Vipers SC have set the pace in the 2019/20 Uganda Premier League (UPL) first round and are now odds-on favourites to go all the way and secure a second title in three years.
As expected, KCCA FC are their closest challengers with the Kasasiros sitting just 4 points behind the Venoms.
Several teams have put up surprising performances including the likes of BUL FC and SC Villa who occupy third and fourth spots respectively.
The other traditional giants-Express FC have so far had to endure a wobbly campaign and it seems they will finish closer to the drop than the top unless something unexpected happens in the last 15 games.
The three promoted teams have had mixed results with debutants Wakiso Giants FC and Kyetume FC performing fairly well while Proline FC somehow find themselves rooted at the foot of the table.
Several coaches have lost their jobs already including Wasswa Bbosa (Tooro United FC), Livingstone Mbabazi (Onduparaka FC), Kefa Kisala (Wakiso Giants FC), Muhammad Kisseka (Bright Stars FC) and George Best Nsimbe (Kyetume FC). Bbosa and Mbabazi resigned from their roles, Kisala and Nsimbe were axed while Kisseka was demoted to the youth team.
Proline have also had to change their coach twice with Shafiq Bisaso leaving for studies in Sweden while his replacement Matia Lule is understood to have also followed the same path. The club is currently under the guidance of Baker Mbowa who was deputized by Mujib Kasule in their final first-round game against KCCA FC. The Clubs later clarified on the matter, stating that Mbowa is currently injured but still in interim charge.
The first round has not ended without sad events either as three teams have lost games off the pitch. Police FC and Proline were docked three and six points respectively for failing to honour fixtures against Onduparaka FC and SC Villa respectively while Maroons FC lost a game at home to Vipers for fielding an ineligible player.
Never the less, the first round has come to an end and here is our team of the opening half as compiled by Shaban Lubega in a 3:4:1:2 formation.
GK: Fabien Mutombora (Vipers SC)
A goalkeeper will always be judged on how many goals he lets in and in the entire first round, Mutombora has conceded just 7. Mutombora may not be the classy ball-playing goalie that many would like to see but one who has indeed gotten the job done in the first round.
CB: Bashir Asiku (Vipers SC)
At one point, Asiku’s Vipers career looked to be over as he went AWOL last season but the 21-year old has come back stronger. Alongside Halid Lwaliwa, the two have formed arguably the best pairing in the division currently. For Asiku, he has improved from the error-prone youngster to a rock of sorts and contributed to Vipers’ stability in defence.
CB: Walter Ochola (BUL FC)
Played in all but two of BUL FC’s 15 first-round games, Ochola is the king-pin of the Jinja-based side’s defence that has conceded just 9 goals so far. He is clearly one of the most underrated defenders currently in the UPL.
CB: Mustafa Kizza (KCCA FC)
I am not a big fan of Kizza but I have learnt to appreciate him. One of the most consistent performers in the Kasasiros shirt and was at it again throughout the first round as he put up several outstanding displays, scoring four goals and topping the assist charts. Despite predominantly playing as a left-back, I have decided to use him on the left-side of a back-three, a role he has previously played in at KCCA FC.
MF: Ashraf Mandela (URA FC)
One whose talent has never been in doubt but had somehow failed to make the next grade. However, Mandela now looks to be on course to doing exactly that and his performances for URA FC have been extremely good also earning him a spot in the National team set-up.
MF: Disan Ggaliwango (Express FC)
The Express FC left-back-cum-winger/forward has continued to be a revelation of sorts under George Ssemwogerere. Ggaliwango has led by example at the Red Eagles since the season started and his tally of five goals is just part of how good he has been.
MF: Ambrose Kirya (SC Villa)
SC Villa have turned the tables after a close to disastrous 2018/19 campaign. Despite a troubled off-season too, they have surprisingly started stronger with some of the old guns performing beyond expectation. One of them has been Kirya who has gone on to score five goals this season and put out several man of the match performances.
MF: Ben Ocen (Police FC)
Just like Juma Balinya last season, Ben Ocen has taken the initiative at Police FC. The attacking midfielder has benefited from Abdallah Mubiru’s style of play and kept on popping up with the goods in the final third, scoring a total of 9 goals so far.
FW: Viane Sekajugo (Wakiso Giants FC).
The fast and tricky forward looks set to continue his development and at Wakiso Giants, he has found a new home, settling in surprisingly fast. Seven goals so far but that is not all, Sekajugo has been a nightmare for several defenders and should have had at least one more to his tally, only for his would-be leveller against leaders Vipers to controversially be ruled out.
FW: Steven Mukwala (Maroons FC)
On loan from Vipers SC, Mukwala has hit the ground running at Maroons FC. The striker has finished the first-round as top scorer with 10 goals.
FW: Fahad Bayo (Vipers SC)
What a season Bayo is having! Scored 9 goals for Vipers already and as a consequence, broken into the National team. Tipped by many to be this season’s top scorer and he should have had one hand on the accolade already only for his lack of ruthlessness in front of goal on several occasions.
Coach: Edward Golola (Vipers SC)
Golola has overseen Vipers SC magnificent start to the season as his side hold a decent 4-point lead at the top of the table. Currently in his first full season as the head coach of Vipers following a return to the Kitende based side last season, Golola may be on course to winning the league crown.
Yusuf Wasswa (Onduparaka FC), Halid Lwaliwa (Vipers SC), Derrick Ndahiro (SC Villa), Siraj Ssentamu (Vipers SC), Denis Okot (BUL FC), Robert Mukongotya (BUL FC), Bright Anukani (Proline FC), Allan Okello (KCCA FC), Julius Malingumu (Onduparaka FC), Boban Zirintusa (Onduparaka FC), Charles Musiige (Tooro United).