FUFA's Eastern Uganda Region Football Association is under the spotlight for allegations of match-fixing that is threatening to throw football into chaos.
As FUFA strive to fight match-fixing in the top tier, a brewing vice in the Eastern Regional Football Association has turned bloody and could soon cost a life if not checked.
For two seasons in a row, two-time Uganda Cup winners Mbale Heroes and Admin from Tororo have been involved in bitter rivalry in the race for the lone slot for promotion playoffs in the Bukedi Group of the Eastern Region.
The winner of the Bukedi Group plays their counterparts from the Nile to determine the overall champion.
Last year, Mbale Heroes won the hotly-contested but rowdy race in Bukedi but lost to Jinja North 1-0 in the regional final, which carried the only ticket to the FUFA Big League.
The script has been the same this season, with the two teams taking each other pound for pound, but something needs to be corrected.
There have been accusations and counter-accusations from both camps that each team was paying the other opponents to ‘play hard’, which, sportingly, is not outlawed.
But the situation has recently escalated with allegations that Admin bribed some teams, including Mbale Garage, to lose their fixture by a significant margin of goals.
On Tuesday, April 25th, Mbale Heroes beat SKY Sports 2-0 to maintain the top place with 47 points from 20 games in the 12-team league.
Admin were third with 44 points and a game at hand that could take them level with Heroes though the latter had a superior goal difference of 27 to 20.
On that same day, Immanuel Kisakye, the-then coach of Mbale Garage, made some revealing comments to the press ahead of their game against Admin.
“We’ve not given up and [urge] our fans to come support and cheer us,” he said before weighing on the rumours circulating that his team had been bribed to give the game but with a bloated score line.
“I also want to comment on the rumours that Admin has already paid us... that we’ve already given out the game."
"I don’t think that there’s any team that trains and prepare only to lose intentionally to an opponent.
He added: “As a coach, I don’t believe that fixing a match is professional because it’s not taking the game of football anywhere, even though I’ve realised that about 95% of games in our groups are fixed by the time we come to play, the results are known."
“Unlike me, I’m not ready to do that and will not, but I will just prepare the team to come and play.”
Through their chief executive officer Wilson Kavuma, the club reigned on the coach and suspended him on match day, Wednesday 27th, ahead of the said fixture.
“The management of Mbale Garage FC Has with immediate effect suspended [to mean suspended] head coach Kisakye Emmy until further notes [to mean ‘notice’]."
“This is due to the audio note circulating on media about match-fixing,” they announced in a letter that circulated in social media. As a result, Sulaiman Kibirige was appointed as interim coach-player.
Admin went on to win the game 4-1, but how they did it raised eyebrows among a section of the home fans and neutrals.
Davis Bukomba opened the scoring with a penalty in the 15th minute before Yakeen Muwonge scored his brace in the 29th and 39th minutes.
Later on, Godwin Kawagga scored the fourth in the 59th before Francis Mukasa pulled a consolation, as reported by Wabomba Sports, a platform run by Mbale-based journalist Ronnie Wabomba.
The proceedings prompted keen eyes in the pavilion to record amateur footage about some goals.
“Say no to match-fixing. Goalkeeper Ochora must be investigated,” Bosco Wamududa, an official attached to Mbale Heroes, posted in WhatsApp forums.
The club has offered a bounty of 'UGX3 M to whoever has the evidence of match-fixing' in the match.
Pulse Sports understands that FUFA executive member Eastern Region Issa Magoola was present, but our efforts to reach him for his take were futile.
The chairman Eastern Region Football Association briefly told this website that there are channels the clubs can use to address their grievances, but the issue is turning bloody!
“We score genuine goals,” Henry Owori, Admin’s president, rubbished the allegations.
On penalties and their timing during the games, he said: “Penalties are awarded everywhere. It happens even in the English Premier League, where Manchester City gets a penalty almost in every game. Do they fix?”
A football club owner confessed that some of the games from the regional leagues have appeared elsewhere in the betting sites outside the country.
Some Buganda Regional League games, for example, were seen on sites last season, but we can’t entirely confirm this season.
We have not established whether these allegations are connected to gambling or whatever cause.