Kakoba division is home to an estimated 55,000 people and Nyamityobora parish is just a fraction of that sum. But in just two attempts, the village’s team has won promotion to the Uganda Premier League.
Thursday’s 2-1 win over second-placed Kitara sent Nyamityobora ten points clear at the top of the Rwenzori Group with three games to spare. According to local folk, promotion is a remarkable miracle.
Ray of hope
Kijungu, the home of Nyamityobora football club is a hotspot for high HIV/Aids prevalence which is at 12.6 per cent, two times higher than the general Mbarara district prevalence of 6.1 per cent.
Emmanuel Yarambe said of their achievement: “A couple of years ago nobody could have imagined of playing in the top flight but look, we are now history men. The focus now turns to the team’s success.”
The club traces its existence from 1907 the time it is assumed Ankole United was formed but the ‘Abanyakare’ rose from the ashes after football in Ankole almost nosedived into extinction.
Their recovery resumed with the fruitless 2010 Super Mini league in Fort Portal. Since then, they struggled to impress until 2015 when they earned a place into the FUFA Big League.
In the 2016/17 season, a last-minute collapse saw them finish outside the play-offs in the Rwenzori Group behind Mbarara City, Synergy and Masavu.
“That called for massive changes and acquisition of players with super league experience,” Yarambe, a local businessman, added.
Nyamityobora recruited the likes of; Musa Docca, Bruhan Matovu, Godfrey Buni, Philip Ssempiira and Titus Lubega all from Bul as well as Vipers loanee Alex Komakech and David Kiiza. They boosted the squad in mid-season with 10 more acquisitions with Brian Mugisha, Miisi Katende, Muzafaru Ssenyonjo, Brian Mayanja and Robert Mukongotya, the marquee signings.
The club invested in its own van among other things which saw their budget shoot over an estimated Shs200m. Money does not always translate into success of course, but in Nyamityobora’s case, their massive investment has brought a handsome return.
Mukongotya contributed 4 goals while goal keeper Hillary Jomi conceded on four occasions in the second round following the acrimonious departure of first choice Chris Kusiima to Kitara.
Nyamityobora has not lost a single game all season at home, evidence of a side built on solid foundations, bolstered by a rejuvenated Docca, who scored five goals from defence.
They have been breached only 6 times and results have been earned thanks in part to the meanest defence in the league.
Other players have stood out too. Komakech has given Uganda football a taste of exciting things to come from the young left back.
“I am really excited because there are people who go their whole careers without winning anything or getting promoted so it’s an achievement I want to cherish,” Komakech, a fan favourite, said.
Their home fortress has proven impregnable to opponents, but ultimately Odoch must take the lion’s share of the credit.
The tactician, who has helped a third team to earn promotion, has done what he was surely asked of when Alex Isabirye left for Soana: earn promotion.
In the forthcoming season the remnants of the squad will be playing against teams that rejected them. Apart from the coaches and the manager, all of Nyamityobora’s staff are unpaid volunteers.
Survival, according to the team’s manager Sulait Makumbi is now the ultimate plan and recruitment starts as soon as possible with five U-20 national team players; Saddam Masereka, Ivan Eyamu, Abubaker Kasule, Steven Mukwala, Mustapha Mujuzi and goalie Dennis Otim and or Saidi Keni expected to join with three senior players.
Although everything remains on paper for now, a sizeable chunk of players will be released.
The lure of top flight football and an anticipated bigger fan-base will bring in the crowds and the team plans to acquire its own stadium starting with basics like the dressing rooms, toilets, perimeter fence and two pitches.
The times are good and Charles Lwabulindi of Kiddawalime bakery and Basil Bataringaya, the district secretary for finance and planning have already joined the bandwagon.
Ali Ssekatawa, one of the club’s passionate fans is excited by the challenge ahead. “We aim at building a strong club with community connections and this is the pride we want to bring back to the people of Ankole through football,” the former URA FC chairman, said.