Time flys. Gone are the days. Those that are still alive and kicking are a blessing to narrate the grand days of sport in the fertile soils of grasshoppers and Matooke. Masaka City. No doubt! With the presence of Masaka Union FC the now Masaka Recreation hoping for restructuring was baptized the ‘butcher house’ meaning no team back then would play with it home, and sets off freely with a point.
Even if it was KCC Fc or The 2022-2023 StarTimes Uganda Premier League Winners Vipers Fc now, by then Masaka Union had to win. Otherwise, if all plans went flat in the game, let say ‘pressure from opponents’ the fans could throw stones to discomfort players as to pass time and also expressing their affection home. Not to lose against the opponents! That was the mith of the day.
Joseph Ssentongo, 72, a former Masaka Union Fc defender now residing in Gayaza village- Masaka City was one of the serving talented defender for the team, and he still holds its memory at his finger tips and command.
Sharing its recap with the writer, Ssentongo says Masaka LC FC was founded up by farmers under an umbrella of Masaka Growers Co-operative Union. Can you imagine that agriculturalists thought about sport!
He says, the ambitions for this football team weren’t about sport alone, but also there was a target for employing youth. And they were one family.
The players who featured in by then were also granted other responsibilities take fore stance; Charles Kawunde (player) acted as a factory manager. Here, he was assisted by Joseph Ssentongo. Then Eddy Ssemwanga, a recalled for his man ship in defending, served as the heads of security.
Several Buganda clans, tribes, religions and districts have got some unique ways for identifying them from others; take an example, western and Northern region has covered the podium of preparing athletes, for Masaka ‘Southern region’ playing football, was the staple one, of all that existed on earth.
Administratively, the team was led by sophisticated sports personnel take a recap on John Mary Kasozi (Director), Roy Katongole (Accountant), Isaac Sserwadda (Team manager), Taddeo Kyebambe (Team secretary) and Ssalongo Nyanzi, who also doubled as a coach player. All these loved the sport at heart and esteemed it under the sun.
Their relentless efforts worked miracles for Masaka even to be branded ‘Home of Talents’ by some observers. Their then Leon Messi, by then was Sula Kato and John Kawooya ‘Kabaliga’ an exceptional free kick taker, plus Kato John, a defender whose actions while celebrating after scoring, were much cherished by fans.
He used to make runs to corner flag, standing with one of his hands hold flagpole and scream after scoring a goal. This cheered many fans a lot.
In 1982, the team was at its peak. It had 23 players and four of them featured for the National team. Mike Kiganda, Paul Kasasa, Eddy Ssemwanga, and John Ntesibe, were all part of the now Uganda cranes team. Gerald Sserwadda was the FUFA President, now led by the troubled Moses Magogo.
Those years, urban teams such as SC Villa used to lose to the villagers-Masaka, for example 4-1 win for Masaka against SC Villa at Nakivubo stadium.
However, in1985, National Resistance Army war, swindled this team’s ambitions as several of their games were not honoured. The fear was to lose lives of players.
And then, several of the players had to look for ‘meat’ to feed families. Many left though some returned after spelling one year, but the delicacy of the game had been badly, lost in 1986.
And as saying goes: “All that glitters aren’t gold”, and good things must come to an end, the team collapsed.
Football revived again
Joseph Lutaaya, the Masaka district sports officer narrates that in 1990 when SC Villa played the Russian based team, Shinik Fc in a goalless draw, at Nakivubo stadium, Patrick Kawooya who was the director wasn’t satisfied with the result from the game, hence permitting for a replay with Shinik Fc at Masaka Recreation.
This game was played and it attracted bunch of fans. It again ended in a goalless draw. This fascinated Patrick Kawooya to exploit Masaka recreation as SC Villa’s home ground. They were training in Villa Park, but hosted games in Masaka after refurbishing the playground when they laid a perimeter fence that still exists to date.
However, this didn’t last long. They got new sports leadership and William Byuma, was accredited sports officer for Masaka district in 1999.
Byuma had fresh sports ideas that saw him drafting a written proposal that was sent to the then Masaka LC5 boss Vincent Ssempijja, now Kalungu East MP, outlining the requirements needed to revitalize sports.
Ssempijja rallied people around the area and they convened advocacy meetings with the local natives, and looked for football players. After few months of setting their thinking cap on sports, over 80 players were guided for trials at Masaka recreation. Luckily enough, only 30 players were recruited, hence the genesis of Masaka Lc Fc.
Players were recruited from nearby areas; Ndagwe, Lwabenge, Lwengo and others. The team committee was led by Vincent Ssempijja, (Chairperson now the cabinent state Minister), the late Ssalongo Kalumba (Treasure), and Peter Ssenkungu (Publicity secretary).
Paul Ssali ‘Gogolimbo’ the goalkeeper, who lifted cranes into the African National Cup in 1978, was the first head team coach. Masaka Lc Fc then started playing in first division in 2000.
The team progressed to Zonal league until when they advanced into Super league in 2001 after beating Cowadisa Fc 2-0 in the final at Lugazi Playground. It was a game played two times. The first game held at Mityana playground was cancelled after fans quarrelled. Cowadisa’s fans stormed the pitch when Ismael Kigozi scored for Masaka Lc and they stated fighting. The police intervened, hence postponing it to Lugazi Playground. Cowadisa Fc by then was managed by Elly Kayanja also a soldier.
By 2004, Masaka had already materialized into a harbour for players, since another team Masaka United Fc was created in the same region.
Masaka LC got an experienced head coach, Sam Timbe and these were the days of players such as Jimmy Ssewankambo (Striker), Samuel Mubiru (Defender), and Ismael Kigozi (Striker), Tonny Mawejje also cranes ‘midfield general’ now 29- years-old.
Before, Mawejje’s soccer playing dream started in Masaka LC though he made a record transfer to Kampala City Council Fc in the same year.
And it has been his discipline and talent that helped him play for the now internationally.
From 2004 to 2010, Masaka LC football team remained among the first-rated teams that used to give hope to its fans.
In addition, its funds were raised by fans, the district local government notably, through the then LC5 chairperson Vincent Ssempijja, who pledged a monthly pay of sh1m to the team. They also had a bus that used to transport the team, but all are nowhere to be seen.
In 2010 tragedies that eventually muddy what was clean waters before, was realized. The grievances sparked off from players who failed to commemorate the Christmas Day because their salary for that month weren’t cleared.
The other comedy that troubled the team was the splitting of Masaka, into three other sister districts including Bukomansimbi, Kalungu and Lwengo which resulted into a reduction of the local revenue, and this meant that the Sh.1m as monthly pledge by the district, could not be met.
“The district no longer carries that burden for supporting the team. The local revenue decreased and authorities say they cannot meet the desired costs,” Ssempijja told Daily Monitor on an interview.
In 2014, doors for it to be relegated from Super League were opened. They lacked a good samaritan to stand firmly and support them. The late Jimmy Kisekka, renowned as “Cigarette man’’ for his smoking addiction all the time, remains the current head coach though, his side failed to honor 2015-2016, Big-league fixture, due to funds.
“We are planning to convene a meeting as sports enthusiastic personals and discuss the team’s future,” said Peter Ssenkungu, also the Vice president, SC Villa Fc.
New team emerges
As proprietors for Masaka LC Fc were struggling to reinstate it, Synergy Fc camped in the area from the blue. It started by recruiting other few players that had passionately stayed and they took them. Gerard Kimuli, also a promising striker was one of them.
Synergy Fc under the support of River of Life church and they also yearn to play in the Star Times Uganda Premier League.
With 20 players on this team, one could trace its readiness over Masaka LC that remained starving like a hungry dog.
On record, the 2015-2016 meant Synergy played 22 games in Rwenzori group; won 10, drew 5 and lost 7 games; sending off a converged picture that if they remain on the steering next season, hopes for playing in Azam Uganda Premier league, stands higher. Yet all died a cold natural under Coach Brian Ssenyondo and Tim Crow, a UK citizen and a Co-director, who has been in local sports since 2006.
Will Masaka walk their way in Super league again?
One of recurring points from Nyendo-Mukungwe Member of parliament Mathias Mpuuga establishing Masaka City Football Club was a way of rebranding sport home and in the time line of five years Term in Leadership the dream could come true.
“The people want their team. I have to fight to bring them positive news, and get it from such Big League to the Star- Times Uganda Premier League,” said Mpuuga.
The Leader of Opposition; Mpuuga established the Club Bus and secured good working and payment strategy for the boys.
“All we need is to regain that old spirit of the team. The passion was lost before, but getting new management, sponsors, players all together will help us,” Mpuuga also formidable in supporting the growth of Buddu county Team Masaza Cup said.
Eustachio Bukenya, who served as sports officer -Masaka in 1998, believes that those who care about local sports in the area remains a few but the dew will be done to get back on drawing board.
He stresses that people have failed to invest in sports and football in particular, yet it is a trendy business in well developed countries in European Countries.
WHAT OTHERS SAY ABOUT SPORTS IN MASAKA CITY
(SPORTS MAN- Parliamentarian)
Over the last three years, I have been trying to expose young talents by organizing annual football tournaments under Ssebamala Cup to recruit players from grassroots and I’m certain we’re seeing the light now. This has helped bring up sports fraternity together but I appeal to the government, fellow parliamnetarians and well-wishers to support the cause.
(SPORTS TEACHER, MASAKA)
I blame the district sports administrators for failing to come up with a solution. During our years as football players here in 1990s, the administrators used to cherish and invest in sports.
(STANCH LOCAL SPORTS FAN)
I used to be a ball boy at Masaka Union Fc. By then, sports team used to have cooperative unions which were funding them. It’s not any way right now. The district used to grant players gifts to motivate them.
(Former Masaka LC player-2004).
If we are to stand firmly again for Masaka, we have to start by grooming young players by setting up soccer academy and I’m hoping to hatch a soccer academy soon
MASAKA UNION FC PLAYERS (FIRST ELEVEN) (1970s)
Ssengoma Joseph (Goalkeeper)
Abdu Wasswa (Defender)
John Kasiita (Defender)
Kato Joseph (Defender)
Joseph Ssentongo (Defender)
Mike Kiganda (Midfielder)
Paul Kasasa (Winger)
Edward Ssemwanga (Midfielder)
John Kasula (Striker)
John Ntesibe (Striker)
John Kaliisa (striker)
Sula Kato (Striker)
MASAKA LC PLAYERS (2013–2014)
Jimmy Ssekitoreko cheaky
(The writer is a sports journalist, lover of nature and business) Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.