Cathy Nagadya: Martyrs want the league title more than anyone else

Catherine Nagadya, footballer

What you need to know:

  • Determination. The Uganda Martyrs High School winger, 16, says while their competitors like She Corporate have the experienced legs of national team regulars, the Martyrs are determined to ride on passion and burning desire to upstage the rest.

Catherine Nagadya is not privy to conversations in the dressing rooms at Kampala Queens (KQ), UCU Lady Cardinals and She Corporate.

But even in the face of such competition, the hard running winger is declaring that Uganda Martyrs High School (UMHS) Lubaga “want to win the Fufa Women Super League (FWSL) more than any other team.”

“Those sides have the experience, players in the senior national team but competing for this league is a decision we have made at Martyrs. We’ll skip all stumbling blocks,” Nagadya shares in an interview with Score, from their base in Gulu, where attention has shifted to the Uganda Secondary Schools Sports Association (USSSA) games.

The league is on a two-week break but when they return on next Friday (April 29), UMHS – three points from the top on 22 from 11 games – host leaders She Corporate.

Impetus

Corporate won the first round encounter 2-0 in Nakawa. But Nagadya and a host of other players in the U-20 national team did not play the match as they were preparing for a World Cup qualifier away in Ghana that Uganda lost 5-0.

From Ghana, Nagadya was also part of the U-17 team alongside UMHS teammates; goalkeeper Sharon Kaidu, defenders Patience Nabulobi, Rebecca Nandhego and Esther Namusoke as well as fellow forwards Shamusa Najjuma, Brenda Munyana and Sumaya Nalumu.

This called for postponement of some of their games in the first half of the season but they have since caught up and have now won seven matches, drawn once and lost twice to move to second on the 10-team log.

UMHS have the most potent squad with 17 goals in 11 games but they are also shaky at the back as they have conceded 11 – only Lady Doves (17) and Rines SS (19) have conceded more.

“I believe our backline is improving but we must win games. If we do not score, it does not matter how steady the backline is,” Nagadya, the second top scorer behind Elizabeth Nakigozi (five), says.

Starting out

Nagadya came to the limelight during the first edition of the Sseninde Women’s Development Camp football tournament in 2016 at Villa Park.

Confident on pitch but shy off it, she picked up football at the age of eight in Katabi, Entebbe, where she trained with her brothers. At Villa Park, Nagadya took the tournament by storm, especially in the final, where she scored twice as coach Ayub Asiimwe’s Taggy High School beat Kawempe Muslim 2-0 to the trophy.

Surprisingly, she was still a Primary Six pupil at Marine Base Primary School – Entebbe but she was also representing a secondary school for the second time after playing for Creamland Secondary School the year before in a couple of competitions.

She was that good.

For good measure, Florence ‘Nazizi’ Nalumansi, Fauzia Najjemba, Shamirah Nalugya, are some of the notable names that played at Villa Park.

“I got things I didn’t expect from that tournament – like the (most valuable player) trophy, a medal and it opened the way for me.”

The winger went a bit under the radar to complete primary school education and even though she was hot property, Nagadya a joined Katuso Community Secondary School for her Senior One, where she linked up with coach Rogers Nkugwa before they both moved to UMHS the next year.

“I do not know about school selection so wherever mum and coach (Asiimwe) tell me to go is where I go.

“I just want to work hard in school and probably be a lawyer. I think that since moving to Martyrs in 2019, I am in a school that pushes to balance both academics and sports.

“I would have wanted to be a doctor too but sciences need a lot of time, which is not easy to balance with football demands,” Nagadya shares.

National call ups

Her first encounter away from school came with a trip to Mauritius to represent Uganda in the 2019 U-17 Women’s Cosafa Championship – where Najjemba was also part.

“I would say it was a good experience because of the trip and winning the trophy,” Nagadya says.

“Also, it was my dream to play for the national team and I was not going to get into the Senior One at 14. I am glad these youth teams came up.

“But at an individual level, I wanted to do more yet I was coming off the bench most of the time.”

That opportunity came later in the year at the U-17 Cecafa Championships, at Fufa Technical Centre Njeru, which Uganda won. And later in the World Cup qualifiers which unfortunately ended prematurely due to a Covid-19 breakout as Uganda readied to play Cameroon for a slot in the finals.

An injury to UMHS teammate Kevin Nakacwa, forced coach Ayub Khalifa to try Nagadya in central midfield against Tanzania.

“I had to change and be more confident to express myself. Fortunately, the coach saw it and gave me more opportunities to impress,” Nagadya recalls.

It is hard for her to explain where the shyness has gone, although it pops up some times. She is a talkative and cheerful character in camp, one of the lead dancers off and on field during celebrations.

“Football is about having fun, what’s the point being angry? There is a time to mean business but after that, I want to see everyone smiling and enjoying themselves.”

When Khalifa promoted his U-17 troops for the aforementioned U-20 World Cup assignment ended ruthlessly by Ghana, Nagadya was back to playing a peripheral role as Khalifa retooled Nalugya who had belatedly joined the U-17s ahead of the Tanzania second leg in 2020 into a central playmaker.

But there was more to come as another U-17 World Cup assignment came up last month.

Khalifa fielded Nagadya as a central striker because of her ability to shoot on sight from any distance. Unfortunately, Uganda drew with Ethiopia 2-2 at home and 1-1 away to get ejected on away goals rule.

“The 2019 team was more experienced and we had the opportunity to build through Cosafa and Cecafa. That wasn’t the case this time. Those tournaments would have helped us a great deal but we tried our best,” Nagadya says.

Before the next national assignment, however, Nagadya’s feet are itching for the FWSL title.

At a glance

Catherine Nagadya


Age: 16

Parents: Cyprian Gimei and Irene Nazziwa

Schools:

2017: Primary Seven at Marine Base P/S, Entebbe

2018: Senior One at Katuso Community SS

2019 – to date: Uganda Martyrs High School, Lubaga

*Now in senior four

Clubs:

2015: Creamland SS

2016: Taggy High School

2019 – to date: UMHS


National Team

2019: U-17 Cosafa Champs, U-17 Cecafa Champs

2019-2020: U-17 World Cup qualifiers

2021: U-20 Cecafa Champs

2021-22: U-20 World Cup qualifiers

2022: U-17 World Cup qualifiers

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