Ahead of the Uganda-Rwanda duel this weekend, it is a no brainer that the tie between these two East African Nations stands among the top greatest rivalries in Africa.
Many Ugandan fans may consider Kenya as their top rival, but it is actually on record that a game between Uganda and the Rwandan Amavubi Stars is always a matter of life and death.
I will take you down the memory lane about 14 years ago, in 2003 when Rwanda and Uganda were pitted together in Group 13 of the qualifiers for the 2004 Africa Cup of Nations, a tournament which would be hosted by Tunisia.
The first leg in Kigali had ended goalless, and actually Uganda were the better team, as the Amavubi Stars lived on borrowed time throughout the whole 90 minutes, thanks to their Goalkeeper Mohammed Mossi who pulled off some implausible saves.
For the second leg in Namboole, whoever was to lose between the two teams could automatically all but lose a ticket direct to Tunisia.
The Cranes were the favorites; not only were they a better team then, but they were the hosts too – playing in front of a fully-packed stadium and surely nothing could have gone wrong, until it did.
Few minutes into the match, Suleiman Tenywa had his effort cleared off the line, but more was yet to come.
The game’s highlight surfaced, and Rwanda was at the receiving end when their controversial goalkeeper Mossi lit an unknown substance in his goal.
As expected, extreme violence erupted on the pitch when the Rwanda players tried to stop the Cranes’ players from removing the lit object in goal.
The scenes were ugly.
Tabula and Jimmy Gatete got wounds as the Cranes’ players including their technical bench tried to dig behind the goal in search of the ‘juju’.
Rotamir Duksovic, the Rwanda coach then ordered his players to leave the pitch and the match was brought at a stand-still for almost half an hour.
Play resumed later on, with the hosts’ first choice goalkeeper, Ibrahim Mugisha taken off following a collision with Desire Mbonabucya.
Jimmy Gatete who played with a bandage on his head, scored for Amavubi Stars following a defensive lapse that involved substitute goalkeeper Posnet Omwony, Sulaiman Tenywa and Godfrey Kateregga.
Namboole turned into a real graveyard as silence loomed, but the section of the visitors’ fans went into frenzy, as Rwanda was on road to making history on their rival’s soil.
Back in the second half, the game’s assistant referee removed the “juju” from the Rwanda goal nets before the game started as he made the sign of the cross.
The Cranes looked a better side but Pedro Pasculli’s men could not find a cutting edge as Tabula and Hakim Magumba missed chances and Referee Alemu Gizatte took the final whistle to end a controversial game that was marred with witch craft.
What happened in Rwanda thereafter, it was reported that more than ten thousand jubilant fans waited at Kigali airport on Sunday morning to receive their history makers including President Paul Kagame before the team was taken to Amahoro National Stadium for National recognition.
Rwanda went on to beat Ghana in their next match to qualify to the 2004 AFCON tournament in Tunisia where they were eliminated in Group stages, finishing 3rd in Group A with 4 points, Losing to Tunisia, beating DR Congo and drawing with Guinea.