Only A Fool Tries To Jump In The Fire

2033/34 Open Thread


June/July 2033.

Following Champions League glory and the inevitable resistance to change, a choice is laid out before me.

But not before 6 weeks pass by, an alarming lack of suitors knocking on my front door. My cell phone laying quietly…even though I’ve checked to make sure the ringer isn’t off.

Finally, what some might claim is a dream job is laid at my feet. The mighty Kaizer Chiefs come knocking on my door. But I’m hesitant…they are giants in the South African game, with a ****-off 87,600 capacity stadium. I ask them to wait. Befuddled, they agree.

After all, why wouldn’t they? What other options could compare?

There is another option. A more appealing one. If only for the challenge it brings.

What price glory, if obtained the easy way? Sometimes the prize is not worth the cost. The means by which we achieve victory are as important as the victory itself.

The Chairman at SC Villa thought it was a prank. He wouldn’t return my calls, so I had no choice but to show up at his home on the outskirts of Kampala, hat in hand.

They need a manager. And I need a reason not to go to South Africa.

The negotiations are straightforward. It is done. A happy convergence of their need and my desire to challenge the established order, not join them.

Jogoo” is Swahili for “rooster,” or the translation with a slightly more vulgar connotation, “cock.”

Founded in 1975 as the Nakivubo Boys, it has been 29 years since SC Villa have won the Ugandan Premier League, 18 since the Jogoos last claimed the Ugandan Cup. 42 years since their run to the 1991 African Cup of Champions final, in which they fell to Club Africain.

Nevertheless, SC Villa are the most decorated club in Ugandan history and were the first Ugandan club to win a domestic double in 1986.

Club Overview | Ugandan Premier League

Quite simply, a return to glory is long overdue.

We have a young 22-man first team squad. While I have yet to run the rule of the players, the standouts appear to be Deus Ngasa, Denis Abege and Tonny Ntege, with John Mujuzi the most highly-rated youth prospect in our ranks.

I have some scouting to do, as well, as it appears that there may be several free transfers available who could step into our XI.

The club’s historic training center at pitch, Villa Park in Nsyamba, was sadly paved over in late 2019.

We will take the pitch in kits designed by Wightyyyy — a home kit inspired by the classic 1986 French World Cup kits, which lines up with the Jogoos namesake; and, an away kit inspired by ze Germans’ 1994 World Cup kit.

I’m too sexy for this shirt, too sexy for this shirt, so sexy it huuuurts…

We will play PM Draugr — a 343 setup that I’ve been planning to tweak and refine for some time now, which is detailed in The Long Night Is Coming, And The Dead Come With It.

Sexy football, coming soon to Uganda.

Our home pitch (in-game) is Mandela National Stadium, a 40,202-capacity multi-purpose stadium located approximately 10 km east of central Kampala.

In real life, however, the club has reportedly led a nomadic existence over the years — thanks in part to renovations at the Nakivubo War Memorial Stadium, and use of the Mandela National Stadium as a Covid-19 treatment center. During the 2020-21 campaign, SC Villa have been ground-sharing with Simba (historically, the army’s club) and UPDF at the Bombo military barracks fields north of Kampala.

Our first friendly is good for confidence building, a 3-nil win over Tanzanians Kagera Sugar, despite missing 4 1st XI players who are off with the Uganda B side.

It is time to get to work. The Premier League campaign kicks off in a matter of weeks.


August 2033 – Squad Assessment.

In the end, we managed to sign 2 players on a free transfer that I had my eye on — Ronald Mayanja and Joseph Muhammad. Two Ugandan internationals who were available on a free and have now taken up the Jogoo cause. They are our best players, full stop.

On our first day of training, I had the entire squad over to my place a few hours before sunrise so that we could drink Buckfast and watch Braveheart on BluRay, before collectively crowing at the rising sun. The lads were skeptical at first, even when I told them it was an “old Scottish battle ritual, dating to when William Wallace ****-punched the English.”

However, after 2 dozen bottles of the good stuff and a dash of Gibbo? They’re convinced.

And very, very drunk.

And thus a new tradition is born.

I’ve foolishly promised to buy a few cases of Skittlebrau when we win the League.

It’s going to be a good year.


Before we kick off the season, let’s take a quick look at the squad, such as it is. Given our virtually non-existent transfer budget and the wage demands of Mayanja and Mohammed, very little has changed in my first month at the club.

We are carrying a 22-man squad, which is arguably too many given that we are not playing in any African competition. With only a domestic calendar on the docket, I would prefer to an 18-19 man squad, but that seems unlikely.

Goalkeepers.

Between the sticks, if your answer is anything other than Denis Abege, you’re asking the wrong question. Abege is a former U21 international who has played for Uganda B, and is head and shoulders ahead of Jackson Magala.

Defenders.

My initial dilemma when arriving at any club is who to play as my libero. It is rarely a simple decision. Here, I will admit that I struggled. Players just weren’t matching the profiles in my mind, with James Mulyanti looking the most likely candidate…

…until I realized that I had three players in contention for the left (inverted) wingback position, one of whom looked like a libero if I squinted. And the more I looked, the more I liked the idea, just based on a gut feeling. Thus the decision was made. Moses Makasi will start, with Mulyanti as his understudy.

Flanking Makasi will be new signing Ronald Mayanja and Gadiel Rashid. Mayanja is arguably one of our best players, but his “stays back at all times” PPM is problematic given how aggressive I want our players to be. (Although, in all fairness, PM Draugr does not utilize ball-playing defenders). Deus Ngasa and Frank Balinya are our backups, with Ngasa on the substitutes bench for the first team.

At right wingback, we have only one serviceable player at the club — Martin Ssekagya. So, he gets the starting position by default. We are retraining Andrew Chancely to be his backup.

At left wingback, it’s a battle between Michael Mwashiuya and Gatluak Bol. The comparison speaks volumes — Bol is the cerebral player, Mwashiuya is has the physical and technical edge. I have yet to decide who will get the nod, but the other player will see minutes from the bench.

Midfielders.

After missing two of our free transfer targets, our starting midfield pairing will be George Majwega at mezzala and Peter Ntambi as our ball-winning midfielder.

Julius Wasswa and Timothy Ntambi are the backups, both of whom will play from the bench with the first team.

Attacking Midfielders.

Up top, George Kigonya will be the advanced playmaker in our 1st XI, with Joseph Muhammad and Tonny Ntege as our inverted wingers.

Charles Lwesibawa and John Mujuzi will play from the bench, deputizing on the right and left flanks, respectively.

While Wasswa can provide cover at both mezzala and advanced playmaker, John Kittu will play the latter position in our 2nd XI.

Final Thoughts.

We have a lot of work to do. PPMs need to be learned and unlearned. Players need to become familiar with our tactics, even though our friendlies have gone well.

It doesn’t hurt that the Board’s expectations eminently reasonable.

At the same time, we are predicted to finish 4th with both Mayanja and Muhammad in the pre-season Dream XI.

Let’s get stuck in.


September/October 2033.

Unbeaten in 9 matches, to start the campaign?

This is certainly unexpected. Especially since we have had to rotate the squad more than I expected.

It bodes well for how we will do once we can build a squad to play PM Draugr the way it is intended, and our players learn PPMs to augment the tactic. Until then, at least we’re on the right track.


November/December 2033.

Just breathe, Brendan. Let’s not get too excited just yet.

Our unbeaten start to life in Uganda has extended through the holidays. Which makes me worry that, in the karmic sense, something bad is about to happen. To balance things out.

Maybe I’ll be the unwitting target of ninjas with a vendetta, who will crash through my window tonight and try to strangle me with their nunchuks.

See, it’s this kind of outside the box thinking that keeps me one step ahead. Of the opposition.

And the ninjas.

It might also be why I have to drink 18 Venti Red Bull Macchiatos to get through the day…it’s a real “chicken or the egg” problem.

One thing is for sure — I’m not losing any sleep, day-dreaming of our youth academy. We might have one player worth considering in the Class of 2034. One.


January/February 2034.

The ninjas have yet to appear. Perhaps they’re just a figure of my sleep-deprived imagination.

That, or they’re trying to lull me into a false sense of security…

Regardless, change is in the air as SC Villa’s Chairman has announced his intention to retire. With any luck, there will be no significant changes in philosophy.

Distracted by the news, we take fall flat against Proline at the Mandela. A 2-1 loss, the first of my tenure. And then fall 2-nil away to URA, in a match we utterly dominated.

An utter shambles.

We need to up our game.


March 2034.

We needed to right the ship. Not let a two-match wobble become something “worse.”

We manage to do so, and get back to winning ways with 4 wins from 4 in March, meaning we head into the home stretch atop the table — with 2 additional teams also in the hunt, separated by a mere 4 points, level on goal difference.

Like a tiger.

Takeover rumors are an ever-present distraction. Getting the sack would be a kick in the ol’ chestnuts, that’s for sure. It won’t come to that…will it?

Our youth intake was disappointing, to say the least. Instead of one good center midfielder, as predicted, it appears that we have one center forward — Brian Opira. He will likely retrain as a right-sided inverted winger.

The other players of note include Lawrence Ssemakula and Benjamin Leku, neither of whom is particularly impressive at this juncture.

Have no fear, though — we’ve been busy scouting possible free transfers. At this juncture, the only signing is Andrew Odokonyero, who joins from Vipers FC. He will immediately step into the 1st XI, pushing George Kigonya down to the 2nd XI. It is a big upgrade.


April 2034.

The business end of the campaign. We keep claiming points, but this is the time to stand up and prove ourselves.

The takeover drama concludes in mid-April, to little fanfare. Our hopes of a cash infusion are dashed as the consortium led by local cell phone data plan magnate Geoffrey Kizito wins the day, even if they do not plan to invest in the club

…that is, until they see the books.

The real books. Not the fake ones that they were shown during their acquisition of the club. Geoffrey has little choice, and invests $140k to bring us back into the black.

On Matchday 27, we celebrate a big 3-1 win against Vipers, bringing us one step closer to the Promised Land. However, I leave the Mandela quickly — the Gossip Girl reboot premieres tonight. And I won’t miss that for the world (Blair would never forgive me).

It’s only later that I find out Express claimed a 96th minute equalizer, away to URA. Meaning that we now sit 4 points clear at the top, with 3 matches to play.

The domestic double looms large. A chance to secure 2 trophies in the span of a week.


May 2034.

Ahead of the Nyamityobora match, we have reason to celebrate — confirmation that we have signed Angolan U21 international Isildo “Izzy” Rodrigues, an absolute beast of a player who will take over as the ball-winning midfielder in our 1st XI.

Yes, he is beyond our scouting range, but what more do we need to know?!

It is a rhetorical question. We have an open international position (since Ngasa is a dual national, having been at the club since 2026).

Let’s just hope Izzy isn’t caught sniffing other players’ sheets after arriving.

Even then, it may be worth it for his uncanny knack for launching throw ins like a human trebuchet, which will give us another weapon as we return to CAF competition.

Brendan shouting to Isildo, each and every time we claim a throw in, in the opposition’s half.

Distracted by the length of Isildo’s throw ins, we stumble away to Nyamityoboradrawing 1-1 — giving Proline a chance to pip us to the title. We are only 2 points clear, with 2 matches to play.

Of course, we face Proline in our very next match — the Ugandan Cup final. We stomp them 3-1, behind unstoppable thunderbastards from Makasi and Mwashiuya, which bracket an uncontested header from Majwega after the opposition keeper flaps at a cross.

The win ensures we qualify for the Confederations Cup. But our sights are set higher. Much higher.

72 hours later, we face Makasa…and tear them to pieces. Easily the best performance of the campaign. Th final scoreline is 7-nil…I’m wondering how it wasn’t 17, when we learn that Proline have drawn away to Bright Stars…handing us the League title on a platter.

Champions. A domestic double.

The Jogoos’ first League title since 2004, and first Cup title since 2015.

The celebrations last through the night. I’m still drunk when I get a text from the Chairman the next morning, about the draw for the Top Eight Cup.

Yes, there is another trophy on offer. We smash Bright Stars, 4-1, before scraping past a defensive Tooro United in the semifinals, 1-nil. Truth be told, our legs are heavy in both matches. Adding 3 matches over 7 days to an already full schedule was a bridge too far. We fall to KCC in the final, 2-1. We were the better side, but could not put away our chances.

The Chairman does not mind. No one really does. The supporters haven’t stopped celebrating since the League title was secured.

Not that I blame them.


May 2034 – African Review.

In the Champions League, CS Sfax emerged victorious with a 3-2 extra time win over Zamalek — the first time an eligible club has won the title under AI management.

2033/34 Champions League: Group Stage | Knockout Rounds

(Truth be told, I am a little disappointed. CS Sfax was a club I was looking forward to joining at some point in this journey…I guess that just means we’ll have to do it again sometime…)

In the Confederation Cup, Club Africain defeated 10-man ES Tunis, 4-2.

2033/34 Confederation Cup: Group Stage | Knockout Rounds

May 2034 – Season Review.

I awake in my rented flat, the sharp taste of Skittlebrau lingering on my tongue, to a scene reminiscent of DiCaprio’s debauched Las Vegas hotel suite in The Wolf of Wall Street, the morning after an all-night revelry. Jogoo style.

No one else is stirring, so I wander through the apartment to gaze out the floor-to-ceiling windows at Lake Victoria in the distance, the sun rising to welcome a new day.

We have accomplished far more in this, my first, year in Kampala, than I would have dared dream. Yet there is an incredible amount of work to be done, to take the next steps in Africa and become a credible threat to the powers that be. The additions of Odokonyero and Izzy will be key. But still we need more.

My primary targets are a right wingback and true libero, as these are the weakest positions in our XI right now. Perhaps a keeper.

I have identified several targets, but they were wary of joining the Jogoo revolution the last time we reached out. Perhaps they will reconsider now that we have Champions League football on offer.

Goals for 2034/35:  Retain the Premier League title. Reach the Champions League Group Stage.

Squad | League Overview | Transfers

Finances | Income | Expenditure

If you’ve stumbled upon this post and are finding yourself a bit confused… Don’t worry.  The basic concept behind the Nearly Men of Africa is explained here, and each installment in Brendan Rodgers’ story can be accessed through the Nearly Men of Africa archive. You can also join Seattle Red on his dedicated discord channel, hosted by Dictate the Game.

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