As I went about my regular routine last Friday, I received a call from a long-lost friend who incidentally happened to be following proceeding between SC Villa and Express FC at Nakivubo stadium.
He complained about the lack of passion in the pavilion and lamented the demise of Alex Kisego, a popular football figure in the 80s and 90s who used to stir up spectators with his charm. An eccentric figure, Kisego rose to fame through Coffee FC and later SC Villa but is best remembered for his unquenchable thirst to buy the cregraveme de la cregraveme of Ugandan football.
In his heyday as Coffee FC chairman, he was part of a distinct trio of wealthy club bosses who enjoyed a financial competition for the best players in the country. Villa had Patrick Kawooya while Patrick Kiwanuka pulled the strings at Express but the pair met their match in Kisego, who shocked many by luring several top stars to Coffee FC such as Issa Sekatawa, Fred Mukasa, Alex Olum, Richard Makumbi, Edward Baguma and Martin Ochaga.
Whereas the club got financial support from the parent body Coffee Marketing Board (CMB), it was Kisego, as CMB principal marketing officer, who stole the show and almost singlehandedly transformed Coffee into a title contender. In fact, Coffee would have won several titles had it not been boardroom politics which, for instance, deprived them of the 1985 league title.
Kisego spent money on football without throwing any caution to the wind, always took himself in high regard but also enjoyed mingling with the ordinary fans.
Entry into football:
When Kisego took over the Coffee FC chairmanship from Patrick Okoed in 1982, the club plied its trade in the second-tier. Kisego was a relatively unknown figure at the time despite having played football for NIC FC in the 70s.
But in no time, Coffee returned to the topflight for the 1983 season. Kisego quickly made his presence felt when he orchestrated the recruitment of top players like Rogers Semere from SC Villa, Martin Ochaga, Jimmy Bbosa and Edward Baguma (UCB) and Simon Omba (Express), among others.
Coffee didn’t disappoint and finished second in the 1983 season behind champions KCC. Kisego vowed to turn tables on rivals and invaded the market–reinforcing the team with stars including Richard Makumbi (Nile), Alex Olum (Nytil), John Mapera (Lufula), goalie Jimmy Bbosa and John Ntensibe (Masaka Union).
Coffee’s habit of signing top players earned them the tag of ‘Rest of the World’ and although the club failed to win any silverware, their runners-up finish in the Uganda Cup raised hope for future success. Yet, despite Kisego’s big pockets, Coffee was not a one-man show Jimmy Bakyayita Semugabi was a seasoned sports administrator while Fred Jjuuko, the team manager, did most of the behind-the-scenes work.
With an array of stars, Coffee went into the 1985 season as serious contenders and almost ran away with the league title before hell broke loose. Leading the table with five games to go, Fufa deducted them three points for allegedly fielding of an ineligible player and they lost momentum to finish a disappointing fourth.
Kisego was demoralised by the turnaround and temporally quit the club’s top seat to recharge his batteries. Incidentally, Coffee’s credentials plummeted thereafter but in 1989, Kisego bounced back to Coffee with a bang.
He engineered the signing of Express’ Issa Sekatawa, Fred Mukasa, and Ibrahim Buwembo. He also snapped up Nsambya’s Mathias Kaweesa as well as George Serunjogi and Moses Basena. Still, Coffee failed to win silverware, something which perturbed Kisego but he always put on a brave face, often seizing every media opportunity to brag about his spending power.
Dramatic change of alliance:
When CMB withdrew its support to the club, Kisego felt abandoned after years without any success. Yearning for silverware, Kisego shocked the football fraternity when he joined SC Villa and got straightaway appointed vice chairman (administration). The choice of SC Villa also coincided with the fact that the Jogoos used to host their home games in Masaka, Kisego’s home village.
Kisego greatly reinvigorated Villa at a time when Kawooya was untouchable but it was his antics outside of football that made him a popular figure. A regular patron at Golden table, Villa’s club house, he at one time staked his Mercedes Benz in an argument with former Villa skipper over the circumstances surrounding the death of former Cranes player Shaban Mwinda in 1985.
When documentary evidence proved Hasule was right, a stunned Kisego ate the humble pie and handed over the keys of his posh ride to Hasule. It was such a scene at the Golden Table as fans danced and toasted to Hasule’s victory while Kisego begged for a lift home from Kevin Aliro. Later, Kisego reclaimed his Benz after compensating Hasule with a hefty reward.
There was never a dull moment in Kisego’s presence but at times he took his atheist antics too far. Often slated for being an attention-seeker, many times he questioned the existence of God by challenging his hangers-on to ask God to deprive him of his enormous wealth.
Beyond such occasional personal failings, however, Kisego generally remained a voice of reason at Villa. His views were not always popular, but he was a principled man to the extent of taking harsh decisions against his own SC Villa when he was a Fufa vice chairman.
Towards the late 90s, Kisego took a back seat in football matters as he battled cancer but continued to serve on the National Football League Committee (NFLC). Kisego, succumbed to cancer on August 13, 2000 aged 54.
With his great intellect, Kisego’s death left a big void in Uganda football.
The author is operations director of The Observer Media Ltd.
Source : The Observer