Kampala. New man in charge, replenished stadium, and a revamped squad; Vipers are clearly not planning to be in the business of surrendering their league title to any claimants.
They have been reading, watching and hearing stories of a rejuvenated SC Villa and Express, and a so-called model club in KCCA and waiting for their opportunity to remind everyone they have not gone anywhere.
As the noise was raging at the more fan-blessed clubs, their patron Lawrence Mulindwa and his team worked tirelessly to add freshness to St Mary’s Stadium, where they also rolled an artificial turf, joining KCCA to have the synthetic fibre.
Both Vipers and KCCA – the club they dethroned to win their third league title – were, however, hardly sleeping in the transfer market. On top of new man in Mexican Javier Martinez Espinoza, Vipers boosted their team with 13 new players; Abraham Ndugwa (Masavu), Henry Katongole (SC Villa), Joseph Janjali (UPDF) and Tito Okello (Benfica De Macau) some of the notable ones.
They shipped out even more but it is forward Erisa Ssekisambu and one of their top performers last season in Milton Karisa, who joined Moroccan side Mouloudia Club Oujda, that Espinoza and team will ponder how to ably replace.
Across town at Lugogo, manager Mike Mutebi was improving his already quality-laden midfield with tested Suleiman Mutyaba (free), Allan Kyambadde, Nicholas Kasozi (all SC Villa) and Gift Ali (Proline); with striker Musa Esenu from Vipers via loan at Kirinya-Jinja SS also joining the ranks.
Of course you could argue that losing Derrick Nsibambi to Smouha, Shaban Muhammad to Raja Casablanca and releasing Paul Mucureezi to Mbarara City could affect KCCA, but Mutebi has proved that he can always churn out another younger gem.
Now as the 2018/19 StarTimes Uganda Premier League (SUPL) kicks off today, champions Vipers and runner-up KCCA, who will represent Uganda at the Caf Champions League and Confederation Cup later this year, will be looking to getting out of the blocks fast.
Vipers host newcomers at Ndejje and last season’s league top scorer with 17 goals Daniel Sserunkuma does not mince words about their ambitions.
“We have had a very good pre-season and good time to know each other especially the new players,” Sserunkuma told Daily Monitor. “My target is to perform better in every game, help my team win every match. Our target as a team is first to defend the championship and to reach Caf group stages.”
Ndejje will largely use the team that brought them up, coach Raymond Komakech having brought in only Dickens Kilama from Football for Good Academy, and Eric Kiowa and Mujahid Baden from Vipers on loan.
KCCA claim favourites
At StarTimes Stadiums, coach Mutebi made it clear they are “one of the favourites to win the league title,” a message that will have been heard loud and clear at Kitende.
“We expect stiffer competition than the last (season),” said Mutebi, ahead of their clash with rebranded Tooro United, Soana before the public until fixtures were released on Monday.
“But of course we are among the favourites to win the league. We are going to continue playing our brand of football, exciting offensive football, very organized and attractive.
“We have improved the team by bringing in players we think will give us cutting edge that may be we missed last season.”
Mutebi has a wider pool of quality players to pick from but will once again start the season without injury-plagued Sadam Juma, Jackson Nunda and Muzamir Mutyaba.
Matches on schedule
Vipers SC vs Ndejje University
LIVE on StarTimes TV, 4pm
URA vs Paidha Black Angels
KCCA vs Tooro United
Onduparaka vs Nyamityobora
Kirinya Jinja vs SC Villa
Bright Stars vs Maroons