Schools football: How Kawempe won nationals

Joy. Kawempe's captain Sharifah Nakimera hoists the trophy after they won the girls' football competition at the Fresh Dairy Games last Friday at Standard High School Zzana, Ndejje Campus. PHOTO/MAKHTUM MUZIRANSA

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The record champions needed to negotiate two penalty shootouts in the final three decisive games, played at Standard High School Zzana – Ndejje Campus last week, to win an eighth nationals’ title.

Kawempe Muslim SS coach Moses Nkata summed up quite well what it took them to win the girls’ football competition of the 2024 Fresh Dairy Games organised by Uganda Secondary Schools Sports Association (USSSA).

The record champions needed to negotiate two penalty shootouts in the final three decisive games, played at Standard High School Zzana – Ndejje Campus last week, to win an eighth nationals’ title.

The matches were played off calendar because they had been postponed in early May to allow the U-17 women’s national team, Teen Cranes, prepare for their World Cup qualifiers at the time.

“No one cares about the quality of the team that Kawempe shows up with,” Nkata said in the aftermath of their 5-4 penalties win over Rines SS after a goalless 70 minutes in the finals.

“But we are expected to win every competition we go for and despite our opponents showing up strong, I am happy that the girls showed resilience and character to win the competition.”

Kawempe were uncharacteristically not considered favourites for any of the matches they played from the round of last 16. Their attack has been hugely dependent on Agnes Nabukenya but the more she has played for her school, club and country, the more she has looked like she needs a rest.

Defensive organisation

In the end, Kawempe’s attack was not as daunting as it has been in the past or say St. Noa’s that had the pace of top scorer with 23 goals Sylvia Kabene, Kamiyati Naigaga and Sumaiya Nalumu or Amus College’s that had the fox in the box in Shayleen Opasi. In fact none of the teams possessed a forward that combined goals, trickery and pace like Rines and tournament most valuable player Priscah Ayerango.

What Kawempe relied on was their defensive organization. Sharifah Nakimera marshaled the back with the experience beyond her years and proved that someone can recover from an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury – one she suffered in 2021 – to continue with their sports career.

In front of her was the imposing Krusum Namutebi, who let all the experience she has gained with the U-18 and U-20 national teams shine through. And in goal, goalkeeper Haira Nabbosa showed great presence in her box and saved two penalties in the final.

“When we cannot score much, we have to ensure that we do not let in any thing. We now need to build on this ability to close out opponents as we prepare for the East Africa Games,” Nakimera said.

The final played on Friday afternoon ended in a goalless draw after regulation time. But bar a few flashes of brilliance from Rines' forward and eventual most valuable player (MVP) of the tournament Priscah Ayerango, Kawempe were dominant and tested Rines keeper Bridget Yuko Nansamba more.

Penalty shootout

Rines led by captain Patricia Nakato and goalkeeper Bridget Yuko Nansamba defended resolutely too, first to eliminate Amus College in the semis with a 2-0 win.

In the final’s shootouts, Agnes Nabukenya, Hadijah Babirye, Sumaya Nabuto and Halimah Kampi converted Kawempe's first four kicks.

Jovia Nakirya missed Rines' fourth after Nakato, Ayerango and Monica Bulya had converted the first three.

Halftime substitute Cynthia Kirenga was tasked with winning it for Kawempe but her effort was saved by Nansamba allowing Immaculate Odaru to level the shootouts at 4-4.

It was a bit of justice that Kawempe's defensive linchpins were allowed to win it for them in sudden death. Namutebi converted to make it 5-4 for Kawempe and Nabbosa made a commanding save to stop Halima Mupyanga's effort.

Fresh Dairy Games

Girls' football 

Final: Kawempe Muslim 0(5)-0(4) Rines SS

3rd place: Amus College 2-0 St. Noa

5th place: Uganda Martyrs Lubaga 3-0 Sheema Girls

7th place: Boni Consilii 4-0 Sacred Hearts Gulu

MVP: Priscah Ayerango (Rines)

Best goalkeeper: Bridget Yuko Nansamba (Rines)

Top scorer: Sylvia Kabene (St. Noa) – 23 goals