On three occasions I visited the Betway Greenlight Stadium in Arua during the 2016/2017 season, the maiden season of Onduparaka Football Club in the top tier league. On all the visits, I never wanted the end to come.
The green cover on almost every body was just a whisper of a loud message. The over 20,000 legion of fans conveyed a rare voice in Uganda football theater. It was electric, yet every fan who wears the famous green jersey drinks from the same well, regardless the Geography or condition.
Borrow a leaf from Anguyo Saddam, a fan of Onduparaka who stole my attention at a fully packed Nakivubo Stadium during the 2016 Uganda Cup final.
Onduparaka lost 3-1 , in a match where the Arua club was 2nd best, yet Anguyo, on clutches and left leg plastered stayed on top.
Anguyo covered more ground than any other fan around. At times whimpering, when his body language, in the same flow with the on pitch action, reacted to a player missing a golden chance or mistimed pass, hurting his wounds in the process.
At times, his clutches never touched ground, forgetting his standing leg is dressed in plasters. From my vantage point, surrendering his clutches was foul play, yet it mattered little to the 22 year old .
At every referees call against his club, he threw his arms in disgust. I was blown away by his actions and my journalism instincts hence kicked in, to inquest. He offered to respond, though clearly at pains having to divide his attention.
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Anguyo was carrying a compound fracture after a motorcycle accident around Lubowa . On the fateful day, his beloved team had just eliminated Entebbe FC to qualify for the finals of the Uganda Cup, and on return, the thief of lives; road carnage robbed his legs.
Less than a fortnight later, yet to fully recover, and in a lot of pain, he defied doctor’s orders and was on the next bus to Kampala for the finals.
On the same day at Nakivubo, in his company, three of his colleagues had endured a 497. 6 km (eight hour journey in a car) from Arua to Kampala on one motorcycle to cheer their team against Vipers. The motorcycle was considered a reliable means to catch the match in time, ahead of the Bus Parks squeezed by fans travelling to the same destination.
Back home, it’s a football harvest. A typical match day in Arua is ‘Truly Madly Deeply’ like a title song by Australian Pop Artist Savage Garden.
At the earliest cock crow, the West Nile town is painted green. Yet, it’s the route to the stadium that makes your jaw hearted.
It’s about 3KM from Arua town to the GreenLight Stadium, but from the toddlers to the elders, no one has kind words for the visiting team and its fans.
It’s not until you cross the Enyau Bridge that it finally sinks in; you have reached the point of no return. The road gets narrower and both motorists and pedestrians want to use it in equal measure.
Match days are never a smooth sail into the stands in the not so well managed Ugandan pitches, but getting into the GreenLight Stadium is like a walk to the Den. While in the queue, the distance seems forever, despite fans buying tickets early in the day at the different selling points in Arua town.
But once you are finally in, the means do not matter, because the end is worth “THE WAIT”. The loud cheers, the dances to the Lingala music and the foul mouth tirade targeting away fans, is not one for the faint hearted.
No wonder Onduparaka is yet to lose a game at home, a draw for the opposition is three invisible points earned for the away team. Draws against seemingly beatable opposition like Proline, Soana, JMC Hippos in the past were rare occasions.
All the giants have fallen in Arua, KCCA FC were the first to experience the Onduparaka wrath, Vipers and SC Villa weren’t spared either.
Against Villa in the 2016/2017 season, Onduparaka trailed 3-1 at some point in the game with 20 minutes to play in the second half, the caterpillars who have proven to have many lives, recovered to win 4-3.
In all such performances, needless to mention, their fans loud voice takes the lions share. The highlight of all my trips have written a book in my football memory that I update at every visit in Arua.
While every memory of victory has been an eye opener, I wonder the scenes that will unfold when a game is lost. I would love to be there to share a reverse of the scenes.