Pool King/Queen qualifiers an eye opener

Gideon Bwanika will be favourite as the Pool King and Queen qualifiers conclude at his home venue. PHOTO/GEORGE KATONGOLE 

What you need to know:

The qualifiers saw both known strong players and exciting newcomers advance. 

The Pool King/Queen qualifiers, a new nationwide event this year, surprised many.  Held since 2009, first as the Pool Queen before the men’s version of the Pool King was introduced in 2021, this year’s decision to hold qualifiers has been heartwarming.

The qualifiers saw both known strong players and exciting newcomers advance. Popular names like Ibrahim "Musiraamu" Kayanja and rising stars like Bob Kateregga competed alongside qualifiers from all regions.

The tournament helped unearth hidden talent with Mukono’s women qualifiers; Lucky Namugenyi and Serena Ogumushabe, for instance, all appearing at the national final for the first time.

With qualifiers done, the stage is set for the grand finale in Jinja this weekend on June 21-22.

Significant growth

13 venues across the country hosted the two-day qualifying events attracting 654 players, 133 of whom were women.

Donald Ampumuza, the Tournament Secretary of the Pool Association of Uganda said this was a milestone in professionalising pool in Uganda.

"When we decided to hold qualifiers, it was an unpopular decision," Ampumuza said on Saturday after the conclusion of the qualifiers at Upper Volta in Kasubi."But when you look at the numbers, even though we operated below the expected capacity, there's great potential."

Citing the previous Grand Open championship where 64 men and 32 women took part in the final tournament held L'Amour Lounge in Kansanga, Ampumuza said qualifiers have allowed them to attract big numbers of participants.

"This has allowed us to be able to document our presence across the country," Ampumuza said.

Normally, Kampala-based women take part in the national events but this year Kitgum took the lead with a record 34 women in the qualifiers. Yet even at the Were Beri Arena in Kireka, which was given three qualifying slots, only 11 women took part. Masaka, one of the most popular areas for pool, had just six women compete for the available six slots. Mityana, a venue so close to the city had only 13 men taking part in their qualifiers.

"The qualifiers lay bare a significant gender gap, highlighting the need for increased inclusivity. We must work towards initiatives that encourage more women to participate in the sport," said Ampumuza.

To enable more participation, the registration fees for women were Shs10,000 while men contributed Shs20,000.

Pool Queen/King qualifiers 

Venue                  Men      Women

Mbarara               32           6

Fort Portal           29           8

Mityana               13           8

Gulu                      53           8

Jinja                       63           12

Mukono               32           10

Kireka                   64           11

Masaka                32           6

Entebbe               32           16

Kitgum                  64           24

Mbale                   48           8

Kasese                  30           8

Upper Volta       29           8