When the University League started in 2013, many people were pessimistic, saying it would not live to its expectations of entertaining, developing and nurturing the footballing talents of university students.
But these have been disproved, and the University Football League (UFL) is today one of the prestigious tournaments that any football-loving fan would love to associate with. Indeed, the developments have excited the UFL Manager Anthony Tumwesigye, who is all praise for the players. “We are so overjoyed to have come this far to turn young university students into professional footballers,” Tumwesigye told Eagleonline.
It is against such a consistently evolving and impressive background that the varsity league has managed to attract sponsorship from Nile Breweries and Pepsi. The UFL has also become a vehicle for spotting talent, with players like Matthew Odong and Yasser Mugerwa already plying their trade as professional at Tusker football Club in neighbouring Kenya and Orlando Pirates of South Africa, respectively.
The league has also been able to provide the home teams with talent for the Azam Premier league, with Abel Eturude and Fahad Muhammed Toko joining Sports Club Villa, while Maxwell Otim and Allan Anguyo joined newly-promoted prisons side Maroons. A number of UFL ‘graduates’ are also plying their trade in the Federation of Uganda Football Associations (FUFA) Big League.
So progressive has the UFL become that even Uganda Cranes coach Sredojevic Micho and the FUFA have been drawn to the UFL, with Micho calling up Mugerwa for national duty with the senior team, while Fahad Toko was called to the junior side, the Uganda Kobs.
“This inspires many students to join the universities to attain education and put their talents to the next level,” KIU Sports Tutor Ms Annet Kabasindi and Tumwesigye observe.
“The league has greatly improved and developed the lives of many young footballers from the all corners of the country into responsible and respected members of the society,” one observer familiar with the UFL quips.
History of UFL
In the first edition the league attracted eight varsity teams that included Makerere University, Makerere University Business School[MUBS], Kyambogo University, Kampala International University[KIU], Mbarara University of Science and Technology [MUST], Nkozi University, Nkumba University and Kampala University, with Makerere University emerging victorious with the highest number of points.
In the second edition, Gulu University joined the fray, with Kampala University emerged winners.
In the third edition the Mukono-based Uganda Christian University and Tororo-based Busitema University also joined, bringing the number of competing teams to 12, playing under a round-robin system, with the twelve teams divided in two groups of six.
This time round the league had gained momentum and the finals were played at the Mandela National Stadium in Nambole where Makerere University Business School beat Kyambogo University to emerge winners.
Currently, the fourth edition is in recess as eight teams wait to tussle it out in the quarter finals starting on September 25.
The dark side of UFL
However, the UFL has some times proved to be problematic, after teams failed to rein in their supporters, people who are quick to take to the playing field just on a simple suspicion of unfair judgment by match officials.
For instance, in the games played by Makerere and MUBS; KIU and MUBS and Makerere against Kyambogo saw the students engage in violent character, in the process destroying property in the areas surrounding the playing fields.