KAMPALA – Twenty games played in the FUFA Big League, won 11, drawn 08 and lost only 01, Wakiso Giants have taken Ugandan Football by storm and into the top tier barely a year after inception.
The Purple Sharks defeated Entebbe FC 2-1 at the Kyabazinga Stadium in Bugembe on May 5th, to seal promotion to the StarTimes Uganda Premier League, the top tier of Ugandan football.
The goal that sealed the historic achievement was scored by Ivan Kiwewa and it will forever be remembered as the strike that closed the first chapter in what promises to be a long and industrious history of Wakiso Giants.
As a newly founded team, Wakiso were required to work their way up to the top tier of Ugandan football.
Unlike many who begin in the second division, the fifth level of Uganda football league system, Wakiso started in the Big League (second level).
This was all down to the fact that the owners had the money to buy another side (Kamuli Park), one that had finished 5th in of the two Groups of the second tier, the previous season (2017/18).
With Kamuli Park embroiled in financial difficulties, up stepped a one Musa Atagenda, a business man in Kampala City.
Atagenda bought off Kamuli for a sum estimated to be around UGX 200m and embarked on a journey to taking his side into the top tier.
However, even before the kick of a ball, Wakiso was already entangled in battles with the Federation that runs Ugandan Football (FUFA).
First it was the naming rights where FUFA tried to block the name ‘Wakiso Giants’, proposing that the team had to play under ‘Kamuli Park’.
Somehow, the administration that had been assembled by Atagenda, in a limited period of time, got over the hurdle and secured their much fancied name ‘WAKISO GIANTS’.
After the naming rights were successfully secured, up stepped the issue of licencing players, one that saw the newly born team missing out on a high profile friendly against Tanzanian giants Azam FC, who were in the country for their annual pre-season camp.
“Wakiso Giants is not a registered club under FUFA and secondly, most of players have not yet been cleared by the federation so unless they use Kamuli Park playing staff, the match cannot go on. Said FUFA Deputy CEO Humphrey Mandu in a phone interview with PML Daily on August 8,2018, the day the game was to be played.
What FUFA was stressing is that they could not allow an international game, guided by the CAF regulations to take place while involving a club that had by then not been fully cleared by the Federation.
The game did not take place despite both sides arriving at the stadium but all this did not deter Wakiso from taking shape.
The last non-field battle that the club fought and lost was one regarding their home ground.
Despite attempts to convince FUFA to host their games in Wakiso, they were forced to go to Bugembe at the Kyabazinga Stadium which is approximately 90 km away from their training ground.
After a few weeks, Wakiso put everything in order and we allowed to operate under the name and also join the second tier of Ugandan football.
A massive recruitment plan was already in place and Wakiso managed to sign several top name players, some of who had in the past featured in both the top tier and National team (Uganda Cranes).
With help from former SC Villa and Lweza FC head coach, the like of Steven Bengo, Ayub Kisalita, Feni Ali, Karim Ndugwa, Hassan Wasswa Dazo, Abdul Karim Kasule, Ivan Kiwewa and Fahad Kawoya, all put pen to paper on what were understood to be short-term contracts. They would be guided by Ibrahim Kirya, an experienced tactician that had been in Ugandan Football for years.
Now with a fully established team, with a stable administration, having full-filled all the necessary requirements and with both a technical team and playing staff in place, the journey to the top tier began.
In their adventure, Wakiso started the League with two away games, one against Amuka Bright Stars and the other at JMC Hippos. Against Amuka, they drew 2-2 with Clinton Komugisha scoring the very first competitive goal for the Wakiso.
At the end of the first round, they were top of the Elgon Group having gathered 20 points out of a possible 30 and did all that without losing a single game.
With proper media coverage, the team had been noticed by almost everyone involved in the game and it was very much the envy of others, especially those in the Big League.
Two major signings were made in the January transfer window in an effort to bolster the squad as former SC Villa custodian Yasin Mugabi, who was returning from a professional stint in Zambia, was acquired.
Mugabi’s capture was followed up with the loan signing of Police FC striker Norman Ojick. Karim Ndugwa who was signed in the summer of 2018 but loaned out to Mbarara City, also returned and it looked like a full strength squad was finally in place to over-see promotion to the top flight.
The start of the second round was smooth with Wakiso registering four consecutive victories against Amuka, JMC Hippos, Kataka and Bukedi. Clearly, the team could not be stopped and it was just a matter of time before they secured their first goal, reaching the top flight.
However, they would go through a trying period between March and April, 2019.
The Big League Money-Bags, like most had nick-named them, failed to win any of their four fixtures during that period and bowed out of the Uganda Cup at the round of 16 following a penalty shoot-out loss to Kyetume.
As the team’s form dropped, they were also hit-hard but the passing on of then Team Doctor, Jack Walugembe who suffered a stroke hours before their 0-0 draw on March 22nd, at home to Kyetume.
With three games to play in the League, Wakiso knew that only two victories would see them reach the top flight. They defeated Nebbi Central 2-0 away from home before securing their slot in the 2019/20 StarTimes Uganda Premier following a 2-1 home win against Entebbe FC with Ivan Kiwewa scoring the all-important second goal, the strike that will always be inked as the one that took the Purple Sharks to the top flight of Ugandan football.
In their final game of the season, Wakiso drew 0-0 away to Light SS, ending the season with 11 victories (second most in the division), 8 draws and only one loss.
The journey of Wakiso Giants may have been smooth as compared to what other teams, starting their quest to reach the top flight, tend to endure but it took a lot of effort to be the way it was. Heavy financial in-put, proper administration and ‘LUCK’ were all part of the team’s journey.
Now that the team is into the top tier, their target is not to just compete but rather gun for the StarTimes Uganda Premier League.
Before they are initiated into the top tier, there is a small matter at hand that needs to be taken care of.
Wakiso will contest for the 2018/19 Big League title when they take on Proline (Rwenzori Group winners) on Saturday, 18-05-2019 at the StarTimes Stadium in Lugogo with the victor between the two, crowned the overall winner of the second tier.
With the services of Ayub Kisalita and Hassan Wasswa Dazo already secured on long term deals, the club is poised to recruit more personnel as they clearly know that the players they have currently, cannot win them the title come the end of next season.
However, with the money there and ready to be spent, the top tier should stand warned, otherwise another major player in the Ugandan football will be out there gunning for their maiden top tier crown.