Before the 2003 CECAFA triumph, Uganda’s most successful club SC.Villa had last won the crown in 1987 when a Sula Kato solitary strike lifted the Jogoos over Sudanese giants El Merrick at Nakivubo Stadium. They had come close to their second championship in 1999 but lost on spot kicks against Tanzania’s Yanga Africans in the finals at Nakivubo Stadium.
Having won the Nile Special Super League title in 2002, SC.Villa were outright candidates to represent Uganda in the tournament and given that Uganda was hosting, it
was represented by two clubs. Express FC by virtue of finishing second in the league joined the Villa Park side as the two representatives.
Under the stewardship of Serbian Mitcho Sredojevic a.k.a Sserunjogi, SC.Villa won the Championship after beating Tanzania’s Simba SC 1-0 in the finals. Before that though, the Jogoos had to go past a lot of hurdles including one against domestic arch rivals Express FC. Below is the full details of Villa’s route to the championship.
THE ROAD TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP:
Mitcho’s side were in Group A that had the likes of Yanga FC (TZ), Red Sea (Eritrea), Mlandenge (Zanzibar) and Khartoum 3 (Sudan) and was based at Namboole. Group B and C were based at Nakivubo and Mbale respectively. Khartoum 3 were late entrants who replaced El Merrick that withdrew on the last hour.
The Games begin: 26th/Jan – SC.VILLA 2-0 YANGA FC. The blues began the tourney on a winning note. An own goal by Paul Masango in the 12th minute after Ssozi’s brilliance and another by Edgar Watson in the 48th minute sealed the victory.
30th/Jan – SC.VILLA 0-1 KHARTOUM 3. It was Mitcho’s first loss in over 60 games both domestic and international. The Jogoos missed lots of chances in the game and hit the woodwork on three occassions. The positive from the loss was the return of Congolese big striker Ekutchu Kasongo from injury.
1st/Feb – SC.VILLA 3-2 RED SEA. In their third game, Goals from Phillip Ssozi, Kasongo Ekuchu and Emma Balyejusa saw the hosts earn a narrow but deserved win over Eritrea’s Red Sea. Balyejusa’s scorcher from over 40 yards was the biggest highlight of the game and even up to now, Villa fans still refer to him as “40 yarder”.
3rd/Feb – SC.VILLA 1-0 MLANDEGE. Ekuchu Kasongo struck Villa’s solitary goal to triumph over Zanzibar’s Mlandege FC and qualify for the quarter finals.
5th/Feb – SC.VILLA 2-0 ST. GEORGE: Mitcho’s Villa was able to emphatically triumph over Ethiopia’s St. George with a 2-0 win. Captain Edgar Watson opened the scoring before Tanzanian important Tendwa Vicent sealed the victory with a second to book a semi final berth with domestic rivals Express FC that had confortably swept away Kenya’s Nzoia FC in the quarters with a 3-0 win at Nakivubo.
CIRCUS BEFORE THE EXPRESS FC TIE: During that period, the rivalry between the Red and Blue half of Uganda was intense and most of their games ended in brawls and referees suffered the most. So opinions were sought on where the game should be played. Express FC Executives preffered Nakivubo where they hosted all their tournament games while SC.Villa were for Namboole. A large section of fans also preffered the latter citing security and parking issues as the reason. “You can’t put a match of that magnitude at Nakivubo. We want Namboole were we can be assured of security and Parking for our cars”, fans were quoted saying. Besides, a war of words from the different camps arose each side confidently asserting their side was the better of the two.
Callers on radio stations, Star fm and Voice Of Africa in particular almost sounded war drums. The Express fans were led by Luba Kyoya e Kabowa, and Young boy Express while Kiyingi Brown led the blue army. Speaking to Phillip Ssozi on the tie, he narrated that Express FC didn’t spare the Villa players either. “We had come to watch their game against Nzoia and as we were boarding the bus back to camp, the Express fans threw insults and abuses to us. At that time, i told team mates, the only way to super glue these fans is by eliminating Express”, said Ssozi.
D-DAY. SEMI FINALS: 8th/Feb – SC.VILLA 2-1 EXPRESS. The long awaited derby was won by Villa. Ekutchu Kasongo headed home from a Phillip Ssozi corner in the 7th minute and Ssozi netted from a free kick before the end of half time. Express FC got one back via Bebe Matiabo with 10 minutes left on the clock but couldn’t dislodge Villa’s win. Defensive partnership of Batabaire and Tumusiime was to thank for keeping the Andrew Mukasa – Hassan Mubiru attack silent for the entire game. After the final whistle, Mitcho went towards the Express FC technical bench and in a sportsmanship manner, Coach Leo Adraa shook his hands but Express FC Chairman Godfrey Kirumira instead swung a punch at the Serbian in fury. SC.Villa were back in the finals to meet Tanzania’s Simba who had beaten Muzinga FC of Burundi.
11th/Feb – FINALS:
SC.VILLA 1-0 SIMBA SC. They had fallen against Tanzania’s Yanga FC in 1999 but it wasn’t to be against Simba SC. Substitute Vicent Tendwa, a Tanzanian important scored the only goal of the finals with 15 minutes left to play and SC.Villa were Champions at the final whistle. The big lad had come on for the injured Sula Walusimbi. Kasongo had earlier been denied by the wood work. However, Villa had custodian Omwony to thank for a brilliant save after Steven Mapenda had only him to beat.
SC.VILLA LINE UP IN THE FINALS. Omwony Posnet (gk), Katerega Godfrey, Timothy Batabaire, Robert Tumusiime, Sula Walusimbi (Tendwa Vicent), Balyejusa Emma, Watson Edgar (cpt), Ssozi Phillip, Ismail Kigozi, Kasongo Ekutchu (Sam Mubiru) and Nestroy Kizito.
OTHERS ON THE SQUAD: Hannington Kalyesubula (gk), Dan Obote, Shaban Kisiiga, Okocha Julius, Kabagambe Joseph, Hakim Magumba, Manfred Kizito, Alimansi Kadogo and Alex Isabirye. NOTE: Kadogo, Magumba and Obote missed most of the tournament due to injuries. HEAD COACH: Mitcho Sredojevic.
POST TOURNAMENT. 13th/ Feb/ 2003. After the tournament, President Museveni hosted the team at State House Nakasero to have a dinner with him and pleged to offer the team an ominbus, the president latter honoured his pledge and SC.Villa were given the bus. In another interesting development, Ange Noir proprietor Charlie Lubega offered all the Villa team a night out in the club free of charge. The players were allowed to go with their girl friends and wives and drinks and eats were free of charge.