2019 has been quite an outstanding year for Uganda in sports with many achievements to brag about.
On home soil and internationally, Ugandan sportsmen and women excelled more than their countrymen expected them sometimes.
Uganda Cranes at AFCON
The performance of the national team Uganda Cranes was at the centre stage of attention in the football mad nation.
Despite not coming home with the trophy, the Uganda Cranes did the country proud at the Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt.
Uganda made it out of a tough group only to be ejected by eventual runners up Senegal in the last 16, thanks to a sole strike from one of the world’s best players Sadio Mane.
The dubious highlight of the tournament for uganda though was the player strike before that last 16 game that many felt was partly the reason the lads failed to negotiate past the Senegalese.
But regardless, the boys gave us some of our best memories.
Remember Patrick Kaddu’s header against D.R Congo, that opened Uganda’s account and his monkey celebration? Who can forget that magical save from the captain, Mr. Safe hands Dennis Onyango against Zimbabwe?
The Kigali Thriller
Then came the CECAFA Kagame cup. Startimes Uganda premier league defending champions KCCA FC were crowned champions for their first time since 1978 after beating Tanzanian giants Azam FC 1-0 in the final played on 21st July 2019 at Kigali stadium in Rwanda.
Kiiza Mustafa’s lone goal in the 63rd minute is all the yellow lads needed to clinch the title that had eluded them for decades. And they did so unbeaten, returning home 30,000 US dollars richer.
New year, New Coach
The Uganda Cranes team of home based players also did not disappoint. For the fifth consecutive time, Uganda qualified for the Total Africa Nations Championship (CHAN) after defeating Burundi 3-0 on the 9th of October at the Startimes stadium in Lugogo.
Fahad Bayo, Viane Sekajugo and Allan Okello were on the score sheet for the Cranes in their win under the guidance of a Ugandan coach, Abdallah Mubiru.
Having lost head coach Sebastien Desabre to Egyptian money bags Pyramids FC, Irishman Johnathan McKinstry took over the biggest coaching job in Ugandan football.
At just 34, the former Amavubi stars boss became the youngest foreigner to coach the national team, but as they say, age is just a number.
McKinstry needed only one major tournament to prove himself.
The tactician guided Uganda to her 15th CECAFA senior challenge title on home soil, doing so unbeaten.
The 3-0 victory against Eritrea in the final played at the Startimes stadium in Lugogo on the 19th of December, also handed him his first trophy as a national team coach.
Women’s Football comes of age
2019 also saw tremendous success for women’s football. Playing on invitation, Uganda clinched the inaugural COSAFA Women’s Under-17 Championship in Mauritius beating continental giants South Africa 2-1 in the final played in Port Louis on the 29th of September.
Shortly after, Ayub Khalifa’s girls were at it again, winning he inaugural CECAFA under 17 girls’ championship hosted at the FUFA technical centre in Njeru.
Mind you, the under 17 girls’ team had only been assembled earlier this year.
In both victories, one name stood tallest, Juliet Nalukenge. The Kawempe Muslim striker made an announcement that she was the best female footballer in the country and the jury endorsed as she was rewarded with the highly coveted Subaru at the annual FUFA awards earlier this month, as the female MVP in the country.
Gold medals pour in
In athletics, Joshua Cheptegei won the senior men’s race at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Arhus Denmark in March, and the 10,000 metres gold at the World Championships in Qatari capital Doha were collected by another Ugandan Halima Nakayi. She became the first Ugandan to win an 800m gold medal at the World Championships.
Looking forward to 2020
Focus will now turn to 2020, with the Tokyo Olympics around the corner, but before that, the Startimes Uganda premier league second round that kicks off on 7th January.
Will it still be a two horse race between leaders Vipers and holders KCCA FC? or will Bul FC gate-crash their party? Can the rejuvenated Sports club Villa pull what would be the shock of the decade and claim their 17th league crown, or will Proline FC fight and stay afloat in the top flight?
In Livingstone Mbabazi, have the Purple Sharks found the man to help them swim through the second round unscathed?!
How long can Stephen Mukwala keep his place as the league top scorer given Fahad Bayo’s form?
Ladies and gentlemen, brace yourselves for an action packed 2020!
Edited by David Tumusiime