Uganda’s first dedicated pool arena opens in Mukono

Gumikiriza has gone from player to proprieter. PHOTO/GEORGE KATONGOLE 

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In addition, Gumikiriza is looking to expand in a number of ways. One project Gumikiriza is working on is creating a pool academy.

Black Sheep is known to many professional pool players and legends across the country, but many may not know it is a legendary name for Kabale-born Alfred Gumikiriza.

Since retiring from the national team, the Pool Cranes in January last year, the two-time national champion (2012 and 2015) has established what is billed as "the only dedicated pool venue in Uganda and the most probably the biggest!"

Nicknamed Black Sheep, after a 1998 Chinese martial arts movie, The Black Sheep Affair, Gumikiriza is adored for his charisma and orgasmic finishing.

Gumikiriza, a former footballer, got his start in the game of pool from a young age while still at Bishop Sisto Mazzoldi in Lweza. He played in bars around Kajjansi with famous VJ Jingo (real name Timothy Tabula Kizito Ssalongo) his manager until he met Bob Menani at California Club in 2002. He has been playing competitive pool for more than 20 years now.

"I never missed a day playing pool, even when I was sick, in the first years," Gumikiriza said of his passion for pool.

When he had collected some money, he opened OJ's bar in Seguku. It collapsed when he was undergoing cancer treatment in 2020. When he shifted to Mukono, he established the Black Sheep Arena behind City Shoppers supermarket but soon left after some misunderstandings with his landlord.

At the new location near Kame market, he presented a business model to a partner and they ended up establishing a pool hall.

Pool capital

Among the fans that have thronged the venue for a dry run ahead of the official opening this weekend, Gumikiriza wants to lay claim to the title of the arena as the "pool capital of the city" with the carefully manicured complex which honours former national pool champions with a hall of fame.

The arena boasts of five top end tables, a VIP sitting area, top notch music and five television sets that relay live sports events and in-house competitions.

Gumikiriza, the longest-serving national team captain declared they are ready to host even international competitions.

“These are the best quality tables that all the professionals prefer to play on,” Gumikiriza said.

The atmosphere of Black Sheep Pool Arena makes it a perfect spot for everyone who loves pool – whether that is a professional player, or someone who wants to become better at pool and play a couple games in their free time.

A separate parking space is also reserved to accommodate vehicles and motorcycles in case the inside parking is filled up.

“We offer a clean and non-smoking atmosphere for people to meet other pool enthusiasts who want to have fun, but are serious about improving their pool game,” he said. “We are not a bar driven by the profits of alcohol sales but for the good of pool.”

Besides the everyday pool lover playing at Black Sheep Pool Arena, it is a familiar location for many famous pool players. Pool Cranes captain Habib Ssebuguzi frequents the venue for training games.

When the venue opens officially, tournaments will be live streamed, and then archived on the arena’s Facebook page so that people can enjoy them from the comfort of their own homes whenever they choose.

Later, each table in the pool hall will have a camera for live recording games.

In addition, Gumikiriza is looking to expand in a number of ways. One project Gumikiriza is working on is creating a pool academy.

"Mukono will not only be known for being the new town for pool but also the pool capital with this new arena. My goal is to promote, provide and create outstanding pool players, but we cannot create champions without first-class facilities," Gumikiriza said.

The facility was acquired in December on a five-year lease to revitalise pool and harness the potential of pool.

"It will be a space where home-grown athletes can train and improve their skills," he said.

A restaurant will serve food to customers to enjoy while playing or watching tournaments.

Gumikiriza said that creating “pool hubs” in major towns that are relevant to the sport would allow for major tournaments to be hosted and save resources for setting up arenas for tournaments.

Gumikiriza vs Sejjemba intrigue

Gumikiriza will play in front of his home fans against Ibrahim Sejjemba, a player he has not beaten since surviving a cancer scare in 2020.

Sejjemba, the reigning Pool King, has gone on to play semi pro in Zambia and the curtain raiser game will obviously be mouth-watering featuring two players of different generations but entertaining approaches.

Gumikiriza has made a name as a coach player at Akaanya, finishing among the top five top scorers despite missing the opening league encounters but Sejjemba has been a rock in Mbale's league triumph.

Such is the gulf that Sejjemba offered Gumikiriza a no-black challenge in 2021 and came on top. This weekend, there will be something to savour among the fans and to prove between the players.

As a tribute to the champions, 32 men will battle for a Shs700,000 cash prize while 16 women will play for Shs300,000 cash prize on Saturday.

All the top players including Caesar Chandiga, Joseph Kasozi, Mukono’s top seed Willy Yiga, seed one Ibrahim Kayanja, Ssebuguzi and Sejjemba will take part.

The women’s battle will be between Sheila Ankah, Victoria Namuyanja, Ritah Nimusiima as well as sisters Rashida Mutesi and Rukia Nayiga.


Name: Alfred Gumikiriza

Nickname: Black Sheep

Proprietor: Black Sheep Pool Arena

Date of birth: May 25, 1986

Parents: Late Vincent Bizeeze and Eudia Nyinobusingye

Birthplace: Seguku-Lubowa

Former clubs: California (2002-03), DV8 (2004-05), California (2006-07), Samona (2008-11), Mambule (2012), Samona (2013-15), Hot Pool (2016-17), Elite Klein (2018), Ntinda Giants (2019 –2021) and Akaanya (2022 to-date).

National team honours: 2015 silver medal in Lesotho, 2016 – team gold at Lugogo, 2017 – bronze medallist in Zimbabwe and 2019 – silver medal in South Africa.