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St Julian triumph marks new dawn

St Julian High School director Jeffrey Serunjogi (C) receives the trophy on May 4 in Mukono. St Julian beat Amus College Bukedea 3-0 in the final to clinch the tournament

St Julian High School director Jeffrey Serunjogi (C) receives the trophy on May 4 in Mukono. St Julian beat Amus College Bukedea 3-0 in the final to clinch the tournament

For years, the Uganda Secondary Schools Sports Association (USSSA) football tournament has been dominated by a select group of schools
but following St Julian High School’s triumph over the weekend, it could mark a new era in the prestigious tournament, writes ELLY KYEYUNE

Outside the Uganda Premier League, the schools football tournament is perhaps the most competitive domestically. Teams pull every stop
not only to win, but to also have the opponent disqualified for the slightest of breaches. As a result, controversial petitions are always
around the corner.

Over the past two weeks, 64 schools converged in Masaka for this year’s edition but over the course of the tournament, there were about a dozen boardroom decisions that saw several schools ejected.

However, eventual champions St Julian High School steered clear of the controversy, mainly thanks to its strict disciplinary code and smart display on the pitch.

The brains behind these attributes is the school director, Geoffrey Serunjogi, who after years of near-misses, reorganized his students and staff to create the complete team.

The first move was to acquire the services of seasoned coach Felix Ssekabuuza, who has been able to build a disciplined side that conceded just one goal throughout while finding the net 16 times.

But the real key to their success. lay behind the scenes while in Masaka. For instance, whereas players from several schools had liberty to roam around the tournament camp, St Julian stood out for keeping its team together. For instance, they always moved as a group. You could barely an isolated player.

“At St Julian, we built our team around discipline. No one goes out of camp, no one eats anything out and playing is based on merit, not patronage,” says Serunjogi.

“We have been knocking on the door but finally we got the right formula to win the tournament for the first time. I can assure you, this is the start of many to come.”

END OF AN ERA?

It was the first time in the tournament’s history that three of the final four teams were first-time semifinalists. Only defending champions St Mary’s SS Kitende had tasted glory before.

So, the success of Amus and Bukedea Comprehensive Academy, the other semifinalist, could be the turning point of the tournament in the years to come. Traditional giants such as Jinja SS, Kibuli SS and Buddo SS were ejected early and all this points to a change of guard in the tournament.

However, it remains to be seen whether the new guard can maintain their meteoric rise in the years to come.

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