Hockey in full revival

In control. Kavuma attempts to thwart the advances of Baguma (left) during a NHL game last season. PHOTO/Ismail Kezaala

What you need to know:

  • Wananchi Ladies, inspired by their captain Doreen Asiimwe, were more than imposing in their category as they ended the league unbeaten in eight games – scoring 45 goals and conceding just once to win their sixth NHL title.
  • Riding on this momentum, Uganda Hockey Association (UHA) convinced the National Council of Sports (NCS) that the best way to motivate the players was to run the National Hockey League (NHL) under strict Covid-19 prevention guidelines.

Uganda’s 2021 hockey season threatened to be as dull as the 2020 before it, which was wiped out by Covid-19 lockdowns, when the north and east Africa group Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers were belatedly cancelled.
The qualifiers were due March 1-8 in Nairobi, Kenya but only the hosts and Uganda confirmed participation to Africa Hockey Federation (AfHF) by start of February. Tanzania, Seychelles, Sudan, Burundi and Egypt (women) did not commit to attend.

AfHF then decided to cancel the tournament and – on a positive note - automatically send the male and female sides of the two neighbouring east African countries to the Africa Cup due January 2022 in Ghana.
As a consolation AfHF and world body FIH agreed to both nations playing a three-games series in which Kenya would work on improving on their ranking while Uganda would return to the table for the first time since 2007.

The men’s team, which had last competed at the Africa Cup in 2007 in Nairobi, took the assignment seriously drawing in the opener and beating Kenya twice in the other two games to get on the rankings table at position 91.
The women lost with a combined score of 22-0 in three games but also got on the table at position 76.
Both sides are ranked bottom but realized they needed to start somewhere to move up the table and to earn a seeding for the continental showpiece in Accra.

Wananchi, Weatherhead dominate
Riding on this momentum, Uganda Hockey Association (UHA) convinced the National Council of Sports (NCS) that the best way to motivate the players was to run the National Hockey League (NHL) under strict Covid-19 prevention guidelines.
But that was after Phillip Wafula and Stanley Tamale riding on their presence and organisational roles at the Series to be voted UHA president and general secretary, respectively.

Wananchi Ladies, inspired by their captain Doreen Asiimwe, were more than imposing in their category as they ended the league unbeaten in eight games – scoring 45 goals and conceding just once to win their sixth NHL title.
For good measure, they went on to complete a treble by winning the Independence Cup and inaugural Uganda Cup, beating Deliverance Church of Uganda (DCU) in both finals.
For the men, Weatherhead were also repaid for their hard work with the NHL and Uganda Cup double. They did it with 37 points from 14 games scoring 115 goals and conceding just 15.

Their performance was largely inspired by Timothy Ntumba’s goals, Ashiraf Tumwesigye’s playmaking abilities and later the ability of Solomon Mutalya to step up when his aforementioned colleagues left Uganda for the paid ranks in Italy.
Ntumba and Tumwesigye joined Wananchi trio Collines Batusa, Emmanuel Baguma and Innocent Mbabali on what promises to be a growing list of Ugandans featuring in Italy.

Africa Cup preps
Fortunately, all the first four will be available to represent Uganda at the Africa Cup next month.
Uganda’s men have been drawn in the group of death with hosts Ghana, Nigeria, and powerhouse Egypt, while the women drew favourites South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe in a group were each country will be licking their lips over the possibility of making the semis.
Both Uganda’s men and women’s teams have been training for the continental tournament since November 8 and have had additional help from South African coach Shaun Laubscher plust Italian coach Francesco Richichi.

FIH bi-nation test series
MEN
Match 1:     Kenya     1 - 1     Uganda
Match 2:     Kenya     0- 1     Uganda
Match 3:     Kenya     0-2     Uganda
*Uganda ranked 91st in the world after Series
WOMEN
Match 1:     Kenya     11-0     Uganda
Match 2:     Kenya     6-0     Uganda
Match 3:     Kenya     5-0     Uganda
Uganda ranked 76th in the world after Series


Hockey league final table standings

WOMEN’S TABLE
Team     P    W    D    L    F    A     Pts
Wananchi     8     8     0     0 45  1    24
DCU     8     3     2     2     14  10  14
KHC Swans     8     3     1     4      5   18 10
W’therhead     8     2     0     6     11     17   6
Rhinos     8     1     1     6     7     35 4


MEN
TEAM     P     W     D     L     F     A     Pts

W’therhead     14     12     1     1   115     15       37
Wananchi     14     11     2     1   107 22   35
Stallions     14     8     1     5  59     26      25
Rockets     14     7     0     7     29     45    21
City Lions     14     6     1     7     36    55       19
Stingers     14     4     1     9     35    78       13
Originals     14     2     2     10     17    79        8
Historicals     14     0     4     10     18    92        4


Hockey cup finals

INDEPENDENCE CUP
Women:     DCU     0-2     Wananchi
Men:     Wananchi     1 -0     Rockets
Uganda Cup Finals
Men:    W’therhead 2-2 Wananchi
Weatherhead won 4-2 on penalties
Women:    Wananchi     2-1     DCU

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