ARUA. At its inception, the Federation of Uganda football association (FUFA) envisaged a tournament that sought to reflect ancestry, cultural heritage and a general sense of belonging.
The FUFA drum as it is called is a football tournament in which the whole country has been partitioned into 16 provinces mainly on tribal lines; for instance, Buganda, Busoga, Ankole, Toro, Karamoja, Bunyoro, Acholi, Lango and West Nile among other regions to form some of the provinces.
Indeed, the pride of playing for one’s region in a country that is so diverse in cultures, traditions and origins can’t be underestimated.
The 2018 finals between Buganda and West Nile in the maiden edition was exhilarating, to say the least.
West Nile, a region that had been powered strongly by the emergence of Onduparaka FC was a clear favourite to win the two-legged tie despite poor mobilization and a rather - resource stricken camp through most of the games.
But Buganda arguably, the most populous and exposed culture in the country put up a spirited fight to shock the West Nile on their own green light stadium tuff to lift the maiden trophy.
Whereas most of the regions as earlier outlined are united by the same language, culture and traditions, food and many other factors…., the West Nile region has none of this in common.
The province comprises the Madi sub-region that has districts of Adjumani and Moyo, the Kakwa people mostly housed in Koboko district, the Aringa in Yumbe district, the Lugbara spread across Maracha and Arua.
Then there is Zombo, Nebbi and Pakwach that are predominantly Alur speaking. And then, the Okebu, Lendu and the other tribes.
Indeed, while attending one of the fans’ preparatory meetings ahead of the June 16th game against Acholi province at West Nile club in Arua town, a person not conversant with the West Nile region history would be awed by the composition of that meeting.
For starters, the chairman of the fans of West Nile province is Mr Oscar Onyango, who originally hails from Acholi but I must admit I have never seen a person as passionate about local football as Onyango be it while supporting Onduparaka FC or the province team.
Mr Joseph Kyobe, an entrepreneur in Arua town hails from the eastern district of Iganga but is another familiar face.
On the fateful day of the meeting, he paid shs200, 000 in cash with a promise to use his facilities; Oasis 24/7 and Bamboo Village to mobilize for more funds. The Muwanga’s, the Baguma’s and the list only continue.
I must again acknowledge the idea of having a tournament to trace ancestry was brilliant but the West Nile province has redefined their ancestry and certainly with my observations, the strongest bonding point for the province is its diversity.
The name ‘West Nile,’ an English name, the numerous tribes with totally different origins, languages and the other assimilated West Nilers are all in for a common purpose.
If this tournament has achieved its purpose of uniting people in their tribes in some regions, for the West Nile, its biggest has been to offer a common platform where everyone regardless of the tribe is welcome.
The ‘Acholi must fall’ campaign gears up
The 2-0 loss against Acholi at the Green Light stadium in Arua was one of the biggest losses the province has had.
However, this is not only because of the result on the pitch.
The Acholi mobilized in their hundreds and arriving on a Saturday evening, made their intentions clear through a totally unexpected parade on the streets of Arua town.
At least 10 buses transported the fans from the province, countless minibuses and other private vehicles, the Parliamentarians led the fundraising and some physically, watched the game in Arua.
Basically, the Acholi prepared to ‘slaughter’ West Nile at their own backyard and they achieved their goal at the Green Light stadium.
Left to hide their faces in the sand, the West Nile team is up in arms for revenge, part of the reason the fans’ meetings have been convened. All the tone is about how a similar humiliating fete can be inflicted on Acholi at Pece stadium in Gulu town on June 16, 2019.
Without much detail, one of the fans revealed that committees have been set in Kampala, Gulu, Pakwach, Arua and other districts to coordinate fans’ activities and raise funds.
The West Nile team is threatened with an early exit; two of the three remaining games are away at Acholi and another with Bunyoro. Any loss reduces the chances of progress.
At the fans’ meeting, the manager of the West Nile team, Mr Mike Leti was asked numerous questions about the technical team, the choice of players and the whole organization.
He confirmed without much detail that changes would be made in the technical setup of the West Nile team. A rather amazed Leti sat quietly and patiently listened as one after the other plans were hatched to improve the team heading to Gulu.
Whether such vigour in preparation translates into positive results for West Nile province is a matter to be judged by the 90 minutes at Pece stadium.
But once again, the White Rhinos as the team is called will go all out to try to prove that they are still the feared football stronghold of the country.
After all, isn’t football already a culture, a tribe, a religion… for West Nile?