FOOTBALL–Express FC and crisis are conjoined twins and the stormy clouds that are synonymous Mutese II Stadium Wankulukuku are threatening to return, three weeks to the start of the new season.
While the Red Eagles are still reeling from the talent-drain that hit the club like a tsunami at the beginning of the off-season, a bigger shocker is brewing at the beleaguered club.
PML Daily Sports has learnt head coach Matia Lule is contemplating turning his gaze away from the Red Eagles for what he perceives to be lack of ambition by the club’s hierarchy.
According to confidants close to Lule, the former KCCA FC tactician believes his efforts to improve the battered image of the club in the forthcoming season as a coach cannot realistically be achieved without marked improvements to his working conditions.
To vent his frustration, Lule, who took over the Red Eagles mid-way last season at the back of the acrimonious departure of prodigal son Wasswa Bbosa, has made it clear that he could walk way should key concerns remain unsolved.
Top among these is the demand to clear his outstanding salary arrears of up to four months, for which he has publicly accused his paymasters to lend a deaf ear to meet his remunerations.
It is reported that Lule signed a three-year contract last November, but the club has failed to meet part their contractual obligations.
The Red Eagle’s insolent approach in the ongoing transfer season hasn’t helped the matters either. The club’s reluctance to recruit has severely riled Lule. He has read and watched in dismay as many of other league opponents steel themselves for the fast-approaching 2017-2018 season.
The Wakulukuku-based side failed to repel invaders, who lured most of their first team players away at the end of last season.
The departure of Ibrahim Sadam Juma to KCCA FC opened the exodus gates at Wakulukuku that witnessed eight other big names swap the Red Eagles for better fortunes.
Simon Sserunkuma, Mahad Yaya Kakooza, Musa Mukasa and Allan Kyambadde (loan from Vipers SC) joined arch rivals SC Villa to reunite with former coach Wasswa Bbosa, while Joseph Ssemujju’s loan spell from Vipers SC ceased.
The other lot was deemed surplus to requirements. They include Yafeesi Mubiru, John Ssemazi (on loan from Vipers SC), Rogers Lukwiya, Mohamed Kayongo, Isaac Sserunkuma, Richard Kigozi, Bob Kasozi and Paddy Tebusweke.
The jaw-dropping departures were knitted to the club’s frail financial status and when big money landed on desperate players’ tables, they couldn’t resist the urge to move.
The only surviving members from last season’s squad are lanky goalie Emmanuel Opio, left back Remmy Makumbi, midfielder Sharif Ochaya, pint-sized winger Sulaiman Jingo and defender Timothy Sebudde.
The club, through its chairperson Florence Nakiwala, softened the mass exodus news by confirming reinforcements will be administered on the depleted squad, but by look of things the club has not come good on their claims.
It is reported that FC are chasing the services of winger Michael Birungi, who was released by Police FC. There was reported interest in former midfielder Ibrahim Kayiwa, who was lotting at the periphery at Vipers SC but in surprise turn of events, he is in line to join URA FC.
Striker Alfred Leku, who had initially been mooted to join FC, was also snapped up by Arua-based side Onduparaka.
The general consensus is that Express will continue their customary strategy of picking up misfits and rejects from other clubs. And, despite the fact that the club’s hierarchy is restrained in the knowledge about Lule’s disillusionment, it has remained unruffled and indifferent.
His recent appointment alongside former Cranes skipper Ibrahim Sekajja as part of the Uganda Cranes technical staff ahead of World Cup qualifier double-header against Egypt has only hastened Lule’s desire to wade is way out of the soggy Wankulukuku.
Sources further tell us that Lule is being courted by Rwandan side Rayon Sport.
Lule’s second stint at Express cultivated grounds for optimism after yielding eight wins in 20 league games, drawing six and losing the other six as they finished 6th with 44 points.
Lule’s uncertainty is another sign post to the problems that have besieged the club since winning the league title in 2012, then under Sam Ssimbwa.
The six-time league champions’ reputation as a powerhouse has deteriorated severely because of stringing below-par performances in the recent past.
There was a glimmer of hope that the club’s weak financial muscle were due for past tense with sponsorship deal from betting firm SportPesa but the much vaunted deal has failed to materialise.
Last week, DStv reaffirmed its continued partnership as sponsors of Express ahead of the new season but the countenance obscured the fact that club’s financial woes are still far from over.
Express open their 2017/18 league account with a home date against tricky Kirinya Jinja SS on September 13.