Wananchi bounced back twice from the jaws of defeat to beat Weatherhead 4-3 and win the men’s Uganda Baati Hockey League in Lugogo on Sunday with 63 points.
This was a title decider like never seen before in local hockey circles. It was played in the bright afternoon sun and served everything from early and late goals, fan despair and ecstasy to tears, red cards and a missed flick.
Going by their social media campaigns, Weatherhead had the pre-game momentum and that showed as Moses Tushabe put them ahead within the first minute.
But Shafic Byamukama, a senior two student at Kakungulu Memorial School, immediately pulled Wananchi level to show that they would do this job with a good blend of players from their past, present and future.
Weatherhead, however, controlled the larger parts of the game and took the lead in the second quarter as Timothy Ntumba, unmarked down the right, found top scorer Vincent Kasasa at the left post to tap home for their second and his 24th goal of the season.
Ntumba, who has mastered the art of gliding from D to D unnoticed, made it 3-1 in the 32nd minute (also his 24th for the season). Ntumba was so good in the game that he seemed to bend everything to his will.
He had limited Uspa player of the year Emmanuel Baguma’s creativity and league most valuable player (MVP) Innocent Mbabali, tired of trailing the free-scoring midfielder’s runs, had to take a breather towards the end of the third quarter.
Wananchi had to try something new and Innocent Anywar moved upfront from the back. Derrick Akuwa, caught in possession in lead to Weatherhead’s last two goals, moved to defence.
It paid off as Thomas Opio pulled one back in the 39th minute, against the run of play, to keep Wananchi in the game before the end of the third quarter.
Going into the final quarter, Weatherhead retreated. Their fans, sensing the danger, could be heard urging them out of their own half.
Then the unthinkable happened to give us what was an unimaginable climax with just three minutes to play.
Mbabali fouled Ntumba and the latter reacted by smacking the former with a stick on his head. Umpire Michael Nashimolo brandished the red card, for someone who was until this point the man of the game.
The foul was also turned Wananchi’s way and their direct hit into the D won them a short corner. Mbabali forced a save from goalkeeper of the season Charles Ekapolon but Anywar forced the rebound past the line for the equalizer.
The difference in winning mentality showed here. Wananchi could have retreated as a draw would have earned them the title but they live for killing off games.
Opio won another foul off Ashiraf Tumwesigye and Weatherhead defender Brian Okodi, in picking the ball for a faster start thought it ‘wise’ to hit Anywar’s backside with it.
Anywar, unlike Ntumba kept his cool laughing off the inanity. Okodi saw red from the other umpire Stanley Tamale. Akuwa, who had until this point had a game to forget delivered a shot into the D that Opio tapped into Anywar’s path for a cool finish.
“We kept the belief knowing that we only needed one moment to flip things and show our winning mentality,” Wananchi coach Joshua Opolot, said.
UGANDA BAATI LEAGUE
Most Valuable Player
M: Innocent Mbabali (Wananchi)
W: Norah Alum (Wananchi)
M: Vincent Arnold Kasasa (Weatherhead) – 24 goals
W: Doreen Mbabazi (Wananchi) – 12 goals
M: Charles Ekapolon (Weatherhead)
W: Hajira Namwase (Wananchi)
Print: Makhtum Muziransa (Daily Monitor)
Online: Thomas Odongo (Uganda Sports Journal)
FINAL WEEKEND RESULTS
M: Wananchi 4-3 Weatherhead
W: Wananchi 1-2 Weatherhead
M: Makerere 2-3 KHC Stallions
Team P W D L F A PTS
Wananchi 24 20 3 1 130 19 63
Weatherhead 24 19 3 2 121 21 60
KHC Stallions 24 12 7 5 71 37 43
Makerere 24 8 2 14 49 81 26
Rocket 24 6 4 13 33 83 22
Historicals 24 4 2 18 32 119 14
City Lions 24 3 3 18 22 98 12
Team P W D L F A PTS
Wananchi 16 13 1 2 70 14 40
Weatherhead 16 7 3 6 25 22 24
DCU 16 6 4 6 31 24 22
KHC Swans 16 6 4 6 25 36 22
Rhino 16 1 2 13 8 63 5