ZOMBO. Paidha black angels’ (PBA) one season in the star times Uganda premier league had several twists and turns that one finds it extremely difficult to summarize with a single word.
Was it disastrous, unfair, painful, regrettable, ill-prepared, complacency filled, expected, unexpected, or was it just the star times Uganda premier league?
For a club whose formation dates back to 1979, the pride of reaching the summit of club football after years of near misses seemed to have come with the promise of an everlasting stay in this newly reached “promised land”.
The euphoria that engulfed Paidha town, the home town of PBA after edging Bunyoro based Kitara FC in a penalty shootout in their final Big League game in 2018 at the Star-times stadium, Lugogo in Kampala was a testimony to the end of a seemingly too long a journey in the football wilderness.
Besides the game’s live broadcast on Star time’s television, it was also relayed on local Paidha FM, everyone paid attention to proceedings. Fans in groups and dead silence at the penalty shootout and an inevitable wild celebration for the night in what would bring business to a standstill.
Events of the next day far more hilarious, the heroic team would come home. Pakwach, Nebbi and eventually Paidha towns were filled with thousands of adoring fans singing the PBA songs and slogans.
With an already well-established fan base, many analysts and sports commentators highly spoke of the rising influence of West Nile football in the country, Paidha had swiftly followed in similar heroic trends of Onduparaka who had now become a household name across the country.
Onduparaka’s charismatic fans, their road to Uganda cup finals and the unbeaten run at their home ground; Greenlight stadium made sure the name was entrenched in football history books and similar predictions were now being made at the promotion of PBA.
Early warning signs
In May 2018, Mr Mike Leti, a confederation of African Football (CAF) commissioner and federation of Uganda football association (FUFA) delegate speaking to officials of PBA warned against any delays and infights.
“The leaders should think beyond their personal differences and put service above self while learning to tolerate divergent views of others, they also need to own the club and differentiate between ordinary and paid up members and respect the constitution”, Leti cautioned during a meeting between club and town council officials.
He particularly noted the slow pace of the stadium development that would be a key requirement for the club, the countdown was on, only two months were left at this point to the kick start of the premier league.
The stadium was eventually cleared for use on 14th February 2019, whereas many fingers pointed to FUFA being harsh with their decision to clear the stadium only five games to the end of the season, one would question whether the club did enough to secure the ground for use in the first place.
Financial challenges cripple operations
With the stadium renovations incomplete, PBA had to play their home games at Greenlight in Arua, the first signs of frustration appeared, the majority of fans who had worked tirelessly to see their club promoted to the top tier would not watch these games due to long distance.
The intimidating Barokoro atmosphere for the opponent was missing, the fatigue of always having to travel for all games affected the players but above all, operation costs soared while revenues dwindled remarkably.
With such challenges as having to travel away for home games, potential sponsors that had shown great interest at the start of the season withdrew their offers and the club was left crippling on its own, the club leaders meanwhile continued their internal fights.
The standoff between Mr Robert Jakony and Mr Rasul Oryem dragged on until FUFA was again called in to settle the dispute, the fans and the players, the recipients of such harsh reality.
In the end, the inevitable happened, PBA hit relegation with a paltry 13 points in 30 games keeping them rock bottom on the 16-team table.
Fans and management speak out
The club fans, the biggest victim of the eventful season have divergent views on what they believe eventually sent their club back to the big league.
“Our support for PBA will never end because we have come from far to join the Big League and later the UPL that we have lost, the same God who took us to the UPL will bring us back that is why am not worried”,” Said Ms Jennifer Anirwoth, an ardent fan.
Ms Anirwoth just like many other fans blames the club’s poor run on FUFA’s delay in clearing the use of Barokoro in time thereby instilling great financial difficulties.
Mr Oscar Jawotho, another fan acknowledged the pain of relegation but similarly says he hopes for a quick return for the club to the premier league.
He blames the failure to escape relegation to the dispute in the management that distracted everyone at a time when the focus needed to be one.
However, the management is already in arms again to restart the fight for instant promotion back to the premier league.
Mr Sam Kumakech, the club chief executive officer (CEO) says they are getting back to the drawing board to lay strategies in order to bounce back. He too says the biggest challenge was financial incapacity to adequately handle operations.
He says the management of PBA was already working on a 5-year development plan that will among others help in streamlining governance to avoid future conflicts, infrastructural development and the means of transport that will need fundraising.
“We are working on everything to ensure PBA regains momentum and we have learnt from our past mistakes that am sure will never be repeated”, he says.
Mr Rasul Oryema similarly says they are looking forward to their return to UPL and nothing will stop that. He says everyone at the club is now speaking one language and working towards one goal which is the return of PBA to the premier league.
“Everything that was blocking us from success has been removed and I call upon our fans to remain united and continue supporting their team”, he implored.