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Saturday, May 29, 2010

It's now a matter of life and death


If you’ve never truly understood the expression “all guns blazing,” stay close to your T.V tomorrow night and get acquainted when Makerere University wrestles with Africa Nazarene University in the opening episode of the Zain Africa Challenge semifinal.

How agonising it must be already for fervent followers of this interuniversity battle of wits to have to witness the two East African universities contending at this stage rather than in the grand finale!

The mellowness and astuteness of Jane Ndug’u and Vanessa Karuri has remained disarming, but it’s the assuredness and adroitness of Sammy Mwanika that gives the liberal arts Kenyan university the razor-sharp edge that has slit past opponents leaving them for dead.

Let’s nevertheless not fret for Mak has been intoxicating as well; something that has very much bespoken its defiance and resolve to become the first university to bring the trophy home. The sharp and pacy Lameck Mbangaye can hold his own against Mwanika whereas Simon Peter Lanyero Lukwiya’s overwhelming confidence and competence definitely outshines Karuri’s and arguably Ndug’u’s.

The only one you cannot count on is Ruita Mbogo. The Kenyan has been such a letdown that one watcher called him a “killjoy” and one scribe quipped that Mak has been fielding only two players! Hopefully Mbogo will prove us all wrong by conquering his fears and stepping up his game because Mak badly needs this victory. Egerton University may be two-time winners but this time they don’t have the grit and poise of Africa Nazarene or even Makerere.

Even Jomo Kenyatta which knocked out Zambia’s Copperbelt University last Sunday is not as brilliant. It appears it’s the blood and indomitable spirit of their national father figure, Kenyatta that has pushed the team this far (you should have seen how they puttered about in the Ultimate Challenge last Sunday!) If Copperbelt had not panicked; if they had not messed themselves up in the first three rounds, Kenyatta would have been goners. They won with 660 points against Copperbelt’s 490 points and so will play their homeboys, Egerton, in the semis.

The competition has reached a time where every point counts; where a mistake is intolerable; where hitting the buzzer first counts the most and where tact in choosing a category is as essential. Where a little panic however good one is will give your opponent leeway and where the player in centre position must crack the first question that guarantees him/her the support of teammates.

That said, I have this sneaking suspicion that just because Kenya has a record three teams in the semis, Nazarene could enter the ring a little complacent well knowing even if they lost, either Jomo Kenyatta or Egerton could still go for gold.

Makerere should therefore approach this as a matter of life and death. And then, with a little good luck, they could attain what has so far eluded Ugandan universities for the last three years. Catch the crackling clash at 8:30p.m., on NTV.

--Saturday Monitor, May 22, 2010