KAMPALA- The Nation Media Group’s stables in Uganda bring together a little under thirty sports journalists. These journalists cover a multiplicity of sporting disciplines and have accrued bags of experience. Over the past two months, the journalists converged to put together a list of fifty athletes whose performances in 2017 were definitive.
How the list was put together
Each journalist was asked to craft a list of 50 Ugandan athletes they think stood head and shoulders above their peers in 2017.
The list was supposed to be arranged in descending order, with number one being their best choice.
Ranking system explained
Common denominators were aggregated from each journalist’s list. The more common denominators translated into a higher ranking for the athlete in question. If athletes were level on points in the scoring, a five-strong team would be tasked to vote to provide a tiebreaker.
How we ranked the 50 athletes for 2017
40. BETTY KIZZA
Uganda finished in a credible seventh position at the Netball World Youth Cup after topping a pool that included titans Jamaica, hosts Botswana, Cook Islands and Malaysia. The She Pearls — as Uganda’s U-20 side is affectionately known — would have placed even higher had the team not lost a nail-biter against Fiji 39-37. That quarterfinal loss kept Uganda out of the semifinals.
The team nevertheless finished with a bang, beating Scotland 55-42 in the seventh placement match. Kizza was (together with Joan Nampungu) largely responsible for the She Pearls’ sterling performance. Able to play as a centre and wing attack, Kizza was the proverbial cog in the machine as Uganda reeled off impressive wins against Botswana, Cook Islands, Malaysia and Scotland. Before that, she fitted like a glove when asked to step in for the absent Ruth Meeme as Uganda’s senior team won the Africa Netball Championship on home soil. Robert Madoi
39. SOLOMON OKIA
When Okia run in a try during Uganda’s crashing win against Tunisia, many observers were convinced that they had seen green shoots of recovery. An injury-plagued season had reduced the talented back to an inconsequential footnote, but against the Tunisians he looked as fit as a fiddle. So convinced was the Rugby Cranes’ backroom staff that they handed Okia a starting place in the next Gold Cup match against Namibia.
Okia didn’t last more than twenty minutes. As a medic helped him clamber into an ambulance, many were quick to script epitaphs. Yet the young back confounded bad forecasts by bouncing back strongly with the Uganda Sevens. The 21-year-old went over for a joint-high eight tries at the HSBC Dubai Sevens.
Okia was also amongst the tries in the HSBC Cape Town Sevens. He exceptionally feinted and turned on the afterburners, showing if anything how vital he could be when Uganda figures at the 2018 Commonwealth Games and Rugby World Cup Sevens. Robert Madoi
38. HASSAN WASSWA
Wasswa is the undisputed workman no matter which team he features in. His is a game borne out of total hard work. He could push for an extra two hours if asked to. Even with no club to play regular football in the run-up to the Nations Cup finals in Gabon, the dreadlocked utility player went to work, playing a pivotal role of protecting Murshid Juuko, Denis Onyango and company, while allowing Tonny Mawejje and Farouk Miya that occasional thrust forward. He was one of the standout players in Gabon despite Uganda not winning any game on their return to the finals after four decades away. Throughout the calendar year with the Uganda Cranes, Wasswa barely put a foot wrong be it Gabon 2017, 2019 Afcon qualifiers or 2018 Fifa World Cup qualifiers. Andrew Mwanguhya
37. FORTUNE SSENTAMU
On the face of it, the name Ben Nsumba should be appearing here and not Fortune Ssentamu’s on the account of the former winning the MX85CC category in the national championship. However, Ssentamu, a darling of many a motocross fan, was dominant in the region en route to defending his FIM CAS Motocross crown.
He beat riders from eternal rivals Kenya. And while he lost the domestic crown to Nsumba, he was nonetheless the most enthralling rider of the season for fans and neutrals alike. In the opening three races of the season, he had a problem with his bike and he barely scored.
For all intents and purposes, he did not lose the national title because Nsumba defeated him. It had everything to do with mechanical problems, a fact vindicated by his dominance from the moment he acquired a new bike. Sheer logic dictates that no one associated with the sport would rank Nsumba above Ssentamu on any day and night in the MX85CC. Mark Namanya
36. BENJAMIN OCHAN
Ochan is as volatile as quicksilver; brilliant one moment and lame-duck the other. He had his own version of Ides of March this year, choosing to travel to Pretoria with KCCA FC for a Caf Champions League match against Mamelodi Sundowns a day after losing his father. He conceded a cheap opening goal in the 2-1 defeat at Lucas Moripe Stadium before giving away a soft equaliser in the return leg. Scars from past battles had not fully healed when Ochan took his place in goal for KCCA FC’s Caf Confederation Cup tie against Egypt’s Al Masry.
With a minute of added time left to play in the first leg at Lugogo, Ochan quickly took a free-kick that had Derrick Nsibambi wheeling away in the channels. The first touch from the striker was good, second even better. KCCA FC had a 1-0 advantage to defend in Ismailia.
After Al Masry matched the visitors’ 1-0 first leg score, the lottery of a penalty shootout was needed to decide the tie. Ochan not only saved two penalties, but scored the decisive kick to send the Yellow Lads through to the money spinning group stage. By doing so, he continued to live up to his reputation of inflicting pain in some places and alleviating it in others. Typical quicksilver!! Robert Madoi
Mark Namanya (Daily Monitor Sports Editor), Robert Madoi (NTV Sports Editor), Fred Musisi Kyingi (Ennyanda Editor), Caesar Abangirah (Daily Monitor Deputy Sports Editor), Innocent Ndawula (Score Editor), Raul Kanyike (Ennyanda Deputy Editor/Daily Monitor Contributor) Andrew Mwanguhya (Daily Monitor Sports reporter), Patrick Kanyomozi (KFM Sports Editor), Joel Khamadi (NTV Sport Anchor), Ismail Dhakaba Kigongo (Daily Monitor sports reporter, panelist Kfm and Ntv sport), Makhtum Muziransa (Daily Monitor Sports reporter), Allan Darren Kyeyune (Daily Monitor Sports reporter), Deus Bugembe (Daily Monitor Sports reporter), Derrick Ntege (NTV Sport reporter), Sam Mpoza (NTV Sport reporter), Elvis Ssenono (Daily Monitor Sports reporter), Abdulnasser Tajudeen (Daily Monitor Sports reporter), Aminah Babirye (Daily Monitor sports photojournalist), Eddie Chicco (Daily Monitor sports photojournalist), Ismail Kezaala (Daily Monitor sports photojournalist), Dennis Bbosa (Daily Monitor Sports reporter)