“Tubiwadde, maama Tubiwadde ebiyaaye, Tubiwadde…” I will never forget that day in 1998. SC Villa fans chanting and singing ‘Tubiwadde‘ in the Namboole terraces as Hassan Mubiru placed the ball in the penalty spot to take a last minute penalty that would determine the winner of the 1998 Serie A Nile Special Super League between SC Villa and Express FC.
But that’s not where it started. The 1997 league ended in tears for Villa after losing the title decider against KCC and dropping down to fourth place even behind UEB and Express FC.
The bribery allegations in the Villa camp on the eve of that 2-0 loss to KCC forced Villa to make an overhaul of the playing staff, a move that saw a number of senior players terminated at the club.
Livingston Kyobe, Livingston Mbabazi, Fred Makokha, Paul Mukatabala, Adolf Bola, Gibby Kalule were all fired while Phillip Obwiny returned to Express and Ronald Kasigazi left for Thailand.
SC Villa raided the market and made massive recruitment that brought in the pair of Bukohore and Joseph Mutyaba from Express, Hakim Magumba from Iganga, Abubaker Tabula from Simba, Phillip Ssozi and Charles Kayemba from State House as well as Hassan Mubiru from Police.
Edgar Watson took over the captain’s armband after Kyobe’s departure while the management still trusted David Otti to guide the new-look Jogoo to the championship.
Come January 1998, SC Villa’s opening fixture was against Express which was also going to be the first ever game to be played in the newly built Mandela National Stadium, Namboole.
Each side was eager to go for victory and have their team in the annals of Ugandan football history as the first team to win a match at Namboole.
It was really a mammoth asking to the young Villa players the club had assembled in less than two months to win against an Express side that still had players who formed the backbone of the squad that dominated Ugandan football between 1993 and 1997 with almost a trophy in each season during that period. George Ssemwogerere, Richard Kirumira, Fred Tamale, Sulaiman Tenywa, Kefa Kisala, Jamil Kyambadde, James Odoch, the returning Obwiny and Robert Ojok among others.
Express won the match 1-0 thanks to Tamale’s strike which also made him the first player to score at Namboole and made Express FC the first team to win a match at the venue.
Things weren’t rosy for SC Villa at all. They had a bad start and things worsened when they failed to win against Simba, and then coached by SC Villa legend Paul Edwin Hasule. The Villa management fired Otti after another bad performance in Mbale and replaced him a younger coach, one of their own, Hasule.
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Hasule turned things around not only winning games but also doing it in fashion. In one of the most remarkable performances in Ugandan league history, Villa walloped Mbale Heroes 10-0, a Namboole Stadium record that would stand for five years until the controversial SCVilla 22-1 drubbing of Akol in 2003.
SC Villa beat Express 2-1 in the league’s second round game at Nakivubo in one of Andrew Fimbo Mukasa’s most memorable league performances.
Mukasa bagged a brace – one a penalty in a highly contested battle at Nakivubo that saw Express FC also get awarded a penalty which Kassim Katumba missed. One wonders why Katumba was handed the responsibility of taking a penalty when the stakes were that high yet the team had more senior players on the pitch including their perennial penalty taker Ssemwogerere. SC Villa had Tabula get injured in this game and was replaced by Deo Sserwadda at left back and the hard tackling defender became a mainstay in that position even in the seasons that followed.
Villa beat Express again in the Kakungulu (Uganda) Cup semifinal with on form Mubiru then scoring twice in another Nakivubo thriller.
This booked them a place in the first ever cup final at Namboole where they met Simba that had eliminated KCC in the other semifinal.
Back in the league, the race was still tight. Villa had to play KCC at Namboole, a team that had denied them the title on the last day of the previous season.
KCC were off the pace in the championship chase but Villa badly needed a win to keep tabs on Express.
On to the game, both teams found it hard to find a goal with Villa more desperate as the clock ticked down and Hasule made a master class of a change by introducing veteran midfielder Idd Batambuze.
In the additional minutes of the game, Batambuze played a dipping cross into the area to the waiting number 9 Kayemba who headed home past Hussein Ssali who was in the KCC goal to send the Villa crowd at Namboole wild. Kayemba was on form but that was probably the most important of the 12 goals he scored that season to win him the top scorer’s accolade.
Villa then took on Simba in the final. The army team was being coached by Moses Basena, another former Villa player who took over after Hasule had crossed to Villa. Among the Simba players was also Ibrahim Kirya, who had joined Simba from Villa just a season before but the real threat came from the army side’s two short but very talented wingers Ibrahim Buwembo and David Kalungi.
Magumba missed the game through injury but two second half goals by Mubiru gave Villa the win and the Kakungulu Cup victory to end the four year trophy drought. The second one was a real beauty as Mubiru was put through by a defense splitting pass and he found himself one on one with Simba’s goalkeeper Kajoba. He rounded him off and scored in an empty net to the delirium of the Villa fans.
On the last day of the season, Villa faced off with Express in the third round in a must win game because the Red Eagles had 44 points, two ahead on Hasule’s men. Villa needed to win while a draw was enough for the Red Eagles to clinch the championship.
I remember having an exam that afternoon and I got to the Stadium late. As I was getting near the gate, I heard a roar from the crowd and then the voice of stadium announcer Andrew Patrick Luwandagga (RIP) saying: “Red card to Aggrey Bigala (SC Villa).” That shocked me and then there was a moment of silence. Then a roar again from the crowd and Luwandagga again said; “Goal number one for Express scored by Captain George Ssemwogerere.” 1-0 Express and that’s how the first half ended.
SC Villa came out blazing in the second period. They attacked Express relentlessly until Mubiru scored to level matters. They continued to pile pressure on the Red Eagles defense with attacks from both flanks and through the middle.
Just a few minutes to the final whistle with Express seemingly taking the league title, Kayemba received the ball on the right, beat his marker – Richard Makumbi and entered the 18 yard box. The move looked so dangerous as Mubiru had already positioned himself very well in the face of goal waiting to receive the ball and pull the trigger. Makumbi and Kirumira who were playing on the left side for Express both ran at Kayemba and tagged him down in the area before passing the ball.
Referee Umar Bautu pointed to the spot and this caused unconfined joy among the Villa supporters.
Kayemba got up and gave the ball to Mubiru who put it in the penalty spot to face Express’ goalkeeper Isa Bin Mungu. However, Express players protested the penalty and their captain Ssemwogerere told Bin Mungu to get out of goal.
Villa fans continued chatting and singing while their Express counterparts tried to throw stones to start a fight.
The game was discontinued and later the FIFA’s National Football League Committee gave all three points to Villa. The boardroom decision meant that Villa were the champions with 45 points, one ahead of Express.
The victory gave Villa a double, ‘SSALONGO’
Referee Bautu was banned for life by the football authorities.
SC Villa XI at Full Strength
Ramathan Elengesa, Arthur Byasima, Abubaker Tabula, Aggrey Bigala, Geoffrey Bukohore, Edgar Watson, Joseph Mutyaba, Hakim Magumba Charles Kayemba, Hassan Mubiru and Phillip Ssozi
Subs: Andrew Mukasa, Idd Batambuze, Ronald Mugabi, Dan Mubiru ‘Mujapan’ and Deo Sserwadda