Uganda: Do UPDF Have Enough Ammo to Sustain Stay?

24 November 2020

There are plenty of reasons for fans of Bombo-based UPDF to be optimistic ahead of their return to the Premier League after four years in the wilderness.

Wholesome changes saw a new coach and playing staff unveiled at BomboArmy Barracks as UPDF prepare for the kick-off of the 2020/21 season.

A lucky escape saw the army side beat Ndejje University to the automatic qualifying place in the Rwenzori Group to join Elgon Group winners Myda.

But relegation ghost will haunt them after their 20-year stay in the top flight was ended in 2016. In between, they metamorphosed, first by acquiring The Saints and then assuming the official

army name, UPDF.

So what is there to even make of the upcoming season from UPDF?

The coach

While in the wilderness of the Fufa Big League, UPDF depended on the wit of Steven Bogere, who had replaced Moses Basena in 2017, as coach. Upon promotion, his position became untenable paving way for Kefa Kisala.

The 46-year-old, who had just lost his job at Wakiso Giants, carries tonnes of experience having previously coached at Bul, URA, Express, Masaka LC, Iganga, and Baza Holdings since he started way

back in 2005.

Along with numerous arrivals, Kisala will be under pressure to deliver. Kisala fancies quick passing football, the physical nature of league football, will make it hard for him to dominate sides as he

primarily fights relegation.

Thirteen departures paved way for highly rated defender Ronnie Kisekka, midfielder Simon Mbaziira, Ibrahim Wammanah from relegated Proline, Joseph Vuni from development side Young Simba, Duncan Ssemakula,Rashid Agau, Abdul Noor Lukwata, and goalkeeper Yusuf Wasswa.

Kisala's assistants, Ssaka Mpiima and Pius Ngabo, are not yet proven beyond Masaza football.

With restrictions on movement, there just hasn't been enough time on the training pitch to completely teach his principles. Build-up games have been few and far with the most high profile team being Jinja's Gaddafi as others have been local teams that don't matter a lot, like Matugga United.

Recruitment

From a squad building perspective, most of the players in the UPDF squad are in the same age category.

Possibly the biggest gap in the squad is the attack. If UPDF are to survive this season, goals will be extremely important.

Former Bright Stars attacker Brian Kayanja, who arrived from Kenya's Sofapaka, has the potential to use his physique to challenge opponents. The addition of Jesse Kajuba from Dove and lanky Davis

Kasirye will provide options. Seif Batte, who was part of the Uganda Cranes team that played at the 2018

Chan tournament in Morocco, is another potential answer to the goal-scoring equation. Relying on them is not a thing most coaches would do by choice as none has scored more than 10 goals in

previous seasons.

This scenario would require Kisala to assess Agau, who spent two irregular seasons at Maroons.

Former Vipers attacker Dickens Okwir,who had been loaned to Paidha Black Angels, is always going to be a stopgap measure presumably not the hoped for answer.

Equally uncertain is the defence. Signing Isa Mubiru from Tooro United was a vital step after Arafat Galiwango's deal

fell through. Mubiru was among the most important players for the relegated side and offers versatility in attack.

Experienced Ronnie Kisekka has commendable aerial command but lacks

the legs to be a quick player in dangerous situations.

Right back James Begisa will relieve the central defenders of any weight with his enticing attacks.

The goalkeeping position is the safest bet for the club as they boast of Douglas Kisembo and Tonny Kyamera, who are all competitive candidates.

"We have all the positions well covered. We have options in every department and I think we will be very competitive," Ashraf Miiro, the club's chief executive, said.

Although they lack elite players, an optimist would look at their massive recruitment. They will also take hope to use Bombo Army Barracks to the fullest squeezing life out of the visiting op-

position.

There are obvious signs of avoiding the drop but Kisala has a job in his hands to pull out of the club's mediocrity if he makes better tactical choices.

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