They turned up in their droves and took Nakivubo by storm as Arua’s Onduparaka FC took on Vipers in the final of the Uganda cup which the West Nile club lost 3-1.
The score line mattered less in the end as ‘The Caterpillars’ had already ‘won’ on many fronts prior to the finals. The team formed just 6 years ago did not only qualify for next season’s Uganda Premier league, they did it in style too as they topped the region’s qualifying log from start to finish ending unbeaten at their Green Light stadium which has become a fortress.
The fairytale run in continued with the muzzy run to the finals of the Uganda cup in the team’s first attempt of asking beating seasoned giants and premier leagues side SC Villa, Soana and Entebbe FC along the way.
However, the biggest win so far seems to come off the pitch as Onduparaka’s ardent fans showed the country how to support a team. Throughout the above mentioned campaigns, the fans have always turned up in their thousands for the team’s matches both home and away.
Saturday’s climax which has been deservedly well documented had a record crowd never seen before in recent times for a club engagement. The fans pouring from all corners of the country came in their thousands to give the team much needed push as they travelled in over 7 buses from West Nile and about 60 cars in a convoy on Friday night.
That group joined the others from around Kampala in what is now referred to as ‘The West Nile solidarity’ and painted the city green. Navikubo stands were filled to capacity as the neutrals had no option but to join the fans in drumming support for the underdogs. Chief among them, being Kampala Lord Mayor Elias Lukwago, who posted his love for the youthful side on social media.
Although the more experienced side from Buikwe prevailed on the pitch, Onduparaka won more fans by their silky style of play with many indeed agreeing they have a bright future. The loss which was mainly due to naivety and inexperience of the players and coach was compounded by a freak accident that happened to the team enroute to match on Saturday morning. Coach Allan Kabonge says some players were scared to death and it could have affected their concentration levels.
The fans however kept them on their feet with some frenzied moral boosting which involved singing traditional lugbara war songs and lingala dances from the music appropriately played at the ‘War memorial stadium. The day’s DJ must have been tipped on choice of music genre as he played only lingala – the favourite music for the people of West Nile.
The team has no official sponsors and only depends mostly on handouts from the fans whose good will has kept them going till this stage. Believe you me, the numbers are a big deal and fundraising drives for the team usually held at Kay club in Centenary park by the West Nile community have been a big relief with more expected in the near future as the team plays in the premier league.
Sponsors always go with the numbers and surely Onduparaka is bound to attract one big sponsor fingers crossed. For now, the fans have shown the country the passion and love for local soccer still exists despite the threat from European soccer on TV almost taking the fans away from the stadia at home.
As soon as the team touched West Nile soils, there was a mammoth crowd to welcome them in Nebbi. The fans later joined the convoy to Arua where they received a heroes welcome from other fans who waited patiently till 9:000pm.
With Micho summoning 4 of the Onduparaka players for national duty, even the sky will not be the limit for local soccer if other fans emulated the West Nile solidarity.