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UPL Season Preview: How high can mid-table BUL go?

By Shafic Kiyaga

The 2019/2020 StarTimes Uganda Premier League season is close to two weeks away and BUL FC find themselves in a far more familiar position. Having finished seventh last season with 43 points, BUL head into their seventh consecutive season in the top flight off the back of a busy off-season.

BUL kick off their new season with a home tie against Express and they could not have asked for better, as they are yet to lose at home to the six-time league champions. But much as they want to keep that record running for a year, nothing will bring more satisfaction than finally making it into the top four.

Since their arrival to the biggest stage of Uganda’s football in 2012, BUL have continuously flirted with the top four positions with the only blemish coming in the 2016/17 season where they finished 11th, they have not finished lower than seventh.

And head coach Peter Onen acknowledges that this time around, there is a burning desire for the team to finish inside the top four but he maintains it’s not something they will go out of their way to achieve if there is chance of silverware elsewhere.

BUL FC players during training at the FUFA Technical Centre in Njeru / BUL Images

“We have come close to the top four in recent seasons, but that is not something that will bother me because at this moment I don’t want to dwell on speculations as we tend to tackle situations as the season progresses and you never know,” Onen told

But the ambition to shoot higher than their previous seasons is a bold statement from a man who is normally so diplomatic and with the time he has been with the club, he should know what will entice his bosses more.

BUL have recruited a total of 13 players, but Onen may cut a frustrated figure as he feels he was left out in the dark over the transfers of some players but overall, he maintains that it has been a good transfer period for them.

“It has been a fair transfer period for us because we have brought in some good players but I don’t think I am the right man to talk about that because I am not the one who has been in charge of player recruitment this time round”. Onen Said.

BUL FC head coach Peter Onen believes his side can push as far as even trying to fight for the championship / The Observor Images

Former Vipers, Soana and KCCA forward Musa Esenu is the headline of the acquisitions. Esenu arrived from the University Football League and immediately set the league ablaze, scoring nine times in 15 games for Soana before a big-money move to Vipers happened.

Since then, he has been a shadow of himself but showed a glimpse of his abilities at Busoga United when it was still Kirinya Jinja SSS before KCCA came calling. Though he leaves Lugogo with league silverware, he failed to make an impact at the club.

Midfielder Godfrey Akol was a revelation just a season ago, catching the eye of the big sides with stellar performances for Busoga United but has since gone silent and if he can be inspired into another outstanding season like that, he will prove to be a great addition.

Hamis Tibita started last season on a high but became stodgy in the later stages and that came to haunt BUL in the long run. But with Robert Mukongotya coming in, Onen can have some extra goal source and a different dimension in front of goal should he find his team in a similar situation.

Defender Denis Okot comes to BUL from Onduparaka with experience and leadership ahead of the new season / BUL Images

There has been an overhaul in the goalkeeping department with Abu Kimera, Eric Kibowa, and Munaaba Sanoni all vying for the number one spot. Onen known for his preference for young talent, he has promoted Martin Acren, Simon Oketch Tomas Kabale and Reagan Kalyowa from the junior team.

Denis Okot endured a frustrating season in his final year at KCCA and he sought a new challenge at Onduparaka but it was not the rosy restart he anticipated there, he will need to find inspiration within to find his feet at BUL.

With the experience he brings, Okot will be expected to immediately become a leading performer in Jinja. It will be intriguing to see how the right-back copes. Will he become the man BUL can count on?

However, they have lost Daniel Shabena who seems to be set for a move to Express FC while Douglas Owori has also left for trials, Epejo Amos and goalkeeper Hannington Ssebwalunyo have been confirmed as the high profile departures from the club.

BUL FC players before a preseason friendly the FUFA Technical centre in Njeru, the venue will also be their home for the new season / BUL Images

BUL’s strength stems from the balance that they have about their play. They scored 33 goals, averaging 1.10 goals per game; the fourth highest of the top ten finishers but ironically scoring more than once in just eight games.

Consistency should be paramount throughout the season. They started the season strongly, registering five wins and just two losses in their opening 10 games, but seemed to wilt as they won just six games in the proceeding 20 games.

If they are to find the consistency, their away form should be of crucial concern; BUL won just thrice on the road, a worrying return when compared to eight home wins.

Defensively, the club ranked seventh overall regards goals conceded, 28 in total. In terms of cleans sheets, they kept an impressive nine, a stat which will prove crucial to their strong start to the season.

After two seasons of progress and impressive mid-table finishes, BUL should be aiming higher this time. Onen has been at the club for four seasons now and his experience, coupled with a cohort of tough veterans should see them safe again for another season.

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