It all started with the return of Jackson Mayanja ‘MiaMia’ in 1996.
Express FC were strolling to the league championship defence and the tussle was now between Villa and KCC for the second place.
The second place was so crucial because it would determine the third representative to the continental tournaments. With Express winning the league which they easily did capping it up with a 1-0 win against SC Villa at Wankulukuku, the goal scored by Muhamood Kateregga, they booked their place at the CAF Club Championship while UEB had beaten Nile to win the Kakungulu Cup (now Stanbic Uganda Cup) and the representation to the Cup Winners Cup.
The place for CAF Cup which was then given to the league’s runners up was up for grabs. Villa beat KCC 2-0 with two superbly headed goals by Gibby Kalule who was a Makerere University fresher from Lubiri SS but the loss to Express and a poor finish by Villa helped KCC take second place.
They were a very young squad with a few veterans like Mayanja and Abdallah Mubiru Tabliq. Mike Mutebi started the season as coach but the button was later given to Tom Lwanga who took the team to the finish line.
1997, the league opener at Nakivubo, Villa vs KCC, the stadium full to capacity and Livingstone Mbabazi introduces himself to the world. He was then an S4 student at Kibuli SS before joining Lubiri SS a few months later.
He scored a superb goal that seemed to have given Villa all three points until late in the game when Mayanja pulled out his magic wand with a better one. With the clock winding down, KCC trailing, Mayanja saw Villa goalkeeper Livingston Kyobe off his line and superbly looped the ball over him into the net. It was brilliant, it was good. 1-1 it ended and that game went on to set the tone till the end of the season.
UEB beat KCC in Bugembe and they got a few other loses but they were the league’s most consistent team. They went to Wankulukuku and snatched a rare win at Express’ home ground in a very entertaining encounter where Godfrey Mugisha and Baker Mbowa scored two goals for KCC on the evening when Mayanja tormented Patrick Ntege and Sulaiman Tenywa.
Tenywa had joined Express that season from KCC. Ntege scored Express’ consolation late in the game. However, KCC’s most significant performance came on the continent and especially in their encounter with Kenya giants AFC Leopards.
Leopards came to Nakivubo and got a 2-2 draw which made it an herculean tasks for KCC. The return leg was a real acid test. They either had to win or get a draw of over two goals to advance. 2-2 would take the game to penalties. A spanner was thrown to their works however when captain Mayanja was sent off in the first half. To everybody’s surprise KCC won the game 1-0 with the goal coming from Gedfrey Mugisha. They received a heroes welcome.
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Next were Tunisian giants and continental football aristocrats Esperance. The players who had taken Tunisia to the finals of the 1996 African Nations Cup in South Africa and also helped it qualify to the 1998 FIFA World Cup formed the backbone of the team – Chikri El Ouaer, Khaled Badra, Feysal Ben Ahmed, Suajedine Chihi, Tarek Thabet, Abdelkader Ben Hassen and Hedi Berkhissa. That tells what a mammoth challenge the young KCC team had ahead of them.
As expected, Esperance took them to the cleaners with a 9-1 aggregate score. 3-1 at Nakivubo with KCC’s only goal scored by Baker Mbowa and 6-0 away in Tunis and KCC were out.
This, however, didn’t kill their confidence. Villa were drawing many games and hence not gaining reasonable points. KCC faced Villa in the Kakungulu Cup quarterfinal game at Nakivubo and they won the game 2-0 with Haruna Mawa scoring against Kyobe directly from a corner kick.
This win set up a semifinal with another giant Express FC. Having won at Wankulukuku in earlier on and considering their run of form then, KCC were the favourites and Mbowa once again put them infront with a first-half strike. KCC’s chances of winning a double looked realistic.
However, there was a scuffle between Tenywa and KCC’s defender Godfrey Ssekweeyama and this sparked off stone-throwing in the Kirasha. Police fired teargas and chaos started.
The game aborted and I remember watching KCC captain Mayanja telling his Express counterpart; “Nebwetunaguddamu tujja kubakuba” loosely translated as “Even if the game is replayed, we shall beat you.”
The KCC bus came onto the pitch and players boarded to leave the stadium as Express players went back to the dressing rooms.
The game had to be replayed and in the replay, Express beat KCC with a goal from Ayew Mbo. The Red Eagles went on to beat UEB in the final and lift the Kakungulu Cup.
Back in the league, UEB beat KCC and this gave Villa a chance of winning the league if they had beaten KCC in their last game of the season. Villa were unbeaten in the campaign to the last day but they had drawn so many games, among others, the opener against KCC, two against Express, away to Iganga, with Maji at Nakivubo.
On the eve of the title decider, however, rumours went around in the Villa camp that some of their players had been bribed by KCC officials to underperform. This brought confusion in the Jogoos camp and it resulted in Villa fielding an attenuated side in their biggest game if the season. Many senior players were suspended and didn’t even attend the game while others were benched. Captain Kyobe was benched, and in goal was Ibrahim Mugisha who had once been a junior at KCC. I remember KCC fans in the Kirussia celebrating when they saw him saying; “Oyo mwaana waffe” loosely translated as “That’s our boy.”
Gibby Kalule was on the bench too while Adolf Bola, Paul Mutakabala and Mbabazi never even came to Nakivubo. Ronald Kasigazi started in midfield with Edgar Watson while Aggrey Bigala partnered Phillip Obwiny in defence. A young Andrew Fimbo Mukasa was given a rare start on the striking like alongside Fred Makokha. They tried their best but the earlier disorganisation had already put them on the back foot.
KCC had Ibrahim Ssekajja on suspension and Lwanga fielded another defender calked Kato to partner Derrick Muyanja.
The first half ended 0-0 but all Villa needed was a win because KCC still had a match to play against SCOUL FC.
In the second half, Wilber Musika who had started on the bench was introduced and I heard fans saying; “Tuwonye baleese omwana waffe” loosely translated as “We are now safe, they have brought on our boy.”
There was always a rumour that Musika was a Villa fan who had for long wanted to join the team but failed by KCC officials and the Villa fans in the Kirussia were saying that it was the reason why he started that crucial game from the bench.
Musika made numerous dangerous attacks on the left frank and one resulted into a corner.
Mindful of what had happened in the Kakungulu Cup where Mawa scored against Kyobe from a direct corner kick, this time Villa guarded the posts so well but Mawa’s kick was met well by Abdallah Mubiru Tabliq who headed home to give KCC the lead and KCC had their hand on the title. Now Villa needed to score twice.
As the game neared the end with Villa’s trying to get the equaliser, chief Villa tormentor Mayanja also scored. Another header from another corner. KCC won and that victory sealed the title.
Villa’s loss meant that they were to finish fourth even behind UEB and Express.
KCC had one last game to play to ice their cake and as expected, they walloped SCOUL 6-0. Mayanja could however not take home the top scorer’s accolade. It was given to UEB Ogwang who notched 18 goals.
It was predicted that the young KCC team would go on to dominate Ugandan football but they never added to that success. They really flattered to deceive but we all know they were good, they were talented.
The KCCA Team
STARTERS – Hassan H Ssali, G. Ssekweeyama, Willy Musika, Derrick Muyanja, Ibra Ssekagya, Lawrence Musoke, Wilson Ggayi, Molly Byekwaso, Jackson Mayanja, Mbowa Baker, Haruna Mawa
SUBS – V. Musisi, Muhammad Byansi, Augustin Barigye, Godfrey Mugisha, Mugisha (Kabeza), Abdallah Mubiru, Kato