In February 2019, after a 2-0 humiliating home loss to Police FC, Express FC parted ways with Kefa Kisala and appointed coach George ‘Sim’ Ssimwogerere.
There was that feel good factor as the former club captain returned to restore lost glory at a team that has won six league and 10 Uganda Cup titles.
There was belief that this was a start of the new era. The fans and board thought that Sim had come with a vision, but they were utterly wrong.
Fast forward, not later than a year, Expresss FC suffered their heaviest defeat in recent memory. A 6-1 loss at Lugogo. Months earlier, the club faithfuls and fans had already shown their discontent for the gaffer.
The club is at the edge of the abyss. Relegation is set to become real. And the board sacks the gaffer after repeated public outcry. How did we reach here, was Sim the architect of his own downfall?
Poor Player Recruitment
In his first interview as the club coach, Sim was a critic of the available players at his disposal, and it was no surprise when he made an overhaul at the end of the season.
Coaches always bring their players, but rarely at an expense of letting the core of the team leave. John Revita, Michael Birungi, Eric Kambale, Tony Odur, Shafic Kakeeto, Ibrahim Kayiwa, Badru Nsubuga, Mubarak Nsubuga, Joel Male, Pius Mbidde to mention but afew were all left to leave.
Some had their contract expired, but the coach never shown any interest in having them stay.
Player by player was called to the coach’s office to negotiate own terms before the new season started, and Sim just gave a deaf ear.
“We failed to agree terms but they showed that they were not interested in my service before we discussed in a meeting which even the CEO attended,” said one of the senior players who left.
In his defense then, Sim commented that he wanted to let the old players leave and usher in a new young generation.
And then after, he shot himself in the foot when young players like Geoffrey Goffin Oyirwoth and Paul Nkata were shown exit.
Who were his additions? old guns Edirisa Kaye, Frank Kalanda, Martin Kizza not to mention the likes of Dennis Sserukwaya, Axel Konan, Emmanuel Bafoe among others. What was the intention?
The players may be partly to blame for their poor shows, but they are only as good as the system their manager chooses.
The Feud With Team Doctor, And ‘Juju‘
With the season about to start, there was a birth of bitter blood between Sim and the club doctor.
With the root cause difficult to establish, it is said that the Doctor refused to clear some of the players to play because of medical issues. Magezi Abdulrazak had a heart problem and was not passed by the doctor, Jesse who had Hepatitis was also not cleared, something which annoyed Sim because he wanted the players to stay.
Kaaye had medical issues, it is said. The doctor told Sim but the coach insisted that he should remain at the club.
One big incident, midway through the match, it is said that Sim wanted the Doctor – who was about to enter the pitch to attend to an injured player – to place ‘Juju’ on the pitch, but the doctor refused because it was against his Islamic ethos.
The feud began from there and Sim was against all the advises the doctor gave to the players to the extent that he accused him of giving the players ‘poisonous’ vitamins, yet the supplements were already approved.
And just like that, the team doctor was shown exit which left the backroom staff divided.
Fall Out With the Fans
Sim’s temper was easy to trigger.
Express fans always showed their dissatisfaction when things were not going well, its a norm at all other clubs, and its no different at Wankulukuku.
Sim could stand against the fans and one home game, he reportedly showed a middle finger to the fans. This was tantamount, and it was not by surprise that tear gas had to be fired to calm down the rowdy fans.
Similar incidents occurred when the coach had heated exchanges with the fans and he also criticised their ‘poor’ behaviour in the press and also in his articles he writes in Bukedde.
Once a darling and house hold name to Express FC fans, he became a disgrace! He lost his reputation.
The coach went an extra mile when he took Express fan (Mmamba) to Kabowa Police for breaking his car window after the Police game!
Is Sim Entirely To Blame For Express Shambles?
On the day he was appointed, it is said that one of the first requests he made to chairman Kiryowa Kiwanuka was not to allow club CEO Junju Hamza come at the training ground.
Was Sim told by friends that Junju was not a man to trust? This set the tone for the bitter relationship between Sim and the CEO. It meant that Sim was not answerable to the Executive and it continuously made his work at the club more difficult.
The fact is that Sim found the club badly off, and he leaves it worse. Although, that doesnt suggest that he is to blame for the past failings. Past coaches, management and of course the fans will take a share of the blame.
Fans? Yes. For not being there when the club needs them the most. Abusing your own players doesn’t make the situation better, it eases it for the opponents. Criticise in private, always.
Like Sim repeatedly said, he was not a saviour.
He was to be sacked after the Police loss, but he received some backing. And he later misused it. The board is responsible for picking the wrong man, and trusting him all the way even when he showed that there was no progress both on and off the pitch.