After winning seven National Basketball League titles in the past seven seasons, the City Oilers are now a dynasty that has shown no signs of slowing.
City Oilers’ success didn’t just occur overnight though, as a plethora of factors as good management, strong promote-from-within philosophy, a strong team concept and culture, discipline and making their best players the hardest workers helped to form them into the dynasty that they are from their time of formation a decade ago.
City Oilers was born under the queerest circumstances. Actually before its formation, the proprietors had no intentions of starting a basketball club.
“The intention was never to start a competitive basketball club at the time. We used to go to the gym as friends with Silver (Rugambwa), Mohamed (Santur), and Hassan (Ahmed). We got bored at some point and Mohamed proposed we start playing basketball,” Grace Kwizera, one of the founding members, recalls.
At Kabira Country Club in Bukoto is a basketball court surrounded by palm trees and tennis courts. On evenings of weekdays and over the weekend, the facility is preoccupied with mainly people who subscribe to using the facility with a certain amount of money and it’s where the group chose to play from.
“I told Mohamed I had never played basketball and he said we would figure it out. I remember the first time we played, I threw the ball so high and it went over the board into the second tennis court,” Kwizera confesses.
The group would be joined by the likes of Andrew Tendo, Mark Eperu, Henry Baguma and later Eddie Oumo as well as Justus Mugisha for pick-up basketball after work three times a week.
Pick-up turned into a habit for the mostly former national league players and that went on for nearly eight months. It is from the weekly pick-up that City Oilers were born.
“First we started playing pick-up at Kabira as friends around 2008 and as time went on, guys became fitter. We got quorum and said let us start to compete,” Silver Rugambwa, another founding member, recalls.
At the time, Kwizera did not think the group was ready for what comes along with starting a club and playing competitively – the pressure and time invested.
“Coach Mugi (Justus Mugisha) suggested that since we are having a good time while playing basketball, we should start a club and join the league. I thought it was a ridiculous idea because I didn’t think we had the time for it or we needed the pressure of doing it but he managed to convince us,” he says.
“Hajji (Mohamed Santur) then sold the idea to City Oil management then we became City Oilers in 2010 and registered in Division III in 2011,” Rugambwa adds.
Santur says it was easy to buy into the idea of forming a club as he and Hassan Ahmed, the Director of City Oil, had a basketball background.
“The guys approached us to form a club and because we have a background of basketball we agreed and registered in Division III. We agreed to start from the bottom because we wanted to build a product and shape it the way we want.”
Life in Division III
For starters, it was a bunch of veterans that included the likes of Eddie Oumo, Mark Eperu, Chris Kamugisha, Henry Baguma, Ronnie Kalule, Allan Green, Justus Mugisha, Nziza Rurangirwa, Michael Mukula and others.
“We had veterans and at the start, it was let’s go and have fun but when we registered the idea became serious. We actually set a target of winning a championship (NBL) in five years,” Rugambwa says.