Oscar Mawa and Jaffar Karepi celebrate the opening goal against Buddo at Barifa Stadium yesterday | Credit: George Katongole
  • Today at Barifa Stadium
  • Kitende vs Gombe HS, 3pm

The build-up to the final of the USSSA Football final was a sad tale but the wait is over.

Today’s final between defending champions St Mary’s SS Kitende and Gombe High School Kawaala, staged in the northern Uganda City of Arua, should be a mouthwatering affair.

Staged in a football-mad city, a unique place in Uganda, Kitende will be hoping to defend their title and bring in the 10th, yet for Gombe, this is the first time they have played in the tournament since their first attempt in 2020 that was cut short by Covid-19.

It is not that they are new, as they have players with experience under their belts, it is more than gold for the school owned by former managing director of Buganda Land Board Kyewalabye Male.

“This is an important moment for us in our footballing history,” head coach Kireewa Maato said in an interview.

Gombe head coach Godfrey Kireewa Maato | Credit: George Katongole

It is not something he says lightly. He eloquently explains that this is the greatest evening of their lives.

Apart from Ngabo Academy, the 2001 champions, no other debutant has ever won the trophy. And yet history is on Kitende’s side. The nine-time champions have made Arua a good hunting ground winning the previous two trophies hosted by Mvara SS in 2008 and 2011.

But there is something about Gombe SS, a school of just 700 students.

Founded six years ago, when Kyewalabye took over St Andrew Kawaala under Gombe Educational Services, Gombe SS, is establishing a footballing culture.

They have built a formidable team around Uganda youth internationals including Reagan Kasumba, Oscar Mawa, Paul Busolo, Travis Mutyaba and Shugai Kalisa, among others.

Coming to Arua, they were second best to Uganda Martyrs High School Rubaga and their target was to get into the knockouts. Yet they are here making history against Kitende, a side that has had great moments of success in the post-primary schools’ competition.

Kitende midfielder Elvis Ngondwe and forward Fazil celebrate their opening goal against Mukono Kings | Credit: George Katongole

After a three-year drought, Kitende finally won in Jinja in 2019 their ninth championship and it feels like another time is upon them to shine. Yet this trophy does not belong to them. It will be contested.

Kitende head coach Edward Golola believes there has never been a final like this.

“We are used to seeing established teams in the final like Jinja SS, Buddo, Kibuli and the like. Gombe being in the final says something about this year’s tournament. Now that we have a new team, that makes the final a tricky affair,” Golola said.

The trickiest part though is the attractive brand of football Gombe plays and the love they have among the fans. It is a unique connection!

Jaffar Karepi, Yusuf Mafabi and Yasir Mimosa, play for Arua Hills, while Majub Toto, plays for Onduparaka.

The Gombe High School bus is led by hooting boda-bodas through the City and when they won the quarterfinal match against Jinja SS, zealous fans stopped the bus and gave Mawa, locally known as Senke, a piece of raw cassava.

Oscar Mawa celebrates his penalty goal | Credit: George Katongole

“We are almost like at home. Apart from the good football we play, this is our home and we want to win it for our people,” Mawa said after the semifinal win over Buddo.

All of this feeds the ties that bind them. Bosco Dudu, is the club’s chief scout alongside respected youth coach Nimrod Kintu.

But Maato is being humble in his approach though bullish in his assertions.

“When we started, we did not expect this. Now we have no choice but to fight for the trophy. We want to win for many reasons but basically for the fans to show that we represent them,” Kireewa said.

Previous Winners

  • 2019: St Mary’s SS Kitende
  • 2018: Buddo SS
  • 2017: Jinja SS
  • 2016: Kibuli SS
  • 2015: St Mary’s SS Kitende
  • 2014: Kibuli SS
  • 2013: St Mary’s SS Kitende
  • 2012: St Mary’s SS Kitende
  • 2011: St Mary’s SS Kitende
  • 2010: Bishop Nankyama
  • 2009: Buddo SS
  • 2008: St Mary’s Kitende
  • 2007: St Mary’s SS Kitende
  • 2006: St Mary’s SS Kitende
  • 2005: Kibuli SS
  • 2004: St Mary’s SS Kitende
  • 2003: Old Kampala
  • 2002: Nagalama Islamic
  • 2001: Ngabo Academy
  • 2000: Kibuli SS
  • 1999: Old Kampala
  • 1998: Kibuli SS
  • 1997: St Leo’s Kyegobe
  • 1996: Kibuli SS
  • 1995: Kibuli SS
  • 1994: Lubiri SS
  • 1993: Kibuli SS
  • 1992: Kibuli SS
  • 1991: Kibuli SS
  • 1990: Kololo SS
  • 1989: Kibuli SS
  • 1988: Kololo SS
  • 1987: Kololo SS
  • 1986: Kololo SS

George Katongole

George Katongole is a leading Ugandan sports journalist.

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