The year in Ugandan football delivered a typical mixture of glory, intrigue, and dramatic upheavals.
There was a continuing sense of the game trying to rediscover its self-assurance especially with The Uganda Crane, a theme that will carry into the New Year amidst a growing enthusiasm for improving the league.
Some events felt destined to occur, since for all that SC Villa raised their level and their consistency, nobody was surprised to see Vipers SC pull away with a confident surge last season.
The past 12 months have not answered all of the game’s questions, but delivered enough talking points to sustain the endless, sometimes rancorous, always heartfelt passions of Ugandan football supporters.
Uganda Cranes soar
The biggest talking point has to be The Uganda Cranes. It was a great year for the national team as they qualified for a third successive Africa Nations Championship (CHAN) finals, qualified for the group stages of the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers after hammering bogey side Togo (4-0 on aggregate) and won an unprecedented 14th CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup crown.
Besides, there was an exceptional improvement in the away record with six wins in the year that started in Nigeria in March.
In addition, the Cranes lead their 2017 AFCON qualifiers group with maximum points after wins over Botswana and Comoros and looked destined to break the jinx for the finals that dates as far back as 1978.
Above all, Uganda ends the year with their best ever FIFA ranking as they sit 62nd.
Youthful Vipers win league
Not many pundits gave them chance at the start of the 2014/15 season but a youthful Vipers’ side went on to lift the league.
En route to achieving the feat, they lost just once and surprisingly, against KJT Rwenshama who were relegated at the end of the campaign.
They end the year second on the log as the search for a successive league title remains in sight.
The return of football awards
For the first time since the 2011/12 campaign, the football awards returned to Ugandan football.
Although some categories like the Fans Favourite Player based in Europe as well as the nominees for others left more questions than answers, it was fantastic to see Farouk Miya and Sandra Nabweteeme drive home courtesy of FUFA, Airtel and other partners.
Robert Donney frolics eclipse Uganda Cup Finals
You can’t about 2015 minus mentioning referee Robert Donney. One of the poorest referees in the history of the game, Donney’s antics climaxed in arguably the biggest game of last season that pitted giants KCCA and SC Villa in the Uganda Cup finals.
The man who hails from Kasese officiated like a man on mission when he awarded SC Villa a penalty for a ‘foul (if it was anyway) that was outside the 18 yard area.
The match aborted and a replay was set but Donney’s scars were felt by the Kasasiro Boys as four players were suspended thanks to his match report.
The man has since been banned and is yet to referee any game this season.
The rise and rise of Farouk Miya
Football is a team sport but if there is any individual that owned the game, it has to be Farouk Miya.
The Vipers’ attacking midfielder’s style may not be a joy to watch but his effectiveness saw him win the 2014/15 Uganda Premier League Most Valuable Player after scoring 12 goals for the club.
He then went on to be named Football of the Year at the Airtel FUFA Awards but above all, Miya scored a record ten goals for the senior national team as well as three for the U-23 side.
He also captained the side to the CHAN finals as well as The Cranes lifted the CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup with Miya the skipper.
Mike Mutebi returns to topflight management
Ex-Uganda Cranes Coach Mike Mutebi returned into the dugout for the first time since 2012.
He was appointed KCCA manager in June replacing Abdallah Mubiru. His last topflight assignment was at SC Villa.
In the first six months so far, Mutebi has guided the ten time league champions to the top of the table albeit leading with only a single point on 29 points.
Maroons regain promotion
Not so many sides earn promotion to the top division with ease as Maroons did. The side was relegated from the division on ‘political grounds’ the season following the 2011/12 season.
They agreed to feature in the FUFA Big League last season and didn’t only get promoted, but they earned it as champions.
Sadly, they find themselves at the base of the 16 team log as the year ends.
SC Villa wins Uganda Cup
SC Villa haven’t won the league since 2004 but have at least won two Uganda Cups since then. The most successful club in the country missed out on the league by a whisker but ended the year with a trophy in the cabinet after beating KCCA 3-0 (albeit with all controversy) in the finals.
And the awards……………..
Best game: SC Villa against Express produced a spectacle as well as the 2014/15 league decider between SC Villa and Vipers but I go for Uganda’s 3-0 win over Togo at Namboole.
Best Goal: Dan Nsubuga’s scorcher against SC Villa as he featured for SC Victoria University comes in mind but only behind Farouk Miya’s volley against Rwanda U-23 at Nakivubo.
Player of the Year: Denis Onyango, Erisa Sekisambu, Tonny Mawejje and Robert Ssentongo have had a good year but none eclipsed Farouk Miya and for that, he is my player of the year.
Best Coach: Edward Golola won the league with Vipers and the NPP with St. Mary’s Kitende but Cranes Coach Mulitin ‘Micho’ Sredojevic enjoyed the best year of his national team coaching career.
My Best XI for the Year: Denis Onyango (GK), Derrick Walulya, Murushid Jjuuko, Hassan Wasswa Dazo, Godfrey Walusimbi, Tonny Mawejje, Aucho Khalid, Farouk Miya, Kezironi Kizito, Robert Ssentongo and Erisa Sekisambu