Matches that defined Kawempe’s triumphant season

Fans carry Allen Nassazi shoulder high after beating Kampala Queens. PHOTO/JOHN BATANUDDE 

What you need to know:

Three games into the season, Kawempe had laboured to a 3-2 away win at Rines and a 1-0 win over Uganda Christian University (UCU) at home to start the season but had also raised concerns of whether they really meant to challenge after a 0-0 draw with She Maroons.

Kawempe Muslim scored 40 points in 18 matches to win the 2023/24 Fufa Women Super League (FWSL) title.

The record champions were no surprise winners this season. They did not lose a game until match day 13 but make no mistake, the signs of their pending dominance were there from the 2022/23 season, where they finished the second round unbeaten with performances that propelled Shakirah Nyinagahirwa to the top scorer and most valuable player (MVP) award.

Unfortunately, she got injured in August dampening the mood ahead of the new season but Kawempe were already set for a title challenging season

January 3: Kampala Queens 0-2 Kawempe

Three games into the season, Kawempe had laboured to a 3-2 away win at Rines and a 1-0 win over Uganda Christian University (UCU) at home to start the season but had also raised concerns of whether they really meant to challenge after a 0-0 draw with She Maroons.

On the other hand, Kampala Queens (KQ) had beaten Uganda Martyrs High School (UMHS), UCU and Rines and also drew 2-2 with Makerere University.

There was a big buzz about the match too as KQ had just appointed Charles Ayiekoh as coach. Despite being a ‘Johnny come lately in women’s football’, he came with a huge reputation having led She Corporate to the finals of the Caf Women’s Champions League Zonal qualifiers and subsequently earning a job at Tanzanian side Simba Queens that he led to the semis of the continental showpiece at the end of the 2021/22 season.

Kampala Queens' Zaina Namuleme protects the ball from Kawempe Muslim's Krusum Namutebi. 

He was the man to blow away Kawempe coach Ayub Khalifah, whose wings many at Fufa wanted clipped. Khalifah had been dismissed as national team interim coach while in camp for an Olympic qualifier against Cameroon and replaced by Ayiekoh in late September after an unsuccessful attempt to qualify for the Africa Cup at the hands of Algeria.

Getting beaten by Ayiekoh would justify Fufa’s rash decision. Instead, Kawempe blew away KQ – not with goals but with a passing and skills carousel that did not only restore Khalifah’s status but confirmed Kawempe’s ambitions for the season.

January 14: Asubo Ladies 0-0 Kawempe

Derby day always brings hope for the antagonists. This Kawempe division derby has seen it all; missed penalties, refereeing controversies. Asubo were also the first side to inflict a home loss on Kawempe in the formative years of the league.

They are not only the antithesis for everything Kawempe stands for. Long balls, small pitches and constant changes in the dugout define Asubo but Kawempe were also coming into this game with centre back Shakirah Nankwanga suspended, left back Jolly Kobusinge writing exams at university and right back Samalie Nakacwa injured from the previous game where they had drawn 2-2 with Makerere University after leading 2-0.

At this point, the favouritism towards KQ was also beginning to show as their home match with She Maroons had been pushed from 10am like the rest to 4pm. These machinations also make Kawempe’s triumph a win against the system, which we reported in February that it appeared to reschedule games so KQ could only play after Kawempe.

Kawempe could have lost as they generated zilch against Asubo but managed to hold out for a goalless draw. Many rivals thought it was two points lost but under the circumstances, Kawempe insisted it was a point earned.

January 17, February 17: Kawempe 3-0 UMHS, UMHS 0-1 Kawempe

The Uganda Martyrs High School (UMHS) Lubaga double header!

Kawempe’s 3-0 win over UMHS at home was largely expected as the latter had won just once in five games. But these are sides that enjoy a deep-rooted rivalry in schools’ football and the loss on the final day of the first round forced UMHS to part ways with their coach Issa Ssempijja and return to Edward Ssozi from the previous campaign.

On February 17, the sides met again to start off the second round. UMHS were easily the better team on the day but lost 1-0. That was the last time UMHS lost a game of football in the league this season.

April 6: Makerere 1-1 Kawempe

Ahead of this match, Kawempe had a chance of opening a six point lead at the top of the FWSL with 12 matches played but were instead held to a 1-all draw.

No one beats Makerere when it rains. Tactically, you would say, that is because the ball has to be played off the wet floor and that plays into their long ball strategy so for Kawempe, it was another point earned and not two lost.

KQ had a whole 24 hours to get their motivation right but drew 0-0; the second of four draws they would have in April. Those eight points dropped for KQ allowed Kawempe stay top even when they lost two games to Lady Doves and Wakiso Hill.

May 26: Kawempe 2-0 Kampala Queens

The pressure was on. KQ had won the last three matches scoring thrice in each. A team in proper form that needed to win to defend their title.

Kawempe Muslim players celebrate after winning the 2023-24 Fufa Women's Super League. 

Kawempe, however, are used to triumphing in decisive situations but they had never won the league at home; the last four had come when the league had playoff matches at neutral grounds.

To further build the pressure, coach Khalifah had not been around in the last week. He had taken the school’s U-15 side to Zanzibar for the Africa Schools Championships, where his girls won bronze and $150,000 (about Shs570m).

But he had sacrificed taking charge of the bronze medal match that was paying to that magnitude to return home on Friday, May 24, for the final showdown with KQ. That is how much the FWSL title meant to him.

It meant as much to everyone connected to the club and school; past title winning captains Sandra Nabweteme and Mariam Nakabugo made their presence known cheering on the team. Former goalkeeper and now national team captain Ruth Aturo even carried the trophy to the awarding area while Hasifah Nassuna, who also captained Kawempe to the title in 2016/17, was at a crossroads as she is officially attached to KQ but is reportedly unhappy and has not played for them in months.

Eventually, the Kawempe faithful were not disappointed as they recovered from a topsy-turvy first half to win 2-0.