From 1968 when the National Football League was first played, it kept on growing in every passing season, the 1970 season will always be remembered as the first league title that was decided on goal difference, Robert Mugagga writes.
The third edition of the Uganda national football league was so spectacular and contested by more clubs than the previous years. The new entrants included Kilembe, Soroti, Tororo and Lira.
That took the league competitors to 11 and for it to end in time, FUFA, decided that teams play only one round instead of the traditional format of the first and second round.
Prisons had won the previous two seasons and this time round faced stiffer opposition from clubs like Coffee and Police FC, which were considered weaker that season.
Coffee won the league by just a superior goal difference after collecting 17 points same as second placed Police FC.
Coffee scored 34 goals and conceded just seven, Police managed 29 goals, conceding just eight.
The season was that competitive to the extent that Simba finished third, two points behind Coffee and Police while Express were fourth, four points behind the leaders. Prisons was fifth, six points below the champions.
Coffee might have run away with the title, but third placed Simba scored the most number of goals, 38 followed by Prisons who managed 37 goals.
Coffee was a one of the teams owned by the state under the Coffee Marketing Board (CMB) and was formed around 1967 by the then CMB chairman Roger Mukasa (he passed away in 2017).
Mukasa once summoned one of his juniors, Jimmy Bakyayita Ssemugabi and asked why teams like Express, Prisons, Police and Simba were too boastful to think they played the best football in the country.
“That’s not right,” Mukasa told Ssemugabi before adding, “At CMB we have a lot of money which we can use to change all this. We must start a formidable football club at once.”
Coffee’s first coach was George Nabugere who was later replaced by Ssemugabi who was also in charge of the recruiting process of the club.
Some of those initially recruited included Denis Obua, Charles Omigi, Alex Oundo, John Kitanda, Hassan Mutaasa, David Otti, Ben Kasozi, George Bukenya and Ben Mukasa. All had played for the national football team before and a lot of money was used to recruit them.
Omigi and Obua especially had one thing in common. They were both sons of prominent Lango chiefs and went to the same schools.
The duo also played football together in the inter district competition of 1964 where they were first spotted.
Francis Kulabigwo was recruited during the club’s tour of Masindi and he expressed willingness to join Coffee mainly with an intention of coming to Kampala where he had never been.
“At the time it was never about the money, everyone’s dream then was to play for the national team with the money issue coming second,” Omigi told www.fotoball-256.com.
“Most of the players were later recruited by CMB and used to earn a monthly salary of UGX 400 which was a lot of money then,” he added.
“Besides, there were fat allowances and all this was intended to motivate players, reason they played football to their fullest,” he added.
It wasn’t only Obua and Omigi who were exceptional, Otti was a gem in his own right, and he joined Coffee in 1967 from Bitmastic FC.
Because of his exceptional skills Otti was a Cranes player by 1960 while still featuring for UEB FC and was always chosen to assist coaches in training sessions.
It’s no surprise that Otti later emerged as one of the best coaches Uganda and this region has ever had.
Then there was the stylist Samia boy recruited from Makerere University, Alex Oundo and he not only played for coffee but his jaw dropping skills had him become a mainstay in the national team.
Coffee’s reign at the top of Ugandan football would have lasted longer had a number of their players not ben poached away by a club that went on to win the 1971 league.