I have always taken volleyball as a fraternity sport, mainly attracting fans that are well-versed with the rules of competition.
However, the just-concluded NSSF KAVC international volleyball tournament changed all that and for once, volleyball gripped the nation in ways that would make fans of mainstream disciplines envious.
At Lugogo arena where the three-day competition climaxed place, the ambiance bore an outlook of a global tournament. It was a full house inside and many more fans outside. Notably, there was a strong Rwandan contingent.
Indeed, four Rwandan teams took part in what was billed as a showdown with their Ugandan counterparts. Rwandan sides have dominated the even in recent times and Gisagara VC was the overwhelming favourite to take home the men’s title.
But from the onset, there were indications we could be headed for a thrilling climax. Ugandan teams have greatly improved and for one, hosts KAVC were never going to let go without a fight.
With $1,000 (Shs 3.7m) at stake for the winner, several teams played as though their lives depended on the tournament. Added to the vibrant crowds that graced the event, Lugogo was the place to be.
Come the final, it was an all-Ugandan affair in the ladies category and whereas it was competitive, Ndejje University ran away with the trophy after defeating Nkumba University 3-1.
Then came the match everyone was craving for; hosts KAVC against Gisagara. The overwhelming view in the crowd was that KAVC would do enough to push the much-fancied Rwandans but hopes of an upset were minimal.
Minimal indeed it turned out as Gisagara raced to a two sets to love lead. By this time, the Rwandan fans had taken over Lugogo as Ugandans looked on miserably.
If KAVC needed divine intervention, it came in form of Daudi Okello, who restored the team’s hopes with key points that helped KAVC claw back the deficit to tie the sets. The tide had changed and it was now the Ugandan fans cheering.
Still, KAVC trailed 8-13 in the decisive set but somehow wrestle victory away from the jaws of defeat to win 17-15 and claim the NSSF KAVC International title. It was tense final few moments and a sweet revenge for the Ugandans teams following last year’s dismal performance.
It will take something special to take away the glory from the just-concluded NSSF KAVC international volleyball tournament.