Ever dreamed of a photo finish? Well, we just had two gigantic sports disciplines live that very dream. The rugby season climaxed with two of the big three squaring off in a winner takes all clash, with the third peeping from the graveyard (no pun intended) waiting for any slip up to resurrect. The Stanbic Black Pirates secured just their second ever title as they trounced closest challengers at the start of play, the Kobs 23-7, with the timeless Ivan Magomu showing off his kicking prowess and booting 13 of the champion’s points.
With the two sides level on 75 points at the start of play and only separated by points difference, record 16-time champions Heathens larked in the background aware a cricket score bonus point victory at Makerere University grounds and a possible draw in the top of the table clash would see them retain their trophy. Pirates will now thank their boisterous army of supporters, then set their sights on emulating their two rivals who have exchanged the crown over the past two seasons, both finishing those respective campaigns undefeated.
If that wasn’t enough, the Uganda Premier League simply said, “Hold my beer,” as they presented their own big three lining up for a photo finish of their own. KCCA FC, Vipers SC and SC Villa have revisited the glorious old days where we went into the final fixtures of the season not certain if an opponent would turn up for the title deciding fixture or if a team would get annihilated 22-1.
Not since 2012, when the charismatic Sam Ssimbwa led Express FC to their first league title in sixteen years, have we had three teams walk into the final week with a chance at glory. That season, Express FC eventually overcame Bunamwaya FC (now Vipers SC) and URA FC by one and two points respectively, aided by the expulsion of Fire Masters who had been a no show for three league games and been booted. Express lost 3 points from this decision having won 1 game against the fire boys while their two rivals lost 6 points having defeated them both home and away. The denominator in these two seasons perhaps indicates where the trophy will end come Saturday 27th May 2023.
Denis Onyango too decided to make one final mighty splash. If this turns out to be his final season as the first-choice goalkeeper of South African giants Mamelodi Sundowns, then what a way to step aside, cementing his status as the most decorated footballer in the history of the South African PSL as his club side secured their sixth consecutive league title. 10 PSL titles, three of which were scooped while at Supersport United, contributed to a total haul of 17 trophies that also included the African holy grail of the CAF Champions League in 2016, where he ended the season being voted as the Best African Player based in Africa.
Every good story tends to have a bad, unexpected moment, albeit temporary in this case. The City Oilers sadly fall under this category and not because they are bad, but because they were bad at the 2023 Basketball Africa League (BAL) playoffs in Cairo. A feisty come back against Egyptian giants Al Ahly had many of us dreaming, as the Oilers rallied from a 36-61 deficit heading into the final quarter, eventually running out of time, and losing the match 70-72. The fact that they won the 4th quarter 34-11 was enough to drag them into this category. They will now join me on my couch as we watch Ferroviario Beira, the only team they defeated in the tournament, strut their stuff at the ongoing finals in Kigali.
Prison has not always been a place anyone would fancy visiting, unless you are Memphis Grizzlies superstar Ja Morant, who is determined to make his mark there. This reality however, struck this week for two of the most vibrant and brave sports leaders of this generation. The Uganda Netball Federation President Babirye Sarah Kityo, a former Youth Member of Parliament, and the bombastic Uganda Boxing Federation President Moses Muhangi each spent two days in the coolers. Their crime – apparently fully accounting for funds given to their respective federations while refusing to “cook the books”, or something close to that.
According to Babirye, she was given UGX 186m but asked by the National Council of Sports (NCS) Secretary General Bernard Ogwel, to account for UGX 425m. Ogwel on his side insists Babirye has failed to account for funds handed to her federation for the Pent Series in Namibia in 2021. The question then is why this accusation has been raised 2 years later, at a time the NCS accounting officer is being accused of demanding kickbacks for any funds channelled to federations.
Muhangi, more combative as the boxing head, has also been accused of forgery and false accountability. Ironically the Uganda Boxing Federation he heads since 2018, was voted the best performing federation in Uganda by the very same NCS, detailed in their Annual Monitoring and Evaluation Report 2021/22, scoring 36/36.
The NCS Act of 1964 is the governing tool for sports in Uganda, so I’ll let the “courts of low” guide us on this as I prepare to follow the climax of the Uganda Premier League. I hope we shall not be treated to scenes of nine unlicensed opposition players showing up at Kitende or the Star Times Omondi Stadium for a fixture. The defending in the KCCA FC vs Express FC fixture a few days back already left a few questioning the performance of some of the lads on the pitch. It felt like we were watching Quadballo FC, a bunch of heavy Sunday league retirees fighting at the foot of the Budo Alumni League having a Sunday kick about. Already whispers of the return of the Arrow Boys have been heard. May that not get uglier.