The 2018/19 FUFA Women Elite League season ended with a new champion in UCU Lady Cardinals, it was the first time in five editions that the league was having a new champion.
When UCU defeated four-time champions Kawempe Muslim 4-2 in the semi-finals to reach the final, many women football followers thought this could be Kawempe’s worst season ever but their head coach Ayub Khalifah thinks otherwise. Football-256 writer Shafic Mutebi had a chat with the most decorated coach in women’s football league history.
SM: Is the 4-2 loss to UUC the worst result ever?
AK: For the period I have been in women’s football, no Ugandan team has scored four goals against my team, UCU was the first. It was the result ever but not the most painful, just that things were unbelievable.
The way things were unfolding, in two minutes one goal, in four minutes two goals, in 28 minutes to be three down? We even tried to score one and they made it four, leaving us with nothing to even tell the players.
SM: If you say it was not so painful, then what is the most painful result so far?
AK: The game I can never forget was the 2-1 loss to Gafford in 2015, not that I wanted to fail them just because they always talk too much and I felt that winning against would silence them but it never happened.
SM: Is failing to win last season’s league a disappointment to the team?
AK: It was not a disappointment. It was not our turn. To my thinking it was a blessing to the federation, we are not going to have a league where one team is winning. It would lose meaning. Though kawempe still dominates because even some of those players who won it for UCU came from Kawempe Muslim.
SM: What’s the secret behind your team’s performance season after season?
AK: First is the management. Working in an institution where you have the liberty to do what you think will help you go forward is a blessing. They have been there for me and for the team in terms of facilitation and in so many ways.
Secondly, we decided to resort to capacity building, we will not go on buying players each and every year so when I get a player in senior one, I start training her, and you will find that each year I get five to six good senior one players.
And when we participate in tournaments were they accept to register more than one team, this helps to give every player an opportunity. That’s why I always have team A and team B or even team C.
SM: In all the five seasons, which one do you look back and think you were lucky?
AK: That was the 2017/18 season, although we managed to win the league, I never felt like we would do it. I lost four players who were starters in the team, they joined UCU so I thought that UCU would do it but it never happened.
And every time I met them, I would tell them they’re not doing enough or there is something wrong at their new club but thank God that they managed to win it last season.
SM: What is that one thing that makes you feel proud of yourself?
AK: Ha ha ha, of course winning and the consistency. I have dominated Women football both at school and club level for almost two decades, it’s not easy because we all know that becoming the first may be easy but maintaining that place is hard and to me that makes me feel proud.
SM: What can you say about the services of Sandra Nabweteme and Hasifah Nassuna at the team?
AK: They have been good players who have contributed much to the success of the school and the club and every coach would like to have those good players in their team. But I always look to Shamim Nakachwa who played a big role in developing the game at the school were it all started.
SM: What is your philosophy?
AK: Always want a team that can play that ball and good players with skills who can make people enjoy the game of football.
SM: How do you prepare your players especially after losing a game?
AK: That is not done after the game but the preparations must be before the game, players have to know that there is a possibility of losing. We don’t want that possibility to come but when it happens the players are already prepared psychologically. It’s like going into an HIV test.
SM: What has been your best season so far?
My best season so far is 2015, the first season it had vigour in terms of hyping from the media and even the competition was very stiff, the competition was very good. We had twelve teams and every team was fighting to reach the playoffs.
SM: You have won everything but not the Women Cup, does that not hurt you as a coach?
AK: The competition has just been here for three seasons and I will not say that it hurts me. My time is not now and I believe the time I will win it; it will be much sweeter because I will have fought for so long to win it.
SM: Next season’s ambitions as a coach and as a team?
AK: I want to improve on the way we play as a team. People have watched the league and they are looking for something new and they want to watch good football but also, we must be winning. What has stopped us from playing good football is the pressure to win, that pressure disorganizes everything.