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The UPL is a brainchild of Reverend Polycarp Kakooza

By Haruna Kyobe
Revolutionary: Reverend Polycarp Kibuuka Kakooza made a telling contribution to the start of the Uganda Premier League

May 15th, 2020 marked 14 years since the demise of Reverend Polycarp Kakooza and I have decided to remember him by tracking back on how the Uganda top-flight league started due to his enormous contributions.

Football’s introduction in Uganda started during the early twenties and by that time, Prince Badru Kakungulu was a key component with huge influence as the game took roots.

However, it’s apparent from the records that Uganda’s top-flight league was the brainchild of late sports administrator Rev Polycarp Kakooza who marketed the idea to other influential figures then.

These included Express FC founder Jolly Joe Kiwanuka and Henry Balamaze Lwanga (both deceased), the latter was behind the formation of Coffee FC.

Prince Kakungulu (RIP) and Hassan Sunderani who served as FUFA Secretary as well as General Secretary at National Council of Sports for many years were the others.

Reverend Polycarp was an author, sportsman, artist, composer among other talents and is hugely credited as the man behind the Ekitiibwa kya Buganda Anthem in 1939 when he was just 25 years old.

Although the idea floated around for several years, it did not materialize until 1967 when an organising committee was set up under the chairmanship of Balamaze Lwanga (RIP).

With Rev Polycarp as an ex-official, the newly appointed committee mapped out a strategy for the establishment of a National football league which was realised in 1968.

At the time of establishment, the objectives included among others:

  1. To discover and encourage as many talented footballers as possible from all parts of the country.
  2. To stimulate the interest of district sports associations outside Kampala in the game of football.
  3. To spot special talent for the national soccer team.
  4. To provide constant training for players in the national team, attract public enthusiasm and support for the game.

Whether the above objectives or some of them have been or have not been achieved, is a matter of opinion but the truth is Rev Polycarp played a key role.

A glimpse into the records shows that the participants in the first edition of the league in 1968, were eight teams out of which four were from Kampala the model district.

The eight included Prisons (later renamed Maroons), Army (now UPDF), Coffee, Express, Jinja, Masaka, Mbarara and Mbale with Prison Warders emerging undisputed champions losing only four points out of the possible 28.

Prisons success depended much on right-back Stephen Baraza, no-nonsense defender Peter Okee who later became a successful Cranes coach and roving Parry Oketch.

Since then, 52 league editions have been played with SC Villa as the most successful team at 16 titles and as Rev Polycarp continues to rest in peace, his brainchild is still going strong.

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