Uganda Cup: Kitara feted

Kitara midfielder Solomon Okwalinga (2ndL) summersaults after scoring the winning goal. PHOTO/EDDIE CHICCO 

What you need to know:

Three years ago, the club finished bottom of the StarTimes Uganda Premier League and were relegated to the BetPawa Fufa Big League. Today, they are destined for the Caf Confederation Cup, Africa's second tier competition. 

It was, quite simply, the crowning moment Brian Ssenyondo's Kitara deserved after a season in which they have punched above their weight. 

Three years ago, the club finished bottom of the StarTimes Uganda Premier League and were relegated to the BetPawa Fufa Big League. Today, they are destined for the Caf Confederation Cup, Africa's second tier competition. 

The wild fans' celebrations at Wankulukuku on Saturday after Kitara edged Nec 1-0 in the Stanbic Uganda Cup final was by all accounts understandable. 

Kitara team celebrate with the Stanbic Uganda Cup. PHOTO/EDDIE CHICCO 

In a final showdown where both teams were underdogs, Kitara dug in their heels to survive a wave of attacks from Nec before they pounced to get the winning goal from substitute Solomon Okwalinga in the 75th minute. 

Okwalinga’s acrobatic goal, caught both Nec defender Ibrahim Kiyemba and goalkeeper Benjamin Ochan unawares nevermind coming against the run of play. 

The Royals had finished fourth in the StarTimes Uganda Premier League and played like a side desperate to take home a trophy. 

Former striker Umar Senoga, a winner of the Stanbic Uganda Cup with Express in 1991, delivered the trophy. PHOTO/JOHN BATANUDDE 

Nec coach Hussein Mbalangu will rue missed scoring chances by Rashid Okocha when set through by Allan Mugalu and also when forward Cromwell Rwothomio also came close, heading just over the bar. 

Indeed, Nec missed suspended roving wingback Joseph Dhata if they were ever to open up Kitara's defence-first-attack-latter approach. 

South Sudanese Dhata was the tournament top scorer and usually lifts the scoring burden and attention off Rwothomio who was kept in check by Kitara center backs Benjamin Nyakoojo and Max Owachigiu. 

Nec midfielder Allan Mugalu reacts following a foul from a Kitara defender. PHOTO/EDDIE CHICCO 

"After the good performance in the league, we deserved to win the Uganda Cup at all costs. I thank my boys for the hard work and fight and they have made me a proud man," Ssenyondo said. 

Tough journey

The maiden Uganda Cup trophy didn't come on a silver platter for Kitara who have also earned the ticket to the Caf Confederation Cup. 

After ejecting Nebbi Central 2-1 at the round of 64, they invoked Kabalega fighting spirit to eliminate Gaddafi (2-0) and SC Villa (2-0) at the round of 32 and 16, respectively.

Best Performers L-R:  MVP and best goalkeeper Jamil Kiyimba (Kitara), top scorer Joseph Data, best defender Gideon Odong and best midfielder Allan Mugalu. PHOTO/JOHN BATANUDDE 

Ousting holders Vipers in the quarterfinals 5-4 via spot kicks after a 2-all draw must have emboldened their quest and made the date with Pajule Lions in the semis more of a stroll in the park. 

"I'm happy to go in the history books as one of the players to ever win four Uganda Cup trophies. 

"I must commend my team mates for putting up a commendable fight," departing forward Paul Mucureezi, who also won two Uganda Cup trophies at KCCA and one at Vipers, revealed. 

Ready for continental duty

As the new winners were fully immersed in the historic moment, Kitara president Deo Kasozi seized the moment to calm down fears that they have the financial capacity to engage on the continent. 

Kitara players celebrate with fans shortly after winning the Stanbic Uganda Cup. PHOTO/EDDIE CHICCO 

"Fundraising for the continental journey starts right away next week. We need about Shs300m as we target making it to the group stages," he pledged. 

The celebration of the animated crowds in Kampala, Masindi and Hoima said enough about their renewed belief in Kitara as an emerging giant. 

Their team, that only screwed league title ambitions on the second last match against Soltilo Bright Stars, has defied all expectations and prevailed in the knockout tourney to amplify last year’s Fufa Big League conquest.

Kitara players carry their coach Brian Ssenyondo after defeating Nec to lift the Stanbic Uganda Cup. PHOTO/JOHN BATANUDDE 

Now entrenched in the annals of history after sealing the cup, Kitara and Ssenyondo have a daunting duty of proving that this was not a fluke come next season. 

Stanbic Uganda Cup 

Final - result 

Nec 0-1 Kitara

Prize money

Winners - Shs50m
Runners-up - Shs25m
 Semifinalists - Shs12m
Quarterfinalists - Shs6m
 Round of 16 - Shs3m 
Round of 32 - Sh2m

Individual Awards
Most Valuable Player – Jamil Kiyimba (Kitara)
Top scorer – Joseph Dhata (Nec)
Best goalkeeper – Jamil Kiyimba (Kitara)
Best defender – Gideon Odong (Nec)
Best midfielder – Allan Mugalu (Nec)

Past winners Since 2000
2000: SC Villa
2001: Express
2002: SC Villa
2003: Express
2004: KCCA 
2005: URA
2006:  Express
2006/07: Express
2007/08: Victors
2008/09: SC Villa
2009/10: Victors
2010/11: Simba
2011/12: URA
2012/13: SCVU
2013/14: URA 
2014/15: SC Villa
2015/16: Vipers
2017: KCCA 
2018: KCCA 
2019: Proline
2019/20: cancelled
2020/21: Vipers
2021/22: Bul
2022/23: Vipers
2023/24: Kitara

Road to victory

Round of 64: Nebbi Central 1-2 Kitara

Round of 32: Kitara 2-0 Gaddafi

Round of 16; Kitara 2-0 SC Villa

Quarterfinal: Kitara 2 (5) - 2 (4) Vipers

Semifinal: Kitara 4-1 Pajule (on agg)