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UPL@50 | 1975, the year Kirunda’s goal killed an Express fan

By Football256 Team

There were no teams relegated at the end of the 1974 season and at the start of the 1975 National Football League, Express, KCC, Simba, Lint, Coffee, Prisons, Police and Kilembe were joined by old-timers Nsambya FC and Gangama United from Mbale to make ten teams.

The season was a replica of the previous as Express retained the title but with more intriguing highlights. In their second season KCC at the time now KCCA FC were pushing for their maiden championship, Express nicked this one by just a point.

The 1975 season proved to be stiffer and competitive, a point separated the champions Express (27) and second-placed KCCA FC (26), who only managed that because of a better goal difference, Simba had the same number of points.

The competition was very stiff among the top three teams. For instance, while Express lost just two matches during the whole season, KCC and Simba both recorded three defeats. Strangely all the top three teams managed to win 11 matches and when it came to draws, Express had five compared to both KCC and Simba who each had four.

Interestingly, KCC and not Express scored the highest number of goals, 37 followed by Simba at 36 while Express could only manage 35. Sadly for KCC, the team could not win the league yet it conceded the least number of goals (11) with Express and Simba coming second with 15 each. As if this was not good enough, KCC went on to produce the league’s top scorer in Chris Ddungu who netted 12 times.

All in all, the league once again exposed the great rivalry between Express and KCC which continued from where it had stopped in 1974. The rivalry started back in 1973 when Express tried to poach KCC’s star player Jimmy Kirunda. They kept on reminding Kirunda that it was a pity that with all his soccer skills & quality he was featuring for a second division club. Kirunda stuck to his guns and refused to join Express all to the dismay of the club’s top administrators. This is where bad blood between the two clubs first emerged.

When KCC was promoted to the top division in 1974, Express did a double on them, winning the first round tie 2-1 before a 3-1 in the second round. And when the two teams met in the mayors’ Cup, Express carried the day. Come the 1975 season, the two teams played to a one all draw in both rounds before Express again defeated KCCA FC in the Mayors’ Cup final played at Nakivubo War Memorial Stadium under floodlight.

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The 1975 final league standings | Courtesy image

Kirunda goal kills Express fan

The one all draw between Express and KCCA FC will forever be remembered for those who were present at the time. Express scored first in the first half but towards the end of the match, KCC’s diminutive star, Moses Ssentamu dribbled past three Express defenders to cross the ball to Jimmy Kirunda who headed in a great equalizer.

Before the ball crossed the line, an Express fan in the Soweto wing shouted loud, “They are going to score, we are now finished!” When the goal went in, the Express fan fell down unconscious. He was later pronounced dead! The dead fan happened to be an elder brother to General Katumba Wamala, currently the Minister of State for Works.

This match was officiated by then experienced FUFA referee Blasio Mwebe who hailed from Nakisunga in the then Mukono district. The death of this soccer fan went on to demonstrate how tense matches involving the two clubs used to be. As for KCC, failing to win the league for a second year running at the expense of Express FC, was something that didn’t bother former player Tom Lwanga who said they didn’t lose sleep.

“Finishing second once again was like we had won the league. We were only in the second year of playing in this top division and none of us expected that,” Lwanga told “We had a chance of winning the title at the expense of great and more experienced sides like Express, Prisons, Simba, Police and Coffee who were featuring in the league for the last seven years,” he added.

In 1975 Express depended on star players like Ashe “Lord” Mukasa, Timothy Ayiekoh, Ismail Kirungi, Ibrahim Dafala, Wilson Nsobya and Stanley “Tanker” Mubiru and the team was once again coached by former player Robert Kiberu who was soon to cross over to Kenya.

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