“Let me tell you one thing my brother, our people (West Nilers) don’t like to be provoked, they would rise to the occasion and challenge whatever the case” My friend strongly stated in our casual conversation that evening.
As a non-believer in stereotypes, I simply laughed the comment off and quickly tried to change the topic to my areas of comfort.
Well, I wouldn’t have quoted my friend had it not been for the football fans in the West Nile region, first Onduparaka football club and now the province-based federation of Uganda football association (FUFA) drum fans.
Remember the West Nile derby?
Before the rise of Onduparaka FC fans to conquer Ugandan club football, greenlight was a little known stadium, I must admit journalists too had scanty information about which a football fan seldom cared when aired.
Nonetheless, the players, the management and Onduparaka FC owners with a few hardcore individuals continued their rapid rise up the big league, an effort that must be highly recommended by those that understand the football dynamics in the country.
And then Boom! There was Paidha black angels ‘storm’ that hit Arua town in the first leg of the FUFA big league encounter, it was Onduparaka’s maiden season but their local rivals had ‘seen it all’ in the big league.
But more to that was how the ‘crazy’ fans came in their thousands marched from Ragem, a suburb of Arua through the town centre and finally Onduparaka where the game was played.
Onduparaka FC won the fixture on the pitch but Paidha fans completely out smashed their Arua rivals in morale-boosting support, they danced, they sang, they drank and they went. It was hard to tell if Paidha indeed lost their first big league derby for those that didn’t physically watch the game.
I must admit even the sports journalists didn’t much focus on the actual result of the game, the public had been overly thrilled with the fan invasion that it made all the headlines, and rightfully so in my opinion.
What followed thereafter was something never to be forgotten by the country, Onduparaka was all over, the players were more motivated, the crowd swelled and the club would go all the way to the finals of the Uganda cup as well as securing automatic qualification to the Uganda premier league.
The events at Nakivubo in that 2016 Uganda cup finals are never to be forgotten in Uganda’s football history books.
Why would SC Villa move their home ground to Masaka from Kampala? why would Soana cum Toro United move to Fort portal? Can one rule out the inspiration of a hitherto unknown Onduparaka for such a change of venue?
Onduparaka fans could and still can thump their chest and give credit first to Paidha and then to themselves for the provocation first and then the conquest later.
The FUFA drum challenge
When FUFA initiated the drum competition in 2018, save for those fanatic football lovers, West Nile was sharply divided with a large percentage of people insisting the drum would fail.
No, the drum didn’t fail and collecting the pieces together, the region rose through to the finals of the maiden competition, perhaps complacency was to blame for that final loss to Buganda.
But the 2019 edition of the FUFA drum is arguably the hardest to describe in a “one-size-fits-all” expression. Two losses against Bunyoro and Acholi in three games left the province at the brink of an early exit save for Acholi province fans ‘invasion’.
As fresh as the memory can be, Acholi fans stormed Arua town a day to the game against West Nile, they did not only find a team in disarray but the whole town was quiet, the Muslims that form a large part of the town was fasting, the Acholi fans clearly ‘took’ the town and it was no surprise that their players hinging on the fan’s motivation picked a comfortable win.
The West Nile fans felt abused, fans committees were immediately set, meetings resumed across the region and beyond, fundraisings started and the players many of who were so ‘cold’ about the prospect of playing for the province team were alerted.
The ‘Acholi must fall’ hashtag spread like wildfire and indeed the Elephants fell at their own backyard at Pece stadium, the provoked west Nile fans had spoken!
Next was Bunyoro on the 23rd June, masses of people mobilized travelling in lorries, pickups and any other vehicle that could transport them to Masindi and the Pece momentum was maintained.
The result though not a win was a better one compared to the first leg, one could easily ‘scape-goat’ through the heavy downpour that interrupted the game with officials forced to delay the resumption of the second half.
But once again the west Nilers entrenched their names in the hearts of their Bunyoro counterparts, they Sang, danced, drank to the amazement of their hosts.
Two games only and the story had totally changed thanks to Acholi fans first and then to west Nile later, the Drum can at least, for now, be sure of revenues from gate collections, the message has been well received across the country and one can only now look forward to more exciting fixtures.
And the Challenge now?
For those that have followed the Onduparaka FC journey and indeed the FUFA drum from its inception to the point of bliss, serious questions will arise.
Onduparaka has lost some of her ‘first love’ with fans and pundits explaining the causes differently according to perhaps their interests.
But from the experience of the FUFA drum, it does appear my friend was right at least in the football sense about his provocation claim about west Nilers.
And just like the articles heading reads, now that the West Nile province awakened all Uganda to the FUFA drum challenge, the next question is that good guess from the reader.