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UPL Season Preview: Tooro United out to continue extraordinary progress

By Shafic Kiyaga

Tooro United are on a journey, literally and metaphorically! It is as hard to imagine that just a season ago, they were fighting for their scraps but their advance from relegation strugglers to a league force has been a thrill ride. The steps that follow from that bring challenges to which they must rise.

Over the years, the club was run solely by the chairman and majority shareholder Smart Obed, and many felt that his handling of affairs left more to be desired and that it was leading to the downfall of the club.

But last season, Obed made clear his intention of turning around the club into a powerhouse that started with a change of name to Tooro United a move which bought the club huge following from the people of Tooro province.

Almost 12 months later, Obed made it clear he wanted to build something special when he sold a minor stake of the club to tycoon Spellito Sessanga for a reported 200 million. And with the ambition shown, Tooro’s fourth-place finish last season seems to be just another step on the journey.

Despite some clear shortcomings, Tooro have set up impressive structures, mainly regards the acquisition of top-level players to feature under a top-level coach. Clear progress was reflected as they collected 49 points last season, the club’s highest point tally to date.

Tooro United players jubilate around their goalkeeper Joel Mutakubwa whose post-match penalty heroics dumped holders KCCA out of Uganda Cup. PHOTO BY J. BATANUDDE

Tooro may be hungrier for more, and their next target should be to overcome the 10-point difference between them and Vipers SC and Head coach Wasswa Bbosa is not shy of that ambition.

“Of course many teams dream about getting to such heights and even fancy the championship, but the higher you climb the harder it becomes,” Bbosa told “But thankfully the club’s ambition is to reach higher and as the coach, that’s where I want to be competing.”

Bbosa has had a huge part to play in the shift in culture ever since his arrival at the club. Despite early struggles, his football ideology seems to be setting sail within the club.

Bbosa has designed a system that extracts and plays to the strengths of his squad and the former Uganda Cranes midfielder is steadfast in his philosophy. Deploying a 4-4-2 or the more conservative 4-3-1-2, with more focus on defensive solidity and organization and then looking to quick breaks on the counter.

Keeping 16 clean sheets, losing just three points from winning positions and losing just a single game against last season’s top five perhaps underlines how far his ideas are entrenched in his players’ DNA.

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Tooro United coach Wasswa Bossa looks on during his side’s visit to Mwererwe in the 2018/2019 season | Bright Stars Photo

But is there a reason for Bbosa to be fearful about? Tooro were brilliant at coiling up and then cutting opponents at the counter. Where they need to get better, though, is in opening up teams who defend en masse.

They lost more games than against the bottom five sides than they did against the top five sides. Teams who set out to frustrate like Maroons and Ndejje University often succeeded.

Tooro ended last season having struck fewer goals than SC Villa, One remedy might have been to buy a more lethal striker. But with last season’s top scorer and player of the season Allan Kayiwa also leaving for Vipers presents more demand in the creative department.

Kayiwa was the cog of the machine, always finding space to make himself available and playing a pivotal role in the quick transition. His nine goals and specifically brace against SC Villa were two highlights of a memorable campaign for the attacking midfielder.

But Bbosa reckons that his team is growing and will cope well to generate solutions collectively. “We shall miss him sure, but we can generate solutions collectively because we always play as a team.”

Tooro United defender Mukasa Musa (M) stops Wakiso Giants’s Karim Ndugwa during the 2019 Stanbic Uganda Cup tie in Jina / Wakiso Giants Images

Simon Sserunkuuma who also moved to KCCA provided industry in the wide areas together with Mahad ‘Yaya’ Kakooza, they will be big misses in the squad. Defensively, it will be interesting to see how they cope without goalkeeper Joel Mutakubwa who was a key performer for them in goal last season.

Bbosa is known for his preference to work with players he has worked with previously and little wonder he has gone down that reshuffle road again.

John Ssemazzi burst onto the scene at Express under the tutelage of Bbosa in 2015, he has not been as prolific since but he has the qualities – speed, dynamism, and power that suggest that he can fit in at Tooro.

Ibrahim Kayiwa has not been anywhere close to his 2015/16 performance but five goals last season may be a stepping stone that propels him back his top form. A re-union with Bbosa could also stir more motivation.

Charles Musiige was one of the better performers for Nyamityobora and is a midfielder of vast potential just like youngster Ivan Ssekyanzi. The latter is a calm head able to spring counter-attacks with quick through balls or kill the tempo of the game with shorter passes.

Derrick Tekwo and Gerald Lule can provide the zeal and intensity in the central midfield regards winning and using the ball. While Arthur Kiggundu and Dennis Mugerwa will provide more defensive cover.

Bbosa will hope that his recruits understand his formula. If they work that out and raise the caliber of the squad. If like last season, their players can stay injury-free, then Tooro are likely to continue moving in the right direction. If not they will stall but they are too good to fall.

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