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Can Isabirye survive at Vipers where others have failed?

Alex Isabirye

Alex Isabirye

Alex Isabirye was unveiled as Vipers SC's new coach over the weekend following the sacking of Brazilian tactician Beto Bianchi, who posted a series of poor results in the ongoing CAF Champions League.

Isabirye, who until last Saturday was the head coach of Jinja-based Bul FC, is an experienced coach who has led three different top-flight sides to major silverware. He started with the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) and led the tax collectors to the 2011 league title, then helped Victoria University to the 2013 Uganda Cup title, and finally guided Bul FC to the 2022 Uganda Cup title.


Vipers SC supremo Dr Lawrence Mulindwa is a hands-on person and is impatient with tacticians, especially when the Venoms are posting mixed results. In 2018, while unveiling Javier Martinez, he expected the new coach to take Vipers places and turn the Venoms into a dominant side locally and on the continent.

It did not materialize. Since then, several foreign coaches have failed to fulfill the club’s aspirations and dreams, which explains why, in a space of six years, the club has signed four foreign coaches.

In fact, it is only Roberto Oliveira who has come close to fulfilling the Venoms dreams, having guided the club to the lucrative group stages of the CAF Champions League and winning both the local league and one Uganda Cup title, but he was lured away by Tanzania’s Simba, who matched his new pay demands. He left in December 2022.

Miguel de Costa also excelled. The Portuguese tactician led Vipers to the 2017-18 league title, but he was sacked in May 2018. It’s not only foreign coaches who have failed the litmus test at the Kitende-based side. Edward Gololo, who is credited with winning two league titles for Vipers (2010 and 2015), was twice sacked.

We all remember what happened to the likes of Jackson Mayanja, George Nsimbe, Abdullah Mubiru, Richard Waswa and Fred Kajoba; they all left Kitende unceremoniously. Vipers as a club has strategic plans and aspirations; therefore, needs a coach who fits into those dreams.

Isabirye is a former Uganda Cranes player who also featured in the top-flight with Nile, SC Villa, and Express, and his coaching career has seen him handle URA, Victoria University, Soana, Busoga United and Kyetume, among others.

There’s no doubt, he is a good coach tactically. On the flipside, he is still learning about leadership, and I have seen him a number of times struggling to control his dressing room. He also has a knack of falling out with senior players. However, if he works on managing the big egos at Vipers, he will excel at the club.

Contrary to popular opinion, lo- cal coaches are not really inferior technically. The problem is that they are hardly facilitated. And one reason most of them have failed to handle top clubs is that they get muddled up in negative club politics that renders them ineffective.

They also failed to act professionally. We usually hear stories of corruption in team selection; they field players who are `loyal’ at the expense of a good performance due to bribery.

However, certain things must in addition be done right and professionally if Vipers is to get the results it badly needs. The club’s recruiting policy, which keeps on recycling and signing players to weaken opponents, in most cases without the coach’s input, should be changed.

I have seen average big-name players recruited by the Vipers who flopped. Vipers does not need to weaken KCCA or Express to succeed.

Lastly, club structures should be streamlined by employing technically qualified staff in top club positions, which will help the Vipers go places.


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