INTERVIEW: How Sadiq Sempigi defied odds to guide Mbarara City to premier league return on first attempt

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Danito NSUBUGA

For the first time since 2016, the city of Mbarara did not experience any topflight football after their most notable side suffered relegation. Nyamityobora their other side to have gained promotion in the recent past, had suffered the same fate a season before and even further dropped to nowhere.

There were fears that City would trade the same path judging by the norm that many teams that go down, struggle to even sustain life in the big league.

HOW IT WAS PLANNED

A shrewd but important step was taken by the club when they released almost half the squad and retained only 11 whom they deemed focused to fight for the cause.

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“Proper planning, and team cohesion is very important. After relegation we had to restructure, we identified players with experience and worked together through hard and better days”.

Head coach Sadiq Sempigi explained to us.

The former Arua Hill and Onduparaka coach had been appointed earlier in the season to try to overturn an already turbulent season for his 3rd stint at the club.

Okwalinga Solomon, Jude Ssemugabi, Ivan Otude, Edwok Ronald, Seiri Arigumaho, Karim Ramathan, Henry Kitegenyi, Henry Musisi and Sadat Nsubuga were retained and the club later signed goalkeeper Wyclif Mori Manja, midfielder Nvule Jamie Kisitu from Soltilo Bright Stars, Johnny Rubi Mugweri, Ibrahim Thembo from Vipers SC, Sunday Geoffrey and experienced full back Hakim Magombe.

Jjungu Methodius and Wasswa Shaban also joined the club but played a peripheral role as their involvement was either limited by injury or lack of form.

Sempigi adds that his team did not have outright stars to build on but teamwork played an enormous role.

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“We had players with different qualities, and all the different qualities were important in the process, though every team has pillars or stars but our squad was balanced to the extent that every player was key.”

He added.

Sadiq Sempigi will hope to retain his job and complete the project. Photo/Bata Images

THE EXECUTION:

After assembling a squad blended with youthfulness and experience, Sempigi embarked on early preparation and ensured that they make Kakyeka Stadium a fortress, they in fact failed to win on only two occasions while playing at home.

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14 games played so far, 12 have been wins and drawn only twice to direct competitors Police FC and NEC, they are likely to go unbeaten at home for the whole season since their last match is against an already relegated Northern Gateway.

“As a coach I emphasized proper management and planning because football is beyond the coaching on the field, and sometimes requires someone to possess skills outside the field, so my strength rotates around, possessing different skills and knowledge, not forgetting the philosophy. I believe in a certain kind of football and style of play.

Sempigi emphasized.

WILL THEY MAINTAIN THE TOP FLIGHT?

With Sempigi’s contract running down at the end of this season, it is uncertain whether the club will extend his stay or opt for a more high profile coach, or even, he may decide to elevate to a more high profile side.

He however warns that the club needs to maintain their tactic of early preparation and allow cohesion and improving the squad on time.

” I am running out of contract, so for now I don’t have any idea, but the club will look into it”.

” They need to properly manage this project well, players need someone to understand them, improve on all that has been done in the big league because the UPL has different demands, and learn from previous mistakes and achievements”.

ON KEEPING THE STARS

Many promoted sides struggle to keep their star men which leaves them with weakened squads and in turn struggle with the demands of the topflight.

Striker Henry Kitegenyi has so far managed 20 league goals, just two shy of leader Denis Omedi of Booma and his return would attract many top sides.

Sempigi adds that, the club should ensure that these players are retained and more additions be made to strengthen the squad.

” Good performances attract many suitors but we should not forget that most of our players have contracts, the club however has to convince them to stay.

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