DAR-ES SALAAM. Team Uganda left a lasting mark on their debut at the Africa Fives Football Finals by winning the inaugural women’s title during the two-day event held at Uhuru Stadium in Dar es-Salaam on Saturday. The six-man team comprising players from the Fufa Women’s Elite League produced the best show by defeating Tanzania’s Invitational team 1-0 in the final graced by a sizable bunch of home fans.
But the girls held their nerve in the five-a-side tussle organised by Nile Special parent company Ab-Inev to beat the hosts’ second team with captain Memory Nampijja striking three minutes from the first-half break.
Then goalkeeper Vanessa Karungi kept the hosts at bay number of times over the next 12-minute half until the final whistle to give Uganda the win at the continent’s biggest amateur social football tournament.
“We are so happy,” Nampijja said after hoisting the trophy received from tournament ambassador Cameroon legend Samuel Eto’o.
“It was a lovely experience,” the She Corporates FC defender remarked. “We had team work going forward and while defending and, many teams here should have appreciated our brand of football,” Nampijja added. Now Nampijja, Karungi, Sarah Namulindwa, Wilmer Nantumbwe, Bridget Nabisalu and Brenda Makanga also won the coveted trip by Ab-Inev to travel with Eto’o to his favorite football destination in Europe.
“The El Classico,” said Eto’o, a former player at Real Madrid, Barcelona and Inter Milan. “It is the best game in the world,” the three-time Uefa Champions League winner stated.
Uganda’s route involved beating Zimbabwe 2-1, a 1-1 draw with Tanzania A team before an own goal cost them against Eswatini in the last Group A match on Friday.
In the quarterfinals on Saturday, they eliminated Ghana 3-0 thanks to a brace from Nantumbwe and Namulindwa’s effort. The latter had scored a goal against Zimbabwe and Tanzania.
They however needed to defend for long spells against favourites South Africa whom they held to a goalless draw before Karungi saved two penalties for a 2-1 shootout victory. Meanwhile, the men’s team were pretty unlucky as they were eliminated from the tournament without conceding a goal.
The team comprising skipper Godfrey Kalungi, Ronald Edwok, Ben Ocen, custodian Derrick Emukule, Robert Eseru and coach Andrew Epedu, all from ‘Facebook FC’ franchise which won the Nile Special 5-A-Side Finals, had defeated Eswatini 5-0, Zimbabwe 1-0 and Tanzania 1-0 in Group A. But following a dough stalemate, they lost 2-1 via spot-kicks to Zambia who had finished bottom of Group B.
“We didn’t take any chances against Zambia but it is painful our journey ends only here,” Emukule would later say.
Nile brand manager Francis Nyende, who turned out to be the teams’ manager, was nonetheless satisfied. “Doing this for the time and getting this far, it is already a money’s worth,” said Nyende.
“We’ll prepare with Ab-Inev to take the girls with Eto’o to Spain but also, with what we have seen here, we plan to get closer and enrich the consumer experience,” he added.
AFRICA 5s CHAMPIONSHIP
SELECTED RESULTS - MEN
Uganda 5-0 Eswatini
Uganda 1-0 Zimbabwe
Uganda 1-0 Tanzania
Uganda 0-0 Zambia
(Zambia won 2-1 on penalties)
Uganda 2-1 Zimbabwe
Uganda 1-1 Tanzania
Uganda 0-1 Eswatini
Uganda 3-0 Ghana
Uganda 0-0 South Africa
(Uganda won 2-1 on penalties)
Uganda 1-0 Tanzania Invitational