Orange Block just getting started, target Busting continental glory

Historic day. OBB team celebrates their championship after ending Nemostars’ dominance to clinch the league title. PHOTO/ISMAIL KEZAALA

What you need to know:

  • Colour of a dream. After winning the national league in their debut season, Orange Block Busters have their ambitions swelling bigger.

Oba Biwaamu Biweemu! Loosely translated means: “If it’s getting over, let it get over!” That’s the kind of attitude that the founders of the Orange Block Busters (OBB) Volleyball Club had when they started converging in the outskirts of Iganga town in 1997 for fun volleyball.

Today, the team is the newly-crowned champion of the men’s National Volleyball League, fulfilling part of a dream one of their directors and chief financier Ahmed Abdallah Kiggundu.

Suitable name

By then, 1997, the team comprised mainly students. Their first competitive game was the Busoga Open that they organised and had several schools from around Iganga town.

The founders developed interest in taking the team further in 2000 when they started taking part in regional and national events.

“We saw that the name was good but didn’t make  sense, so that’s when we coined the name Orange Block Busters,” Kiggundu, one of the owners and directors, says of where they got the inspiration for the new name.

“We wanted to maintain the abbreviation but also look at it in a way that’s appealing. We came with the name because at that time, we had only one uniform that was orange in colour; on the court, we had tall players and always assured of the blocks.
“So, we combined the two to come up with Orange Block Busters.”

Turnaround

The team, just like any other at infancy, faced financial challenges and only those players who could raise the money were carried along for tournaments.

The team continued that way until 2004 when the Uganda Volleyball Federation (UVF) handed them the rights to host the National Volleyball Championships at the Kings of Kings Secondary School in Iganga.

“That tournament was a turning point because it grew our interests to think bigger and decided to go a notch higher. We started engaging in the different opens more regularly,” he continues.

After a lot of preparations and soul-searching, OBB decided to venture into the national leagues over a decade after. They joined UVF’s third division (Serie C) in 2016, a year after Kiggundu had returned from studies and work abroad.

Big Vision

Kiggundu decided to take the leadership mantle and stood for the club presidency in 2017.
“I started financing the club as the president in 2017. We were pushing but lacked proper management, organisation and vision. The team could train in Iganga and play in Kampala and I also operated as the head coach,” he says.

Kiggundu did not fare badly as coach taking the team to playoffs finals where they emerged runners-up to Prison’s side Ark Volleyball Club at Lugogo, earning promotion to the Serie B.

“When we reached Serie B, I told managers in a meeting that once we qualify to Serie A, I would go for the trophy at the first time of asking... of course, they laughed at me because I was a novice,” he reminisces.

In January 2020, the team recruited some new faces to push their objectives ahead of the season. They included setter John Bosco Opendi, Bernard Tugume and Nathan Okare but the season did not take place after the Covid-19 imposed lockdown.

If you can dream it, you can do it. Kiggundu got new responsibilities, this time on the national front, when he was elected UVF’s first vice president in January 2021.

His new role meant that he stepped down as club president, remaining as a director and handing the presidency to Muhammed Bagalaliwo.

Yakan having the moment of his life as a coach. PHOTO/ISMAIL KEZAALA

Kiggundu’s burning desire to see OBB win the league pushed him and his co-directors to look out for a top coach.

“When we brought in good players like Rajab Kimera and Ivan Ongom, we now wanted a coach who could meet our objectives both on and off the court,” Kiggundu says.

Lawrence Yakan and Tonny Lakony were the two names fronted and ticked all the boxes but the former easily went through because the Lakony was already attached to KCB Nkumba Ladies.

League proper

The team, under the tutelage of Yakan, signed some players to boost the squad. Among them were current skipper Kimera (Ndejje University), Cosmas Elaija (Wazeyi, Fort Portal), Hussein Adome (Nkumba), John Okurut (UCU) and Jimmy Kakuru (Mbarara University).

Yakan, a travelled and giant figure in the sport, did not mind that his team was new in the league. He prepared them well enough to rub shoulders with the big boys.

“Some of the teams relied on specific players to move, so I knew that it could be easy to trade along with them as long as I prepared my side well,” Yakan says.

“I did not just train them what to do, but I also showed them practically how it’s done – I would coach as well as play.”

OBB started well going up to the last four of the National Club Championships in Kabale in October 2021 but lost dramatically after pulling out in their semi-final clash against Sport-S when trailing 2-1. They went on to fall 3-1 to miss out on a place in the finals.

Nevertheless, a top four finish was enough to send a strong message of intent ahead of the league.
They announced their arrival in style, beating five-time champions and oldest club in the country, KAVC, in straight sets despite trailing in the first two sets.

Their loss in straight sets to Sport-S revealed the realities of top flight volleyball but when they came from behind to defeat champions Nemostars 3-1, the league had to take note.

They went on to win five more to end the first round with an 8-1 record, same as Nemostars and Sport-S on 24 points but inferior because they lost more sets.

Nemostars would avenge their first round loss on the Iganga side in the second round. OBB then defeated Sport-S and carried momentum into the playoffs, maming light work of their seasoned opponents straight games to set up a final against holders Nemostars.

The defending champions had to summon their experience in the fourth and decisive sets to win the thriller 3-2.

However, Nemostars’ four-year dominance was crushed after Yakan’s side turne up in their bright orange colours to dazzle in the remaining two games and claim the league title at the first time of asking.

“This is history. For me, this is my first time to win the league as a coach. When I saw the players at the start of the season, I saw potential. I just realised that I had to give them more time,” Yakan said.

Beyond home...Continental, dominance

For Kiggundu, the dream is not yet complete until he builds a home for the club and leaves a mark on the continent.

He believes that the side will be able to compete in Africa soon. He is challenging himself and his business partners to ensure their arena in Iganga is complete in time for the coming season as he looks to build a strong base for OBB’s long-term plans.

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