Odongo proud of PAU Grand Open conquest

Reaped big. Mutesi (left) and Odongo all smiles. PHOTO | GEORGE KATONGOLE

Kenneth Odongo spoke of his pride at winning the PAU Grand Open over the weekend while Rashida Mutesi defeated her elder sister Rukia Nayiga to defend her women’s title.

Odongo beat Ibrahim Kayanja 7-5 in the race to seven final at Winner’s Bar in Seeta, Mukono, to win his first national title in his 10-year career.

Odongo was the winner of the recently non-sanctioned Gulu Open but was yet to translate his home area dominance onto national accolades. 

Yet during the two-day championship in Seeta, he played like a veteran to win what is now the most lucrative individual tournament on the calendar.

“I’m really pleased with the win. My fans must now be happy. I am looking forward to a positive future,” he said.

Odongo’s fans from Gulu created a carnival atmosphere as they danced and sang for the champions. The celebrations went deeper into the night.

Odongo, 22, who dropped out of school after sitting his Senior Six exam in 2019, is looking to pool for his future. He received a cash prize of Shs2m for the weekend job, his biggest single collection so far.

“I now realise that I can make something out of playing pool. Hopefully, it can change my life,” said Odongo.

One way to stamp his mark is to play for the national team. He missed the All Africa Blackball Championships in Zambia, in March after failing to make the cut during the national team trials.

“It’s my time. I’m confident of my abilities and I’m ready to fight for my place,” Odongo, a pool attendant in Gulu, said.

Although the tournament sprung up a couple of surprises with Mukono’s unseeded William Yiga, who finished in fourth, the biggest shock, Odongo admits the championship was his to lose pointing out Ronald Akampulira, whom he beat on a decider 6-5 in the semis, as the toughest opponent he faced.

TV robs fans of beauty

Live television had its gains and glooms. There were several games lost on time limits, leaving losers livid while the slow players were at a disadvantage as the minimum 30 seconds to take a shot left them playing poor pool.

One of the major culprits was former national captain Alfred Gumikiriza, who lost to Pecos Rwigyema 3-2 in the first round.

Top seed Mansoor Bwanika, who lost in Zambia to a similar rule, said although he was catching up, it kills talent.

“Time limits force you to play hastily without proper planning. I’m trying to catch up because this is the third round this year losing in a similar manner,” said Bwanika, who beat Yiga 5-1 in a lopsided classification game.

PAU Grand Open

FINAL RESULTs – MEN

Kenneth Odongo 7-5 Ibra Kayanja

THIrd Place playoff

M. Bwanika 5-0 Willy Yiga

WOMEN

Rashida Mutesi 6-1 Rukia Nayiga

THIrd Place playoff

Sheila Ankah 4-2 Rashida Nansasi

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