Well-positioned university leagues have role to play

The vogue in Ugandan sports circles is to have a university league. Basketball officials have jumped onto the bandwagon whilst the cricket top brass is clearing away the cobwebs. Not to be left out, officials from the Uganda Rugby Union are also seriously mulling over having students of all university stripes locking horns.

The gold standard seems to be the University Football League, which is into its fourth edition. Although it has been plagued by a host of mischiefs — not least crowd violence — the University Football League has no doubt been put on a pedestal. Sponsors and fans have come on board en masse, giving the four-year-old league an allure that many of its seniors yearn.

The allure of having successful university leagues, however, runs much deeper than waxing lyrical about capturing the imagination of sponsors and fans. Make no mistake, getting a buy-in from sponsors and fans is quite fundamental in what has come to become a wholly commercialised industry. Yet before all else, it’s important that matters pertaining to the product — such as the university league’s calling card — are addressed.

The beauty about the University Football League is its novelty. It has a freshness about it that ultimately leaves its target audience spellbound. Having distinguishing features has helped the University Football League not to be cookie-cutter.

It helps greatly that the league’s overriding theme is to unearth fresh talent. Players that earn their bread in the topflight football league are not supposed to feature for any university. This decree has turned out to be a life preserver in the sense that it has made the University Football League relevant.

The significance of the University Football League is underscored in the fact that it plugs what by all accounts is a yawning chasm. For long Ugandan sports disciplines have stared down the barrel of a gun because they lose out on would-be good players at the university.

While there are a plethora of vehicles at both primary and secondary school levels for sports enthusiasts to tag along, the reverse is true at graduate school.

Fire burningUntil recently, competitions of substance at the university level were few and far between. This restricted many an ivory tower of academia to in-house competitions. This, together with other extraneous factors, waned the interest of many aspiring sports personalities in university. The emergence of university leagues across the sports spectrum has helped keep the fire burning, so to speak.

There is a caveat, though! University leagues that have opted not to close the door on their own who turn out in the topflight risk not being relevant in the broader picture. Players featuring in the topflight already have a platform to showcase their energy and cunning. Making university leagues a stage where the youthful exuberance of untapped talent thrives should be of the essence. Over to the responsible authorities!

class=”p–heading-3″Why Kiprotich needs to find his element in the London Marathon

Distance running enthusiasts are licking their lips and rubbing their hands in anticipatory relish thanks to the mouthwatering prospect that today’s London Marathon offers.

The 34th of its kind, today’s marathon has been widely described as one that could go down in the annals as “the best ever” (Haile Gebrselassie’s words).

Here is why: such has been the 34th Virgin London Marathon’s magnetism that it has attracted a who’s who of marathoners such as the two Mutais (Emmanuel and Geoffrey), defending champion Tsegaye Kebede, Wilson Kipsang and our very own Stephen Kiprotich.

With Ethiopian distance running legend Gebrselassie set to pace the marathon to 30 kilometres, many believe a world record could be in the offing. Ugandans will today be watching with bated breath hoping that Kiprotich for once does the business in a city marathon.

Ropey performances in the World Marathon Majors have effectively made the 25-year-old a shadow of the majestic marathoner who cantered to glory in both the Olympics and World Championships. Kiprotich placed a disappointing sixth in last year’s London Marathon before turning in a stinker at the New York Marathon where he finished outside the top 10!Whether Kiprotich can undergo a sea change and — for once — enjoy a big payday at one of the city marathons ($55,000 is up for grabs in London) remains to be seen.

For one, if this is to be a quick marathon, Kiprotich, whose personal best time of two hours, seven minutes and twenty seconds is way off the world record, will have his work cut out.

Your humble columnist believes that Kiprotich will try to keep in the frame by going toe to toe with the leading pack that will truncate itself from the pile. Whether the affable Ugandan will have the legs to break away after what many expect to be a bruising marathon is anyone’s guess.

But it will nevertheless be fascinating to see if the reigning World and Olympic champion has gotten an antidote to a drawback that left him as red as a beet on the streets of New York last year.

What we now know….

We now know that Uganda will be sending a strong nine-man team to the Zone VI Golf Championships that tee off on Tuesday in Cape Town, South Africa.

Tooro Golf Club has a formidable representation on the team, with handicap +2 sensation, Adolf Muhumuza, one of four golfers in the reckoning. We, nonetheless, know that Muhumuza doesn’t hold the best handicap on the team. That honour is solely owned by Entebbe Golf Club’s Willy Deus Kitata who is a handicap +3.

We also know that the Zone VI Golf Championships have always been a tough nut for Uganda to crack. Last year, Uganda placed sixth after struggling to get the putter going on the well-manicured greens of the Windhoek Golf and Country Club in Namibia.

Played off a matchplay format that sees teams turn in two sets of singles as well as four-balls and foursomes, winning the Zone VI Golf Championships is something of a birthright for South Africa.

The stats say just as much! We know that with 13 titles to their name, hosts South Africa will be the team to beat.


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