December 9, 2021

‘Trained like beasts, played like soldiers’ – Ssimwogerere recounts Express’ trip to 1995 CECAFA final

By Baron Kironde
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Ssimwogerere (L) led Express FC to back to back CECAFA Kagame Cup in 1994 and 1995 | Courtesy photo

In 1995, like it is at the moment for Express FC, the Red Eagles were soaring above the sky; unstoppable by fair description.

The Wankulukuku side scooped both the league and league cup titles. After conquering Uganda, they expanded their dominance elsewhere, where they came too close to sealing a major regional title.

George Ssimwogerere, coined ‘life captain’ by the Express faithful led the ‘Mukwano Gw’abangi’ to the memorable feat, and he remembers everything.

“No team wished to face a squad as tough as ours. We trained like beasts, and when we stepped onto the pitch, we were like soldiers at war,” Ssimwogerere narrated.

“We were so determined, and it was quite an experienced side with several players on the national team. Whenever we returned to the club from national duties, the camp would be on fire, and the next opponent suffered the consequences.”

“And in training, we consistently challenged each other for the best person to fill in a particular position on the team, so we always had our best players on the pitch every time we stepped out to play.”

“There was nothing like favouritism, no coach’s player, but to displace a team member from their position was as hard as waiting for them to first die,” Ssimwogerere lightly recalled, emphasizing how solid the regular starters were.

Ssimwogerere captained Express to two consecutive CECAFA finals, in 1994 and 1995 but sadly lost both. He says it had nothing to do with compromising their quality because according to him, they delivered their best.

The Red Eagles were defeated 2-1 by El Merrikh from Sudan in 1994, and in 1995 against Simba, they came short again after falling 5-3 on penalties.

“We were only unlucky on both occasions, and you can not overlook the fact that we played on foreign land. It is obvious that we had some unfair decisions that influenced the game out of our favour,” he noted.

He added, “Against El Merrikh, we conceded a controversial offside goal and went on to lose, then we fell short on penalties against Simba.”

After 26 years, Express have another chance to rewrite history by winning their first CECAFA title.

Ssimwogerere believes they stand a great chance with the experience and hunger within the squad bred by having top players like Murushid Jjuuko, Muzamir Mutyaba.

Express is awaiting the winner between Azam FC (Tanzania) and Nyasa Big Bullets (Malawi) as they are already into the final after defeating Zanzibar’s KMKM SC 2-1 at the Azam Complex on Tuesday.

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