UCU’s March to Final

By Michael Ainomugisha

UCU vs. Nkumba, 3 p.m.

20 April 2024

Uganda Christian University (UCU) is gearing up for the season’s biggest game following an exciting 2023–24 Pepsi University Football League campaign.

Of course, the journey hasn’t been a walkover for the 2019 Champions; weather halted some of the fixtures faced by arch rivals at knockout stages, and of course, in the mix, there were a lot of memories to cherish during this campaign. In this review, I look at the Cardinals’ stunning journey to the final game in more detail.

Dominant Group Stage Display

UCU found themselves placed in Group D alongside Busitema University, Kumi University, and Kampala International University (KIU). The Cardinals soared to the top of the group with a commanding 10 points, boasting a goal difference of a staggering 9 goals. Their victories against Kumi (2-0 away, 2-2 tie at home) and KIU (2-0 home, 1-1 away) demonstrated their dominance. They won with a staggering 7-1 at home and lost 1-0 away to eastern Ugandan side Busitema, breaking their winning streak.

A Nail-Biting Encounter with Makerere University

The semi-finals brought a familiar foe: Makerere University. The first leg, unfortunately, was halted due to bad weather on February 15, forcing a replay the following day. Despite a valiant effort, UCU fell short with a 2-1 away loss. 

However, the Cardinals wouldn’t be deterred.

Redemption Through the Away Goal Rule.

The return fixture at UCU’s home ground in Mukono was a display of pure determination; the fans and the drums purely depicted UCU’s need to make it to the next round. Winger Isaac Oforwoth stepped up as the hero, scoring the only goal of the match in the 33rd minute. This crucial goal secured a 1-0 victory for UCU, and with the away goal rule in their favor, they booked their place in the finals with a 2-2 tally but were safe because of the away goal rule.

Another Makerere in the Semi-Final.

The semi-final draw pitted UCU against another Makerere institution, this time Makerere University Business School (MUBS). The first leg at home ended in a 1-1 draw, with Captain Geoffrey Gaganga finding the net for UCU after a quick setback by MUBS Sudhir Bin Saidi.

The return fixture proved to be a tense affair this time around fans turning up in even larger numbers. Once again, Oforwoth proved his worth by knocking out another Makerere. His goal in the 33rd minute was sufficient to give UCU a 2-1 aggregate victory and advance them to the much-needed grand finale game. 

How about the other finalists?

After shocking fans in Nkozi, Nkumba University, who have earned themselves a nickname, the beach boys were victorious through Isaac Musuga’s late goal in the 93rd minute, knocking out UCU’s greatest university football nightmare.

The latter was drawn to St. Lawrence University as the 2019 and 2023 finalists but were banned from the University Football League for two seasons by the Disciplinary Committee after finding them guilty of fielding ineligible players.

Nkumba then had to play Kampala University, beating them in Luzira in a 1-0 game through an own goal from Tony Ndase past his own goalkeeper Brian Ozelle and drawing a 1-1 draw in Nkumba to make it to their third final.

The beach boys reached the finals in 2013 and 2016, losing both to Kampala University.

Head to Head

UCU and Nkumba met twice in the 2022 University Football League quarterfinals, with UCU winning 2-0 in Mukono and Nkumba drawing 0-0.

Last year, on December 18, the two teams played in university games, with Harry Abiti guiding UCU to a 1-0 win in the early minutes of the second half.

The Final.

The MTN Omondi Stadium in Lugogo is ready to host an incredible match at 3 p.m. After both universities showcased tenacity and tactical skill all season, UCU and Nkumba will be hoping to complete their incredible journey by winning the anticipated university championship.