Dr Lawrence Mulindwa’s 20 year reign at Vipers has shaped modern football. Football is a business which requires patience and endurance on top of huge investments before any fruitful results can be witnessed.
In Uganda, many have treaded that path right from the day the game found its footing here up to the present time. However, within the present day football administrators, Dr Mulindwa stands out supreme amongst the best our country boasts of.
Praised for his strong business acumen, philanthropy, financial foresight, sports enthusiasm and passion, the academician has had a rollercoaster of events during his 20-year tenure as the majority shareholder, owner and chief financier of Vipers Sports Club. From trophies to big name transfers, sponsorship deals, player sales, state-of-the-art stadium with ultra-modern facilities and a suave modern bus, the list continues.
Vision to reign supreme
Against all odds, with a gigantic dream he has for the club and a vision to reign supreme in the region and later on the continent, we examine the impact of this selfless former FUFA boss, who reinvented the wheel of the national team – Uganda Cranes – by giving it a new face and now doing the same and more for his club.
Two decades after the Vipers SC president took over the reins of this young, impressive and progressive club, he has gradually improved its status to an admirable brand. There can be no denying that Dr Mulindwa’s impact at Vipers and on the soccer scene not only changed the face of the club but, in many ways, modern day football itself including the league and the game in its entirety.
Haruna Kyobe and Thaddeus Kitandwe, who are fellow directors, foresaw and hinted that the arrival of Mulindwa onto the local footballing scene would change the face of the game forever. “There was a real feeling that this guy (Dr Lawrence Mulindwa) who had come along was really going to change things. That he was going to be able to take us up a level and make us every-inch competitive, not just on the local scene but at the continent level as well.”
Since Dr Mulindwa assumed office at the Kitende-based club as the head 20 years ago, it has been a period of unprecedented success for the Venoms with four Uganda Premier League (UPL) titles, one Uganda Cup, one Super Cup and a handful of outings as continental representatives. His master-plan dossier has certainly worked. Remember he took on the mantle of being federation president for a whopping eight years at the same time running a top-tier club.
Players – record transfer fees received
Farouk Miya – a graduate of the St Mary’s Kitende academy, Miya was sold to Standard Liege at a record $400,000 (an estimated UGX1.4BILLION) which is arguably the biggest price tag for a Ugandan footballer.
The 2015 Azam Uganda Premier League Player of the Year was very instrumental in helping Vipers win their first league title with eye-catching performances and flashes of brilliance as the stand out individual from a crop of Kitende graduates whose careers have gone on to illuminate.
Several players have plied their trade in various countries having gone through Dr Mulindwa’s hands during the two-decade era. Players like Mike Mutyaba, Samson Caesar Okhuti, Milton Kalisa, Nicholas Wadada, Taddeo Lwanga (both former captains of the mighty Vipers SC) and of recent Fahad Bayo’s moves etc., have turned the club into a football breeding place and nursery for some of the best players in the country.
Vipers is now a football powerhouse making record signings and nurturing some of the country’s best players due to a splendid youth policy. In his words, Dr Mulindwa once said that no club in this country especially in the topflight doesn’t field a player from St Mary’s set up and rightfully so!
When it comes to managers, Dr Mulindwa’s revolving door recruitment policy, though costly, has also shown that it’s not always a bad thing to try something new when you have ambitions. Hunger for success dictates this.
The long-held belief that success only comes from stability, the So-called ‘Super Coaches’ have higher standards and greater demands but during his 20-year relatively rich history, he has had his way on trying out tacticians.
And it’s this quest for perfection that has filtered through in the wake of Dr Mulindwa’s takeover at Vipers a leaf that he probably borrowed from the academic success and gigantism that he has enjoyed over the years at St Mary’s S.S Kitende.
Let’s take a look at the league as it is today and you’ll see stadia and facilities that are not just better, but with numbers growing week in, week out trying to challenge, match or benchmark what has and is currently happening at the Kitende side.
The playing surfaces have gone from a quagmire of a surface to superb greens; the fans and the players raising their game, an influx of foreign coaches with new ideas and innovations, quicker, technically different and henceforth significantly helping our local coaches up their game.
Would any of this have been possible without Dr Mulindwa’s master-plan? May be yes, maybe not! Quite honestly, the Vipers magnate has made a material difference to football in this country and Vipers becoming the country’s richest club is a question of time but not perplexing for those of us who recall the bleakest times especially before Mulindwa’s era.
While domestically the past two decades have brought regular success with the most recent being the 2019-2020 Uganda Premier League (UPL) trophy, Vipers still lag behind historical club rivals like KCCA, SC Villa and Express when you dive into their trophy cabinet.
VEK aristocrats Villa have won five trophies in the same period, Express just one whereas KCCA have taken the lions share including qualifying for the group stages of the CAF Champions League and a Cecafa Kagame Clubs Championship triumph. Other champions in the last 20 years include URA with four titles, Police with one thus making Vipers under the leadership of Dr Mulindwa a very successful period.
Humble underachievement tagline
As we try to break down 20 years of Dr Mulindwa at the helm of Vipers, the club boasts of a haul of trophies, facilities, local and international accolades and player sales to mention just a few. But whereas many look at all this as one of an achiever, Dr Mulindwa prefers not to be drawn in the praise and instead prefers to refer to it as ‘an underachievement’.
This humble brag is as a result of what he wants to achieve versus what has so far been achieved. Vipers is surely a work in progress, given our mission and vision where as a club we want to be the football club of choice locally, regionally and on the African continent.
With a very solid foundation that the club under the stewardship of the president has put in place, Vipers is surely destined for great things.
Sustainability of the infrastructure, governance structure, consistency in performance, attracting and maintenance of sponsors plus of course having loyal and faithful fans shall surely be the pillars to ensure Vipers achieve their dreams.
The current Vipers structure that includes the Exco, technical, playing staff, stadium and support staff have a common goal and ultimately a common prize championed by the president Dr Mulindwa.
When you peruse through the 10-year strategic plan of Vipers 2015- 2025, the commercial arm for example headed by Mr Simon Ssekankya, the marketing director, and the other directors have proposed quite ambitious but achievable targets using the various revenue streams set out in the comprehensive master plan.
They include among others merchandise sales, increment in the gate collections, player sales, increase in fan bases, attracting more sponsors and partners on board plus a couple of other income generating activities.
That will eventually transform Vipers into a leading brand not just in the football industry but also on the corporate scene.
Colossal sums for growth
Dr Mulindwa is one of a rare breed and a unique figure in Ugandan football who loves the game so much and has lots of passion that he digs into his own pockets, spending colossal sums of money, to develop the game he cherishes most.
The statistician’s first love is no doubt football and is very passionate especially in these days when the game is selling like a hot-cake worldwide.
Viper’s numbers can never be compared to the fans of Onduparaka, Villa, Express or KCCA. Instead the Venoms boast of a classy and corporate fan base plus a formidable force of youngsters primarily the Kitende alumni and continuing students who offer a reliably ground and base for it to increase three-fold.
Apart from Mulindwa’s deep pockets, he has created an ambient environment in the football industry and the club has been able to attract corporate sponsorship to the club from Hima Cement (UGX632MILLION), DFCU Bank (UGX300MILLION) and Roofings (UGX500MILLION). The team is embracing corporate governance and looks every inch stable under the current set up.
A CAF and FIFA approved stadium estimated to be in billions of shillings puts the Kitende-based club head over shoulders against everyone in terms of net worth.
Robert Ssentongo – The writer is the Marketing Manager of Vipers Sports Club.
Copyright 2020 Vipers Sports Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.viperssc.co.ug as the source.