It was Covid9 that denied us a natural ending to what promised to be one of the most thrilling title race in recent memory. This was going to the wire. But few will doubt how impressive Express has been this season and it comes as a no surprise that the club has four players in our team of the season.
The players in The-SportsNation team of the season for the concluded 2020/21 Uganda Premier League campaign have been selected on merit, and some of the selections, as expected, will create big debates
There is no place for goalkeeper Mathias Muwanga (Express), Bobosi Byaruhanga (Vipers), Kabon Living (Onduparaka), Samuel Ssekamatte (Bright Stars) or Brian Kayanja (UPDF). That’s how tight this has been.
And no KCCA or SC Villa Player who has made it to our best XI list as well.
Its a 3-4-3 formation.
More spoiler alerts? The team has two Bright Stars players, a BUL Winger and a player who has ice in his veins.
Lets just get this done. Shall we?
Goalkeeper: Simon Tamale (Bright Stars)
Simon Tamale (Bright stars):
He started this season as a third choice goalkeeper at the club but injuries to Godwin Buule and Benson Wagima paved way for the youngster. He came off the bench against Wakiso Giants to replace an injured Wagima, he saved Tom Masiko’s penalty in a 3-2 win. He never looked back, recording six clean sheets from 10 games! His first full game was away to MYDA where he assisted Joseph Akandwanaho’s opener in a 3-0 win. He got three player of the match performances thereafter (all away games Vs Villa, KCCA and BUL). Against KCCA at Lugogo, he made a one-hand save against Sadat Anaku’s long range freekick which is my best save of the season. The performance against BUL was top notch, with his team finishing a man down after Andrew Kaggwa was sent off. He was recently summoned to the National team for South Africa friendly and that is surely the start for big things to come.
Defenders: Enock Walusimbi (Express), Benjamin Nyakoojo (URA) & Murushid Juuko (Express)
Enock Walusimbi (Express)
“What I can assure the fans is that in these coming two seasons, we are going to win a trophy,” Walusimbi trembled in his first interview with the club after seaing a move from Bright Stars. That video interview was even posted on club’s socials. His voice was a bit shaky, but his performances thereafter were firm, resolute and tenacious. Coach Wasswa Bbosa trusted him with the captaincy, and the defender repaid the coach’s trust with a league title! He was sent off in the league opener against Onduparaka for a handball but recovered well since then to establish himself as the most respected player. He has been used used as a make-shift right back and a centre back as well this season, and has seamlessly fitted into all Bbosa’s formations. Its such versatility and game intelligence that fits well into his nickname of Lucio, a former Brazil captain. His rise saw him earn a national team call up, and has been named the captain for the Uganda team for the 2021 Cecafa U23.
Benjamin Nyakoojo (URA):
A true definition of a rock solid defender. A towering figure in URA defence that shipped in 18 goals, the second lowest tally. He was outstanding throughout the campaign with four player of the match performances against Bright Stars, UPDF, KCCA and SC Villa, such is a big milestone given that most accolades are given to forwards or attacking midfielders. He reserved time and scored two crucial goals; the first was an equaliser against SC Villa as the Tax Collectors recorded a comeback win in Ndejje, that was the club’s first win of the season, setting the tone for what has been URA best season ever since they won the league title in 2010/11. He was also on target in another comeback win against KCCA at Lugogo. Nyakoojo’s omission from Cranes squad for Chan and other engagements has raised many eyebrows for a defender who has been defined by high work-rate, aerial prowess and discipline.
Murushid Juuko (Express):
The turning point of Express FC’s title winning season happened just before the season started. That was when they announced a marquee signing of Uganda Cranes defender Murushid Juuko. That was a big statement for then sleeping giants. Juuko’s fitness was somehow in doubt after a dry spell since leaving Wydad Casablanca over non payments but his class and experience was never in doubt. He settled in well at the club and established his leadership skills. His game reading made Express the hardest side to break down. There were fears in December when he dropped out of Cranes Chan camp for trials to Maritzburg in South Africa, but he managed to complete the season at Wankululuku. Away from his red card in the win Express beat URA anyway, Juuko was admirable throughout. His only goal was against BUL in Bugembe, scoring the opener to settle nerves in a 4-0 win. Going into that game, BUL had won all their last five games against the Red Eagles, scoring eight goals in the process without conceding any. When asked Express coach Bbosa who was his best player of the season, he never hesitated, Juuko was the answer, rightly.
Midfield: Joseph Akandwanaho (Bright Stars), Godfrey Lwesibawa (Express), Shafic Kagimu (URA) & Joseph Ssemujju (BUL)
Joseph Akandwanaho (Bright Stars)
Another Bright Stars player on this list, deservedly after his performance helped the side record their best season since joining the Uganda Premier League. Fifth with 42 points. Akandwanaho who joined the side in September from Nyamityobora, was directly involved in 12 goals (scoring 8 and assisting 4). He showed his brilliance when he scored on his debut against KCCA in the league opener and was also on target in the second round fixture at Lugogo in a shocking win. He was player of the match twice, against UPDF and MYDA. He unlocked even the ‘stingiest’ of defences in the league with his silky touches, skill, composure and passing ability. His national team call up was a reward of his tremendous display and Bright Stars must be ready for many suitors knocking on the door needing the winger’s signature before kickoff of the 2021/22 season.
Godfrey Lwesibawa (Express):
His signing from Tooro United to Express was met with divided opinions from fans and journalists alike as many blamed Wasswa Bbosa for recycling players as the gaffer tried to reunite with some of his players he worked with Villa and Tooro as well at Wankulukuku. Lwesibawa was involved in a controversial incident on social media when he confirmed his allegiance to former club Villa, saying that its still his club as details about him owning a Villa fans club spilled through. Many Express fans demanded an apology as other called on his contract to be terminated before season kickoff. As if that was not enough, news came in that the winger had already signed with BUL before he was unveiled at Wankulukuku. The player, it is said, that he got money from BUL CEO as part of sign-on fee during lockdown to help her wife who was about to give birth. When all the dust settled, the Winger let the ball do the talking. He scored 10 goals and scooped two player of the match gongs. He beat opponents with pace, good with set pieces and provided versatility every time Express needed a wing-back.
Shafic Kagimu (URA):
An obvious choice any day. He has added scoring goals to his contribution and whether it was goals or delivering that needed assist, Kuchi delivered this season. He carried URA to extended stretches even when his midfield compatriot Saidi Kyeyune left after a deal in Sudan. He played a staring role for Sam Ssimbwa’s charges, he was a central midfielder, winger, attacker for the club and it took Covid to stop his dream of winning the title after the league was ended with his side just a point behind leaders Express. Only if we lived in a country where player stats are easy to compile, then we would have seen Kuchi’s lofty passing success rate. There were games I remember he never put a pass wrong, as he compensated his lack of physique with ability to find and exploit spaces.
Joseph Ssemujju (BUL):
Not an obvious choice for most pundits and fans for the team of the season. Partly because he was at a club that almost battled relegation throughought whole season. His 11 goals however should not be ignored or taken lightly. He was the silver lining at a club lacked consistency and registered mixed results. The former Villa, Vipers and Express winger was named man of the match for the club’s two opening games including against rivals Busoga United where he stared with an hat-trick in an Eastern derby. He has been criticised for his laziness and bluntness in front of goal in the past but he seems like he has turned the corner. Ssemujju, blessed with pace, never stopped running up and down the wings and became a menace to full-backs this season.
Forwards: Yunus Ssentamu (Vipers), Steven Mukwala (URA) & Eric Kambale (Express)
Yunus Ssentamu (Vipers):
Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the 2020/21 Uganda Premier League top scorer. Vipers had their problems this season but if they were to win the league, Ssentamu showed that ge was ready to lead the resurgence. He banged 16 goals and silenced all doubters wrong after he was re-signed by Vipers following a year-out. He had left FK Tirana in 2019. He showed he still had goals in the legs right on his debut he marked with a brace in a 7-0 mauling against MYDA. His second game at Kitende saw the former AS Vita, Sfaxien and Ilves forward score late to send Vipers top in a 1-0 win over UPDF. The goal was a beauty, put aside the importance, as the striker rose highest to nod a lofty delivery from Joseph Dhata. He never took home any player of the match accolade, turning down the Pilsner-sponsored awards due to his islamic ethos. Despite missing the opening games of the season, Yunus proved to be the league’s most well-rounded finisher thanks to his composure inside the box and positional sense.
Steven Mukwala (URA):
Desse produced another straight 10-plus goal season when he notched 14 goals in his debut campaign with URA FC. He had 13 with Maroons, as the side got relegated. From being regarded as a surplus to requirements at Vipers, to becoming one the of the most feared strikers in the league has been a great turn around for the former Masaza cup player. His debut at URA FC came at Mbarara where he scored and later missed from the spot. He has ended the season with four player of the match performances against UPDF, Police, Onduparaka and Vipers. He has been left out of National team engagements, including being dropped from the Chan team, but he his club performance has not deteriorated. A striker known for his acceleration and very industrious who can play comfortably as a winger well. It remains to be seen whether he will remain at URA FC after his deal to Ghana’s Asanta Kotoko fell through last season.
Eric Kambale (Express):
One of the biggest decisions Villa will regret is their failure to lure a willing Kambale to join the club at the start of the 2020/21 season. They deal was all but done. Kambale has been this season’s MVP by a mile. He has banged 15 goals for a player who derives more pleasure from assisting rather than scoring them, and do not be fooled here, Kambale is a playmaking attacking midfielder not a striker. He was thrown into the deep water of the striking responsibilities when George Ssenkaaba got injured midway through the season. Saying that he did not disappoint in his new role is the biggest understatement of the decade after the ‘striker’ helped Express to their first league title since 2012. Player of the match performances against Kitara, Kyetume, Onduparaka, URA and Wakiso Giants have made the star twinkle. And what he lacks in physique and pace compesates it with intelligence. A selfless, humble, intelligent player with ice in his veins. MVP MVP MVP.