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KCCA FC wrong to reject referee Mashood Ssali

(L-R) Former KCC FC team manager Francis Icuma with referees Fred Mutyaba, Katende Mukiibi and Senkwangu Sewagudde before the 1985 Uganda Cup final between Express and KCC at Nakivubo

(L-R) Former KCC FC team manager Francis Icuma with referees Fred Mutyaba, Katende Mukiibi and Senkwangu Sewagudde before the 1985 Uganda Cup final between Express and KCC at Nakivubo

Over the past few seasons, Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) FC fans have always been in arms against referee Mashood Ssali, whom they accuse of biased officiating in matches involving their side.

The latest episode was last Saturday’s Uganda Cup quarterfinal against BUL FC at Njeru, where the Lugogo-based side got eliminated from Stanbic Uganda Cup via penalty shoot-out after a 1-1 stalemate.

Angry fans wanted to beat up the referee after the game but police, with the help of military police, moved fast and got the situation under control though the scuffle left some KCCA fans wounded.

KCCA coach Abdallah Mubiru added his voice to that of the club fans by accusing Ssali of unfair officiating during the Saturday game. He cited what he called a ‘clear’ penalty which his team would have got after BUL defender Nicholas Mwebe handled the ball in the box.

The angry KCCA faithful have since warned the Uganda Premier League (UPL) to stop assigning referee Ssali for their games. This is not the first time for KCCA to blacklist referees.

Last season, KCCA coach Jackson Mayanja, plus a couple of players and fans were handed heavy fines and punishments for attacking Ssali after KCCA’s 0-1 loss to Vipers SC at St Mary’s stadium. Mayanja and his players were convinced that Vipers’ Milton Kariisa was off-side before scoring his goal.

In the 2020/21 season, KCCA lost 0-2 to URA at Ndejje and in the aftermath, KCCA fans had to be restrained by police from attacking Ssali. Yet again, the fans accused Ssali for ‘poor officiation.’

Can a club reject a referee?   

For years, clubs have constantly tried to reject local referees but authorities have continually rejected such demands. A case in point is Express FC. In 1988 following Express’ 1-3 loss to SC Villa in a Uganda Cup final at Nakivubo stadium, the Red Eagles accused referee Charles Masembe of being a renowned SC Villa supporter who should have desisted from handling their games. 

However, the National Football League Committee (NFLC) continued to appoint Masembe for Expres games. In the nineties, however, Masembe declined to officiate any more Express games after constant threats on his life.

Back in 1970s, KCCA FC lost a string of games refereed by Edward Senkwangu Sewagudde. The club officially wrote to NFLC to stop appointing Sewagudde for their games. 

The club accused Sewagudde of being an open Express supporter who had reached the extent of bad-mouthing their club in public. NFLC declined KCCA’s plea and the situation reached boiling point in a 1976 league game against Gangama at Nakivubo.

As KCCA players were warming up before the game, skipper Sam Musenze refused to go for coin toss in protest against Sewagudde. Unbothered, Sewagudde blew his whistle asking both skippers to go for official kick-off. Instead, Musenze matched straight to Sewagudde and asked him to excuse himself from that match or pick one of his assistants to handle the game.

Sewagudde refused to budge. After a while, Fufa and NFLC officials intervened and forced KCCA to play. Interestingly KCCA went on to win 3-1. Sewagudde later explained that a referee cannot be changed merely to appease the wishes of a club.

“I would have set a dangerous precedent if I had agreed to stand down,” he said.   

All in all, my view is that clubs should not be accorded the option of choosing or rejecting match officials. If aggrieved, they should formally appeal to Fufa’s referees body.


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