo which made economic sense were also well thought out.

However, talk of a crack between the technical team and the club’s administration (not necessarily involving the president Lawrence Mulindwa) brings back a feeling of déjà vu.

The cracks do not necessarily call for a disaster. chief executive officer Simon Njuba and Kajoba have worked seamlessly since the two took over in their respective roles and the feeling is not so much has gone wrong between them to severe their working relationship.  

This is a notch that the two must find alternative ways to pepper over and find a working solution for the future.

Where this leaves the pair’s relationship and how this decision affects the club; Time will tell.

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