As Onduparaka FC hosts EXPRESS FC in the second round of the 2019/2020 Star times Uganda Premier League this afternoon in Arua, my attention has been robbed by previous significant duels in between Express FC and other West Nile sides in the past three (3) decades that have somehow presented us with some contrasting fortunes on both ends.
Without any blinking and second thoughts, the 1993 second round encounter at Barifa Stadium still takes it’s off at all costs. This is to confirm that age has finally become an asset.
It was always a long walk from Corner Curve, Kenya Zone, to Barifa with a hoe on your shoulder at about 6am accompanied by an uncle but not the longest of walks in a circumstance when The Red Eagles are in town. The distance question would be compromised by the fact that you are trekking to watch a Super League side from the country’s Capital City and it seemed a once in a life time thing. Chewing sugarcanes made it a little easier through the then dense forest to a fenceless but well “guarded” Barifa stadium.
Its April 1993, Leo Adraa’s 4th placed Arua Young Stars FC take on 2nd placed Express Fc at Barifa Stadium, which Express Fc desperately need a win to overlap SC Villa and wrap up the title, with SC Villa having a cruel fixture against a bogey Sam Kabugo captained Nsambya Old Timers at Nsambya play grounds the following day.
If in any case late David Otti’s Express boasted of red hot new signing Ibrahim Buwembo and the existing old guard of Captain Goerge William Ssemwogerere, Paul Nkata, Kefa Kisala, Robert Aloro and others, Leo Adraa would never be afraid of making an announcement about the most organized side in the league that had not lost a home game in a while shouldering all their pride on one of the best attacks in the league mastered by Ahmed Senyange, Mohammed Ssebugwawo and the pacey runs of Zairean duo of Floure’nt and Katongo Moveme’nt on the flanks, in association with Akbar “Khumalo” and Opangi (R.I.P) in the midfield in an orthodox 442 formation and a shrewd backline ahead of either HAPPY, Alli Bamuze and Ibrahim Kongo in goal, but in this particular fixture it had to be HAPPY due to the vast experience he commanded.
A goalless first half until about that time when an air borne Robert Aloro misplaced HAPPY and the awkward nature in which the goal keeper fell resulted into Ibrahim Kongo replacing him and sooner than the blink of an eye, Robert Aloro got the better of NUBI from the left flank and squeezed the ball past a hapless Ibrahim Kongo from a tight angle and that determined the fixture in the last 5 minutes of the game. I don’t know if my first time to see Leo Adraa shed tears has equally presented me with the last, I pray it is anyway. But it was inevitable given the competitive nature and sweetness of the league coupled with the fact that a side from Arua or even Northern Uganda was riding high. Perhaps the fact that Express FC was closer to the title even before SC Villa played at Nsambya the next day initiated the tears.
Rolling forward about 15 years later in 2009, Express visit Arua again but this time to a young, talented and inexperienced Arua Central FC captained by current KCCA anchorman Gift Alli surrounded by Tabu Vitalis, Agau Rashid, Gaddafi Gadinho, Sabir Rajab, Maama Iman, Adnan Baros, Sijali Safi (GK), Aniku Martin, Simba Sabir, Saddam Norman, Twalid Rahman, Issa Hassan, Thomas Asindu, Mande Goefrey, Tella Moses(RIP) under stewardship of current KCCA youth coach Dudu Bosco and Faizal Rijji. Again in the thick of things is the Late David Otti at Arua Hill Grounds. Arua Central FC, as usual played possession football while Express FC settled for business. As the saying goes, possession will not guarantee points but wins which Express finally got through Sulaiman Jjingo’s long range free kick to the back of Sijali Safi’s net mid-way through the second half.
Seven years later, Charles Livingstone Mbabazi’s first game in charge at Wankulukuku stadium ended in a 1 all draw in 2016 and the reverse fixture 2-1 for the Caterpillars courtesy of a brace from Toha Rashid including that late header off Living Kabon Messi’s delicious cross. 2017/2018 season arrives with Alfred Leku’s first half strike which was cancelled by Muzee Daniel Sserunkuma but eventually got eclipsed by a spectacular Ceasor Okhuti bicycle kick in injury time to seal it for Onduparaka.2018/2019 started with a 2-0 away win for Onduparaka which had Ezra Bida’s sweet goal in a 2-0 away win and the same score line in the first leg of 2019/2020 courtesy of Ceasor Okhuti and Adhino Gibson, who eventually got the man of the match accolade in September 2019.
The last 2 home fixtures in Arua ended in goalless draws characterized by poor refereeing decisions, case in particular was that of 2018 in which Express was fighting for their lives and Onduparaka had a genuine goal disallowed by Aisha Nalule’s flag.
Much said than the unfinished business this afternoon, this should be as simple as passing a table knife through butter BUT Express FC having just appointed a new coach in Wasswa Bbosa and given their relegation status after Bright Stars and Tooro United won yesterday, things might take another twist since he is one of those few coaches to have collected maximum points from The Green Light Stadium. Do you needed to be reminded about how NICHOLAS SSEBWATO “showered” Lwesibawa Godfrey’s shot into his own net in April 2019?? I guess NO!!!
The other encounters involving EXPRESS FC with Paidha Black Angels, Moyo Town Council, Arua Municipal Council as well as Ediofe Hills FC had less significance because they had no impact on the status of the parties in regard to title winning or relegation given the timings of the fixtures.
……………Kongie just thought so.