UPL@50| 1974: Express rewrites history, beat newcomers KCC to the title by a point

By Football256 Team
Jolly Joe kiwanuka (2nd L) who was behind the formation of Express shares a moment with club fans at a party. | Courtesy Photo

The National Football League returned in 1974 after failing to get completed in 1972 and 1973 due to the Civil Unrest. Notable absentees this time were Masaka and Jinja, two teams that participated in the first edition held six years earlier.

The 1974 league had two kids on the block; namely KCC and Lint. Despite featuring in the Premier League for the first time, most KCC players were known all over the country.

The team came with star players like Jimmy Kirunda, Philip Omondi, Tom Lwanga and Moses Nsereko who were already playing for the national team, the Cranes. Little wonder that KCC matches used to attract full crowds even when they were still featuring in the lower division.

So with KCC joining the top division, many soccer pundits predicted a very competitive and interesting season. Not much was known about the second newcomer, Lint FC.

Among the regular participating teams was Express FC, who had carried out massive recruitment. Express found this necessary having failed to win the league on the four previous occasions.

Express were fourth in 1968, 1969 and 1971, only managing a second position in 1970. The club was coached Robert Kiberu, one of the founding players in 1959.

Kiberu was also nicknamed “Stanley Matthews” after the former England international at the time. He had also previously played for the Cranes at centre half and many compared his playing style to that of the 1966 World Cup winner with England

Going into the 1964 season, Express had star players like Joseph Masajjage in goal, skipper Ibrahim Dafala, Ashe Mukasa, Henry Matte, Peter Kirumira, Stanley “Tanker” Mubiru. The others were Billy Kizito, Ismael ‘Minora” Kirungi, Timothy Ayiekoh and Mike “Computer” Kiganda to mention but a few.

The club’s team manager of the time was Hajji Abdu Kasujja who worked hard as well to ensure Express’ victory.

Express at last

Express clinched the title was the most astonishing sports story of 1974, KCC lost it by just a point. Express collected 22 points in 14 matches while KCC earned 21 points.

The two top teams scored the same number of goals, 29 apiece. Express conceded 12 goals while KCC allowed in 16. Express had four matches drawn while KCC had only one. It should also be noted that KCC had the most wins (10) compared to Express at nine.

Something that favoured Express to finish at the top of the table was losing fewer matches (one) compared to KCC who lost three. As if that was not good enough, in Peter Kirumira, Express produced the league’s top scorer who managed to find the net 14 times.

The club had last produced the top scorer in 1968 when striker Ali Kitonsa netted 36 goals a record that was broken by Andrew Fimbo 31 years later when he netted a staggering 45 for SC Villa.

Finishing third on the table was the 1971 champions, Simba FC.

The club collected 19 points while another Lint FC did wonders by finishing fourth, managing 4 points ahead of perennial participants Coffee, Prisons, and Police.

By clinching the 1974 title, Express went into the record books, they became the first non-government parastatal to win the league. And both fans and club administrators boasted a lot referring to the team “Kiraabu y’abantu esoose okukikola” loosely translated as, ‘the first non-corporate club, and one belonging to individuals to win the league.’

Speaking about Express’ victory, Lwanga who that same year played for second-placed KCC, said this was one of the most competitive leagues in history. “We had a very good team and skilful coach in Bidandi Ssali while at the same time Express had equally good players and a wonderful coach in Kiberu,” Lwanga told www.football-256.com.

Lwanga later revealed that it was very painful for KCC to narrowly lose the title to Express but he makes it clear theirs was not a fluke. “They slightly had a better team unlike us, they had enough experience having played in the top league the four previous seasons.”

Lwanga also intimated to this writer that in 1974, matches involving KCC and Express attracted the biggest crowds with this being the year when the great rivalry between the two clubs was born.

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