Eastern region defied odds to win their maiden Airtel Rising Stars (ARS) Boys title on Saturday following a 3-2 penalties win over last year champions Kampala on Saturday during the final played at the Makerere University Business school (MUBS) grounds, Nakawa.
This was the second time the two teams were facing off at this tournament having played in the same group –a game Eastern region won 1-0 three days earlier.
A spirited performance in a closely contested affair saw Eastern hold pre-favorites Kampala to a barren normal time stalemate before goalkeeper Ashraf Mwabye’s heroics saw him save two spot kicks to guide Eastern region to a 3-2 win.
Mwabye saved John Lwomwa and Shugai Kalisa’s efforts while James Kaye fired wide. It is only Carlos Kaddu and Jeremaya Jabera that scored for Kampala.
For Eastern region, Moses Epwoka, Phillip Bunga and Phillip Wandawa converted their kicks while Alex Akankwasa and Robert Madoi missed.
During the regional championship in early August, Scovia Ninsiima, the Airtel-Uganda Eastern region business manager urged the selected players to represent the Eastern region at the national finals to fight hard and bring the national title in the region.
The call was listened to by the players, but needed miracles to progress from group A where they had to pray for North East to defeat West Nile in the final group game. A 3-1 loss to Kampala region in the last group game meant Eastern ended with four points.
West Nile who had two points needed just victory against bottom placed North East who did not have any point. However, West Nile were stunned losing the game 2-0 a result that eventually played in Eastern region’s favor.
In the semi-final, Eastern region was initially supposed to play Northern who had topped group B but the latter was eliminated for using ineligible players and thus Kitara who had finished third in the group were called upon to face Eastern.
Eastern made light work of Kitara winning the game 3-1 thanks to hat trick from striker Bashir Wandawa. In the Girls category, Kitara region reclaimed the girls’ national title after overcoming Eastern region in the final.
Cissy Kabarwani’s early strike and Violet Kyererezi late goal were enough to inspire Kitara region to the national ARS Girls championship title defence.
They join Western region (2012, 2013) and Buganda (2015, 2016) as the only sides to have defended the ARS Girls’ championship.
Both Girls and Boys champions received Shs7m cash prize each, trophy, medals and kits while the runners up got Shs5m each, silver medals and kits.
There were also individual prizes for outstanding performers. Omara Apitta, the Commissioner of Sports in the ministry of Education and Sports, Airtel-Uganda Managing Director V.G Somasekhar, FUFA President Eng.Moses Magogo, FUFA Executive members Rogers Byamukama and Chris Kalibala among other dignitaries graced the finals that also attracted beautiful and nice looking MUBS students who were treated to free entertainment by top local artistes.
Most Valuable Players:
Girls- Ruth Nyakato- Kitara
Boys -Shugai Kalisa- Kampala
Girls: Beatrice Adokore (Eastern)- 3goals
Boys: Jeremaya Jabera- (Kampala)-5 goals
Girls: Patience Nambuya- Eastern
Boys: Mwabye Ashraf- Eastern.