UCU Cardinals beat Nkumba 2-0, qualify for Semis

By Joel Muhumuza

Spirits were high at the Uganda Christian University (UCU) today, October 06, as the Cardinals topped Nkumba 2-0 to qualify for the semi-finals of the Pepsi University League. The defending champions beat the Entebbe-based varsity during a home game played at the UCU main football pitch.

An early goal by Isaac Ofoyirwoth set the pace for the Cardinals when he redirected a free kick that rolled off the goalkeeper. The fans wildly celebrated this early goal.

The Cardinals went ahead through David Mbalaga to net a penalty that sent the Nkumba goalkeeper stretching like rubber to no avail.

UCU Cardinals ‘boys’ mark an opponent. Courtesy photo

“The win really means a lot to me, to the team and the entire university, and I thank God for it,” said Jimmy Mwera, the head coach of the UCU Cardinals, who was beside himself with joy after such a remarkable victory.

Suleiman Mbosa, the Nkumba University team head coach, says that the results were not what they hoped for, but they will go back to the drawing board and come back much stronger.

Godfrey Gaganga, the team captain for the UCU, pointed out that the preparation for this game was crucial, and it all comes back to teamwork and prayer. “

Despite our best efforts and undying confidence, we could not afford to lose at home.”

The Cardinals scored a third goal which was cancelled out by the offside call. But this did not prevent them from booking their spot in the semis.

Cardinals take control of Group A in UFL

By Ian Asabo

The UCU Cardinals consolidated their place in Group A of the University Football League by defeating Kumi University, at the UCU Main playground on Saturday, May 21, 2022. 

A second-half peach of a goal by Mbalaga David was the difference as the Cardinals had difficulties in breaking down their opponents from Eastern Uganda. It has been difficult to separate the two sides over the course of back-to-back games with the other result ending in a highly entertaining and controversial 2-2 draw in Kumi.  

Chances were scarce during the first half as Kumi sat deep with low blocks stifling out the possession-based game of the Cardinals that heavily relies on the creation of spaces.  

It was much different in the second half, with the Cardinals continuing to shift the ball from side to side as the Kumi team started to wear out creating better chances for Cardinals.

A quick one-two on the right-hand side led to Aaron Ofoyirwoth breaking free and crossing the ball to Mbalaga, who bicycle-kicked it onto the crossbar- well over the line; hence crediting a goal for UCU.  

However, Cardinals midfielder, Ivan Mutebi foresees a tough season for his team, yet with determination. “We have to be a patient team because the majority of the teams we are going to face will always try and deny us space in which to play on top of our game,” he said. 

Head coach, Jimmy Mwera praised the team’s resilience after getting a win in a hard-contested game. “We were slow out of the blocks today, but the team showed the winning mentality and culture to be resilient and patience in order to wait for the right time,” he said. 

The Cardinals have moved to the top of the table with seven points, having played three victorious games previously, and they will look to win the group and advance to the next round. 

They will face the International University of East Africa next in the University Football League in Group A.

German footballer joins UCU Lady Cardinals

By Michael Kisekka
On February 19, 2022, when the Uganda Christian University (UCU) women football team won a game by 5-0, it was not an ordinary victory for the squad.

That victory for the UCU Lady Cardinals was against the defending champions, the Lady Doves. That game also marked the debut of Sinah Rother, a 19-year-old German footballer who recently joined the UCU side.

“That victory was a statement and a warning to the other teams about what we are capable of doing,” Sinah, who plays on the right wing, said. The Lady Cardinals and the Lady Doves are among the teams in Uganda’s top flight women’s football league.

“When I completed school in Germany last year, I looked for an academic institution of higher learning in Africa with a good female football team and I was directed to Uganda Christian University,” she said.

Sinah Rother
Sinah Rother

Sinah said she was motivated to come to Uganda by her coaches in Germany, who told her that the Federation of Uganda Football Associations (FUFA) Women Super League was competitive and physical enough for her.

‘‘I wanted to play and compete in the best team in Uganda and that is how I ended up with the UCU Lady Cardinals,’’ she said.

When she arrived in January 2022, Sinah was told to register with FUFA, in order to be eligible to play football for the UCU Lady Cardinals.

“I had to get a football work permit and acquire a license to register as a female player with the FUFA Women’s Super League,” Sinah recalls.

Despite the hurdle, she is aware of how important the opportunity is. “Getting a chance to play for the UCU Lady Cardinals is a big opportunity for me and an experience of a lifetime life,” said Sinah, who wants to help the team win more trophies. Her coach, Simon Asiimwe said the team will benefit from her technical ability and game reading capability.

“I was overwhelmed by the support and the love the ladies showered me with. It made me feel at home and has enabled me to settle in fast,” she added.

Sinah’s biggest challenge, though, are the higher temperatures in Uganda, compared to the cold temperatures she is used to back in Germany, where she plans to return in two years.

“We were all excited when we got to know Sinah was joining the Lady Cardinals,” said Mercy Nabuloobi, the assistant team captain. “When we observed her train with us on the first day, we straight away knew that she was a great addition to the team.”

Hassifah Nassuna, the team’s captain, said Sinah’s exceptional talent will “help the team win the trophy this season.”

A second born of two children of Thomas Rother and Anke Rother, Sinah started playing football at the age of six with VFL Rheda. She then joined FSV Gütersloh and, later, DSC Arminia Bielefeld, where she has been for the past three years.

Former UCU goalkeeper joins Finnish club

By Ian Asabo
The captain of the Uganda national women’s football team, Ruth Aturo, has realized her dream of playing professional football after signing for Finnish club Kotkan Tyoaen Palloilijat

Aturo, a goalkeeper of the national football team, joins Kotkan Tyoaen Palloilijat on a two-year deal from the Uganda Christian University (UCU) women’s team, the Lady Cardinals. She featured for the UCU Lady Cardinals for three years, helping the team to win trophies in 2018 and 2019. 

The 26-year-old graduated with a Diploma in Business Administration from UCU in 2019. However, she continued playing for the Lady Cardinals.

“I am grateful to the university for providing me with the opportunity to play the game that I love, at the highest level in the country,” Aturo said, noting that she would not have found it easy to join a club in Finland if she had not got a chance to play for the Lady Cardinals. She was in UCU on a sports scholarship. 

Ruth receiving her award for the Best Goalkeeper at the 2018 COSAFA Women’s Championship.
Ruth receiving her award for the Best Goalkeeper at the 2018 COSAFA Women’s Championship.

It was while at the Lady Cardinals that Aturo became a household name, with the Uganda football association naming her Player of the Year in the national league in 2018.

Like many student-athletes, Aturo faced the challenge of balancing performance in class and on the pitch. 

Her challenge was even tougher, however, given that she is the captain of the national women football team, meaning she had class, club and national football team issues to concentrate on. However, to her, the answer remained in “being consistent, working hard and remaining focused.” 

“While in Finland, I will be far from home but it’s an exciting experience that I cannot let pass,” she said. “My ultimate goal is to make it to the highest level, and this is a step in the right direction.”

Born on July 19, 1995, in Soroti, eastern Uganda, Aturo initially started playing as a center forward. However, later, she discovered that she could perform even better between the posts. 

She began playing football in Senior Two at Soroti Senior Secondary School. From there, she joined Kawempe Muslim Secondary School in central Uganda, for A’level. It was her performance in the women’s soccer team of Kawempe that caught the attention of scouts who connected her to a scholarship offer at UCU. 

She says it was at UCU where she was able to harness and grow her skills, and maximize them to the full potential, something which would later prepare ground for her to captain the national team.

Sam Lukaire, the Sports Administrator at UCU, is happy that the investment the university has made in sports is finally paying off. 

“The right coaching through the sports program provided by the university has had an impact on the athletes, enabling such moves to happen,” Lukaire says. 

He encourages Aturo to continue working hard to reach her full potential. Aturo’s deal was completed towards the end of December last year, but her travel was delayed until end of February. She says she used that time to watch videos about her teammates at Kotkan Tyoaen Palloilijat on YouTube, to try to understand how they play and their football philosophy. 

Her longtime teammate at both club and national team level, Hasifah Nassuna, acknowledges that Aturo’s next step in football is only the beginning of her exposure to playing football at the greatest level. 

“I am happy for Ruth. It is definitely not going to be easy as it only gets harder,” Nassuna said. “But I’m confident in her abilities as a goalkeeper and a leader on and off the pitch.”

As she arrives in Finland, Aturo is loaded with big dreams, hoping to not only etch her name in the global footballers’ hall of fame, but also to leave a legacy as one of the greatest ever Lady Cardinal players.

‘Canons’ beat ‘Blazers’ to win inaugural Invite-tournament

By Ian Asabo

The UCU Canons defeated the Namugongo Blazers, 61-58, in a closely contested final, to win the first “Invite” basketball tournament held at the YMCA court in Wandegeya. The winner, ‘Canons’ walked away with the sum of Shs 2m while the runner-up took home the sum of Shs 1.5m.
Bbaale Fayed was voted MVP of the tournament, after a unanimous verdict by the panel of judges highlighting his impressive basketball skills showcased during the game.
Head Coach Nicholas Natuhereza was glad that his team won the tournament and is excited for what the team can achieve the following year. “Glad we were the last team standing. All the hard work paid off. We are looking forward to what we can do next year” he says.
The team was able to maintain a 100% percent record in the tournament by winning all their games against tricky opponents including the Falcons and the UPDF Tomahawks.
Team captain Titus Lual praised the resilience of his team to be able to bounce back and win the final since they were behind at halftime.
“I am proud of the way we showed our champion instinct after we were down at the half. We showed character and I am proud of the guys that we were able to come back and win the game,” he says.
He also singled out praise for the MVP Bbaale Fayed and credited his victory to the hard work that he puts in on a daily basis.“ He is the deserved winner of the award. This is proof that when you work hard, you are always rewarded regardless,” he continues.
One UCU Canons fan stated that the continued investment in the sports sector at Uganda Christian University (UCU) is one of the main reasons why the team is excelling every time they step on the court. “The investment in the sports team administration and good coaching set up will make the team continue to succeed every time they step on the court, case in point is redesigning of the courts,” says Timothy Owor.
Six teams which included: Takan Lokeris, UCU Canons, Betway Power, Falcons participated in the inaugural tournament, which the sponsors having a view of making it an annual tournament.
Betway Power general manager Allan Musoke hopes for more tournaments as well as having some games on Friday evenings.
“We are hoping that as the tournaments continue. We can also have Friday night games so that we can expand the tourney. It will however remain invitational and we will allow teams to explore other playing options,” said Musoke.
The tournament was organized by NBL club Betway Power alongside sponsors like Rwenzori and Club Pilsner was in memory of those who had an impact on the game, but are now passed to glory.

‘Canons’ to face ‘Blazers’ in first ‘Power’ invitational tournament final

By Ian Asabo

The UCU Canons will face the Namugongo Blazers in the final of the first Betway Power invitational tournament final. They beat the Falcons 75-53 in the semi-final held at YMCA court in Wandegeya to book their ticket for the final game this coming Saturday (04 December), against the Blazers.

The Namugongo blazers, on the other hand, downed the UPDF Tomahawks 79-55 in a blowout win in the other semi-final that signaled their intent on winning their championship.

The UCU Canons are in sparkling form, which places the team as clear favourites for the final, which has seen them compete in two tournaments at the same time, and keep at 100% in all of their games.

They recently won the 3×3 Afro Varsity tournament held in Nairobi which guaranteed the team the chance to represent Africa in the World Cup in October 2022. The ‘Canons’ defeated the UPDF Tomahawks, Takan Lokeris, and the Falcons on their road to the final.

UCU Canons in action in the semi-finals. Photo/ Courtesy.

Team Captain and Forward Titus Lual predicts a very competitive encounter, but is very confident that the team will win the game and be crowned champions. “ The Final against the Blazers will be a very competitive game with both teams leaving it on the line, but I am very confident that the team will be able to get the dub”, he says.

Betway Power organized the tournament in order to remember the lives lost of those who were influential in developing the game during the pandemic.

Betway Power General Manager, Allan Musoke said the tournament is being held in honor of key stakeholders in the Uganda Basketball fraternity, such as Isaac Bagenda, who have, since, passed to glory. “We have lost many people in the basketball fraternity, so through this tournament, we want to honour them for their contribution to the sport”, he said.

The winner of the tournament will take home Shs2m, while the first and second runners up will pocket Shs 1.5m and Shs. 500,000, respectively. 

UCU Basketball bags gold at Afro-Varsity games

By Ian Asabo

The UCU Canons and Lady Canons won gold medals at the FISU Afro Varsity 3×3 games held at the United States International University in Nairobi, on Sunday. The Canons beat Ndejje University 21-8 in the final game.

“It was a really good experience for us despite the travel issues, but we went and proved that we are the best side and just can’t wait to represent Africa next fall”, said Canons captain Titus Luwal, in appreciation of the Teams’ efforts.

UCU emerged victorious in all its six matches, securing a ticket to the FISU University 3×3 World Cup games in Xiamen, China, from 20th to 23rd October 2022.

The Lady Canons were represented by Rose Akon, Priscilla Abbey, Shakirah Nanvubya and Nandutu Martha. They defeated ISEG of Senegal (20-12) in the final, winning the gold averaging 16.7 points.

Lady Canons player (blue) in action. Courtesy photo.

The Men’s team, Canons, were represented by Titus Luwal, David Deng Kongor, Fayed Bbaale and Rodgers Dauna. They defeated Ugandan counterparts and defending champions Ndejje University in the final, with a score of 21-8, averaging 20.3 points.

Selected scores

Men’s category

  • Uganda Christian University 21:2 University of Rwanda
  • Uganda Christian University 21:11 University of Zambia ( semi finals)
  • Uganda Christian University 21: 8 Ndejje University ( final)

Women’s Category

  • Uganda Christian University 17:10 United States International University Africa.
  • Uganda Christian University 16: 7 Makerere University ( semi finals)
  • Uganda Christian University 20:12 Superior d’ Entrepreneurship et de Gestion Senegal.