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Of Kiprotich, Oilers, Fufa, She Cranes and many lows

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Olympic and World Athletics Championships gold  medalist Stephen Kiprotich had an eventful year.

Olympic and World Athletics Championships gold medalist Stephen Kiprotich had an eventful year.  


Posted  Wednesday, January 1  2014 at  02:00


The past 12 months have brought lots of pain and few joys when it comes to Ugandan sport with success here coming in such spontaneous fashion that popcorn is more predictable. Here are the 12 moments that defined the past 12 months.

Stephen Kiprotich delivered the biggest surprise when he won the marathon gold at the 2012 London Olympics, a first since John Akii-Bua’s 400m hurdles feat in 1972. That raised our country’s expectations in him. And Kiprotich got the memo, adding a World Athletics Championships gold in August. He became only the second athlete to hold the Olympic and world marathon titles in a space of 12 months. Kiprotich is surely the best thing to happen to sport here in 40 years and perhaps surpassed Akii-Bua as Uganda’s greatest sportsman.

Yusuf ‘Baban’ Zaidi may not have built a reputation as the best scrumhalf in Ugandan rugby before the hand of death robbed Nile of a cog committed to the game and hardwork. Zaidi, 19, died after collapsing on the pitch during a game which the home side, Nile, lost 3-64 though the final score and others in the Nile Special Uganda Cup mattered little.

In March, Uganda Olympic Committee (UOC) got new administrators after former president Roger Ddungu failed to secure an interim court order to stop the body’s elective assembly. William Blick was confirmed unopposed as the fourth president of UOC after serving four years as Uganda Rugby Union (URU) chairman. Basketball federation boss Ambrose Tashobya was unopposed for the first vice-president’s role. Denis Galabuzi (second vice-president) and Donald Rukare (secretary general) were also unopposed. The treasurer’s post went to incumbent Godfrey Nuwagaba. Lots is still expected of them even after they opened an e-library and set up projects to boost sports in the country.

When Ugandan football administrators lost the plot and started two leagues back in 2012, Education and Sports minister Jessica Alupo set a January 31, 2013 deadline to find a solution. The date passed with Alupo just another onlooker like an ordinary football fan. Nothing happened and everything proceeded in its normal but sickening state. The fighting has slowly faded as the Uganda Super League (USL) seemed to have folded and the Fufa Super League (FSL) blossomed. But, it feels like a ceasefire and not a peace accord. Many have become accustomed to fighting that we don’t know what sanity feels like. An ultimatum won’t heal local football and all we can do now is hope.

Amid rumours and an endless public debate about the legality of Fufa et al, Lawrence Mulindwa pulled off an unexpected move by resigning his position as Fufa president. There was mixed reaction about whether he left at his own will or was pushed out. We might never know the truth of a man who was once referred to as “the father of football”. While he has left the stage, depending on who you listen to, his aura stays. Fans who watched the 2014 Afica Nations Championship qualifier between Uganda Cranes and Tanzania got a constant reminder of that. The match announcer said on countless occasions: “This is the match that gives Mulindwa the send-off that he deserves. He has done a lot for Uganda Cranes….” His deputy Moses Magogo took over though the shadow of his predecessor hangs around Mengo.

With football by far the most popular sport, Uganda Cranes is by far the most supported national team. The team is often greeted with optimism from millions, most of it blind. Last year, Cranes came within 90 minutes of reaching the 2014 World Cup final qualifying stage only to lose 1-0 to Senegal in Marrakech. Coach Micho Sredjovich’s team had a tough outing especially as defender Godfrey Walusimbi was sent off in the first half but Cranes put up a good show. The dream never saw fruition.

A new Sherriff arrived in basketball to stop the duopoly of DMark Power and Riham Warriors. City Oilers made 2013 even more memorable by winning the league in their first season. Like a baby thrown out of a bath tab, Oilers, promoted as champions of Division Two from the previous year, beat Falcons 4-3 in the finals. Kami Kabange and Jimmy Enabu were outstanding for the Oilers. UCU Lady Canons continued to dominate the women’s league, winning a fourth crown.

Ndejje University went to Uganda Christian University (UCU) this December and left as the best university in sport. They had managed to hold off Makerere’s monopoly in the inter university games for the second time running – and in defending the overall title they won in 2011, Ndejje became only the second institution to clinch it in succession after the 12-time record winners – Makerere. Ndejje finished the 15th edition games top with overall 20 medals, 12 of them gold, six silver and two bronze. “This success gives us special satisfaction because we are funding sports at Ndejje as our special niche,” said the university sports tutor Paul Mark Kayongo. The university is reported to have run on a close to Shs1b budget this year, up from Shs700m the previous. There are no short cuts to success.

After winning a second National Rally Championship (NRC) in a title, Jas Mangat tried to win the African crown. His hopes were raised when he ended a decade-long wait for a Pearl of Africa Rally win but Mangat fell short, dropping out in Rwanda and Madagascar to lose the crown to Zambian Jassy Singh.

Uganda will participate in next year’s Africa Nations Championship (Chan) in South Africa after beating Tanzania in the qualifiers home and away. The lesser of the two continental competitions, Chan being far less marketable than the Africa Cup of Nations, served as scant consolation for the failure to qualify for the latter for the first time since 1978. The Kilimanjaro Stars got their revenge later in the year via the Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup. Uganda’s Daniel Sserunkuma missed his spot kick after Walusimbi and Khalid Aucho had fluffed theirs for Tanzania to win the quarterfinal shoot-out 3-2.

Rugby Cranes started 2013 with optimism and finished it with their tails between their legs. They were demolished 52-11 with eight tries in Madagascar as Kenya went on to win the Confederation of African Rugby (CAR) Cup. The pain wasn’t done. Coach Peter Magona, appointed to replace Yayiro Kasasa, saw his side’s relegation from CAR tier 1A to 1B. All expectations for 2013 were incidentally crashed in 80 minutes.