SUPL 2021/22: Are Express in position to defend their league title?

The Red Eagles put an end to their nine-year drought when a declaration from FUFA in activation of the 75 percent rule confirmed them champions, their first league honour since Sam Simbwa's 2012 triumph.

The very last time a Uganda Premier League side successfully managed to defend the crown was KCCA FC in the 2016/17 season, a triumph that emulated the 2013/14 campaign thus making them the only team to do so in the last decade.

Express FC, who challenged the status quo to win their seventh league title at the beginning of yet a new decade will be looking to register such an achievement with the start of the new season slated for this Friday, October 15.

The Red Eagles put an end to their nine-year drought when a declaration from FUFA in activation of the 75 percent rule confirmed them champions, their first league honour since Sam Simbwa’s 2012 triumph.

Express players celebrate their victory against BUL in the StarTimes Uganda Premier League / Express Image

The surge in the Covid-19 cases within the country that saw the government institute a second lockdown had forced the federation’s hand into making the decision. They had registered 58 points in 26 games at the time of closure.

Everything they touched last year turned into gold, from Eric Kambale banging in the goals to Murushid Juuko commanding a solid backline and all the success on and off the pitch. Can they put up a similar campaign though?

Well, going by their business in the transfer market Wasswa Bbosa’s team might just be set and ready for the new season given their recent acquisitions that promise to come with more than just skill.

They signed former Kyetume FC goalkeeper Joel Mutakubwa as a replacement for last season’s golden glove winner with thirteen clean sheets Mathias Muwanga and the former hit the ground running by helping them clinch the CECAFA Kagame Club Cup.

Joseph Akandwanaho, who was magnificent with Soltilo Bright Stars the previous campaign also joined to boost their attack while Nicholas Kasozi, a midfield maestro was acquired on a season long loan from Kyetume FC.

Express FC players celebrate their 3-1 win over Yanga Africans in the 2021 CECAFA Kagame Cup / Express FC Photo – Aminah Babirye

Other additions were defender Deus Bukenya and striker Raymond Walugembe whose swift in their respective positions will be instrumental to the team. The former comes with vast experience while the latter will be an understudy to Kambale.

In the same fold, Express also released a host of players that seemed like deadwood. Amongst these were; Frank Ssenyondo, Frank Kalanda and as mentioned earlier, Mathias Muwanga.

It is also important to note that the Red Eagles approach the season a fresh team after involvement in various competitions like the CECAFA Kagame Cup and the last four of the Stanbic Uganda Cup.

They also took part in the CAF Champions League never mind the fact that they had a short-lived journey at the hands of Sudan giants Al-Merreikh.

Express won the first leg of the preliminary round fixture at home (St. Mary’s Stadium, Kitende) with a 2-1 scoreline before agonizingly losing the return leg away in Sudan with a 1-0 scoreline, a game that came with many irregularities.

Their semifinal of the Stanbic Uganda Cup against BUL FC was equally agonizing, uncharacteristically losing 1-0 to a side that seemingly had a depleted team, one that was hard done by the tournament resumption rules.

Express FC players celebrate a goal at Wankulukuku | Express FC photo (Aminah Babirye)

It’s this involvement in competitive football while others were at rest that could provide them with an advantage heading into the new season.

Hopefully, this does not turn out to be a reason to sour grape in the event that things take a negative trend midway through the season.

The fact that they also maintained their entire technical team with new contracts for Bbosa and all colleagues might just definitely be the catalyst the team required as they prepare for their title defence.

Bbosa should be rest assured that his attacking trio of proven performers; Godfrey Lwesibawa, Martin Kizza and Kambale will once again hit their peak but also believe that George Ssenkaaba returns to a player he once was before the injury.

Captain Enoch Walusimbi, who has since become a mainstay in the Uganda Cranes team will also have a huge impact to play alongside Juuko, Arthur Kiggundu and Issa Lumu at the heart of the Express defence if they are to defend the title.

How ready are the opponents?

KCCA’s Herbert Achai tries to dribble past Express FC’s Daniel Shabena | KCCA FC photo

In search of who will challenge Express, look no further to usual suspects, that’s URA FC, Vipers SC and KCCA FC, any other team can only come in as a surprise.

URA finished second with 57 points, just one behind eventual champions Express. They have however done well in the transfer market adding important players to the setup as manifested in their displays in the CAF Confederation Cup.

Vianne Ssekajugo, Derrick Ndahiro, Kabon Living were some of the notable additions but will most importantly be glad that Steven Mukwala’s proposed deal to Ghana’s Asante Kotoko did not materialize.

The Tax Collectors also parted ways with Sam Ssimbwa at the end of the previous season following the expiry of his employment contract and along with him went Brian Majwega who switched to KCCA FC.

Vipers SC have already impressed under the stewardship of Roberto Oliveira as seen from their 8-1 thumping of BUL FC in the Uganda Cup final played last month and could just be the favourites for this season’s holy grail.

Youngster Bobosi Byaruhanga, Caesar Manzoki and last season’s topscorer Yunus Ssentamu will be key players for the Kitende outfit but will be hoping that their recent signing Bright Anukani turns up to the party.

Express’ Martin Kizza attempts to go past URA FC’s Benjamin Nyakojo at Wankulukuku | Courtesy photo

Following a season characterized by agony at Lugogo that witnessed the sacking of Mike Mutebi only for the club to finish fourth when Morley Byekwaso took over, KCCA will be on a quest back to their successful roots.

The first set to this was seen from the litany of players signed in a single transfer window that took the number to a record eleven. The notable names are however Yasser Mugerwa and Godfrey Wasswa.

Byekwaso will be looking to set up a title charge now that he has the job of his dreams and has been fully backed by the club in the transfer window. There might just be no excuses.

All the three highlighted teams can improve and compete favourably but undoubtedly the team to beat will once again be Express FC.

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