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11 seasons on, where are some of the UFL stars?

The 2023/24 University Football League (UFL) season concludes on April 20 with a final that will be contested between Nkumba University and former champions Uganda Christian University (UCU).

This time round, the Pepsi-Cola-sponsored tournament has been dominated by Akbar Ssentongo of Uganda Martyrs University, the current top-scorer with eight goals. Add the UCU duo of Geoffrey Ggaganga and Isaac Ofoyrwoth, Sudhir Bin Saidi of Makerere University Business School (Mubs), Michael Abura of St Lawrence University (Slau), and Andrew Obwana, the instrumental goalkeeper of Nkumba.

Perhaps it will be a real slag-fest in deciding the most outstanding footballer upon the conclusion of the UFL. Yet, what cannot be contested is the romance that embodies this tournament, after it marked its tenth anniversary last year.

DERRICK WERE

He was voted the best player ever to grace this tournament during the awards ceremony marking a decade of its existence. And just what an honour it was! It is not usual that a goalkeeper can bag such a coveted price ahead of outfield players.

“The feeling I got from it was amazing, because as much as I gave my best whenever I played, it was never at the back of my mind, that beating all and sundry was the goal,” Were said.

Maybe what was at the back of Were’s mind, was how to make sure that he kept the scholarship he had at UCU, to pursue his bachelor’s ‘degree in Business Administration. It was the football talent that he had showcased from his days at Blessed Sacrament SS Kimanya, that got him to UCU.

In fact, beyond the fact that the UFL gave him a platform, to be spotted by Soltilo Bright Stars, and has now played in the top-flight for the last four seasons, there is more to celebrate about the UFL.

He said: “Without the UFL, I do not think many footballers would have attained university education. Before it, most scholarships were given out in secondary schools.”

MUZAMIRU MUTYABA

However, while Were looks back at the UFL with fondness, something that culminated in him inspiring UCU to its first championship in 2019, other former alumni of the tournament look back for other reasons. Former Maroons FC and KCCA FC midfielder Muzamiru Mutyaba was among the pioneers of the UFL back in 2013 while playing for Kampala University.

“It gave me exposure because through it, I was able to play at the East Africa University Games against players from other countries. That raised my competitiveness because I started appreciating more what international football is all about,” Mutyaba, who turned out for The Cranes, too, said.

Mutyaba was among the players that former Uganda Cranes coach Milutin Sredojevich had in his squad for the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations. He just missed out on the final cut. In addition, Maroons midfielder Abel Eturude is another star that captained Kampala University, too, to a UFL championship. He said that the UFL has been quite intentional in promoting emerging stars.

VIANE SSEKAJUGO

Eturude recalls that in 2016, a new law was passed, making players in the Uganda Premier League ineligible for the UFL. This helped unblock the pathway of new stars. Once he helped Maroons return to the top-flight then, he could no longer play in the UFL. As a result, other players such as Viane Ssekajugo, for example, emerged and eventually made a mark at Onduparaka FC and Wakiso Giants.

Today, he is at URA FC, but also played for Uganda at the Chan tournament in 2021, as did former URA midfielder Shafic Kagimu.

BRUNO BUNYAGA

Other products that have made a mark in the UFL worthy of mentioning today, include Bruno Bunyaga, who played for Slau. He recently inspired Uganda’s under-20 side at the All Africa Games, after he scored twice in the semi-finals for a 4-2 win over Congo-Brazzaville.

The list of stars produced in the UFL would not fit in this space, yet what is certain, the tournament has indeed had its stardust!

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