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This is best UPL season in living memory

The fans in the stands and on the sidewalk, breathless. Two games to go to close the season and no idea who will win the title except that any of Vipers, KCCA, and Villa can.

The 2022-23 league championship is unprecedented. The road has been long, narrow, and winding; the marathon race is arduous.

The fans in the stands and on the sidewalk, breathless. Two games to go to close the season and no idea who will win the title except that any of Vipers, KCCA, and Villa can.

All on 49 points but significantly separated by goal difference. Perhaps it’s here that the championship will be won or lost. Each of Vipers and KCCA has not lost a game at home all season and both have lost five games away from home. Villa has lost once at home and four games away. It’s Villa who have posted the most wins however; 16 in total, while each of Vipers and KCCA have won 14 times. 

Choosing which of the three deserves to be champions comes to where one’s allegiance lies and it’s become increasingly clear that very few local football fans are standing on the sidewalk as spectators. The anxiety and excitement about the possibilities have sucked in everyone. It’s hard to remember a season in Uganda league football history where three big teams went in the final games of the season each with a possibility to be declared champions. That this has come at a time of television broadcasting of the league is timely, almost a dream. Every action in the games involving the title chasers is on camera and the possibility that any result is pre-determined has been reduced to zero. The stadiums are filling and the remote controls at home are busy. On social media, streets, corridors, bars, hang-out places, markets, radio, and television, there’s football vibe everywhere. 

In recent weeks, the pendulum has been shifting from left to right and it’s impossible to predict its final rest. KCCA were the early pace setters with BUL and Wakiso Giants giving the top of the table a refreshing outlook for much of the first round. On the field, Wakiso was playing the most eye-catching football and producing stand-out individual players. Their dip came when the lure of money prompted the club to sell Ibrahim Kasule and Frank Ssebuufu, the two stand-out players up front.

BUL’s fall began with the departure of coach Alex Isabirye. This was the time for surprise package Villa – who played at least five home games in away stadiums as they served a FUFA punishment for fans’ hooliganism – to shake the branches. Using defense as the foundation of their challenge, they put together a surprising run of positive results that catapulted them to the top and they never looked back. If they hadn’t been docked two points as part of their punishment, they would be a shoulder above both Vipers and KCCA at this stage.  

Vipers indifferent start took long to stabilize until Isabirye boarded the bus. They slowly overcame the injuries to star players and the goals returned. Even their inconsistency in recent weeks has not stopped them from keeping their noses in front. KCCA failed to take full advantage of Vipers’ stuttering start and coach Morley Byekwaso paid the ultimate price. Jackson Mayanja was seen as an interim placement and was given the remaining nine games to convince the club that he could secure the job permanently. Strangely, all three title chasers have failed to handle the pressure at the same time and their fans are lost for words. 

At the tail end of the table, the full story is yet to be told as well. While Onduparaka is surely heading for the drop, Busoga United, Blacks Arrows, and UPDF are embroiled in a death fight; as unpredictable as the champion to be. It remains to be seen how this all will wrap up but what’s for sure is that the season has turned out to be the most exciting in the last 20 years. Three big teams fighting for the championship until the last day; three sets of fans biting off their nails till blood oozes out. What a season1