Uganda returned to the U20 Barthes Trophy with a thrilling come-from-behind victory against the Junior Makis of Madagascar, securing their place in the competition.
The pressure was on both teams, as they had both finished higher up in the standings the previous year.
The Junior Makis took control of the first half, building a 12-5 lead by halftime. However, Uganda returned to the pitch with renewed focus in the second half, scoring 16 points to Madagascar’s 5.
Uganda had opportunities to score more, but their poor kicking accuracy kept the game tense until the final whistle.
After the match, an excited Coach Emmanuel Katuntu could not hide his joy at surviving the drop.
“It feels so nice, the pressure is now off,” he said. “We just had to dig deep and believe in ourselves because we had it in us to come back. It is just that a few things were not going right so in the second half we settled and we managed to come back and win.”
Looking ahead to future competitions, coach Katuntu stressed the importance of early preparations for the team’s success.
“We will definitely build on this and ensure that we start our preparations much earlier so that we have a better group that we can come back with for the next tournament,” he said.
Despite their disappointing finish, Uganda can take pride in the performances of several players, including captain Calvin Gizamba, Arnold Jones Ocen, and Arthur Opio.
These young players have shown potential and could be key to Uganda’s success in future competitions.
In the U20 Barthes Trophy, the team that loses the 7th place playoff is sent to the repechage game, and the Junior Makis were determined not to suffer that fate.
However, their loss means that they will have to compete in the repechage game while Uganda celebrates their survival in the competition.