By David Martin Aliker
Saturday 11th, 2019 as Manchester City was tussling it out with Liverpool to determine who the Champions of English Premier League 2018/2019 were; in Uganda’s Federation of Uganda Football Association (FUFA) Drum, Acholi were playing West Nile in a thrilling match at the Green Light Stadium in Arua.
More than one thousand fans from Acholi traveled for more than 4 hours to Arua to witness this clash with last years’ runners up in the FUFA Drum Tournament.
Ordinarily, local football fans would have preferred to watch Manchester City play against Liverpool in the English Premiership League finals but something was different; a new breed of local football stars locally groomed had inspired a new sensation with local football under FUFA’s Drum Football Initiative.
The FUFA Drum is a football competition that is played by the 16 provinces of Uganda and is aimed at taking the game to the masses and its theme is ‘Celebrating Our Ancestry’
The FUFA Drum second edition is getting more exciting by the day as top contenders are losing in the first rounds and it may in the end; prove to be the most thrilling since the tournament’s inception last year.
One such player is a lanky center forward Tito Okello alias OT9 (1996) currently plying his trade for Vipers Football Club (Vipers FC).
Previously, Tito has played at Bul F.C (Jinja), Tanzanian duo of African Lyon and Mbeya City (Tanzania) as well as the reigning Uganda Premier league champions Kampala City Council Authority (KCCA).
Like all stars with humble beginnings, their past is rarely known as they strive to become stars.
As a pupil of UNIFAT Primary School, Tito was a young and tiny player known for playing among the big boys at Kaunda Grounds in an Under 12 program by Alliance for African Assistance, a local charity with a focus on children.
In June 2004 when Trevor Dudley, the founder of Kampala Kids League (KKL) launched another league in Gulu; Tito got the opportunity to play in the Gulu Kids League (GKL) and excelled.
After the tournament, the Diocesan Football Club (D.F.C) identified him and recruited Tito to their club.
While at Diocesan Football Club, Tito was invited to join Gulu University Club then Coached by Peter Onen (Bul F.C) to participate in the Regional League.
It’s at this stage that Gulu University Football Club joined the big league but Tito would then win himself a slot at a real professional contract paid up league of players at Bul F.C where Peter Onen currently is Coach.
From Bul F.C, Tito got his first international opportunity to play for the Tanzanian duo of African Lyon and Mbeya City (Tanzania) and eventually returned to Uganda Premier league champions Kampala City Council Authority (KCCA).
It’s from KCCA that Tito had a brief stint in Asia with China based top football club, House of Sport Lisboae Benfica (Benfica De Macau) and eventually back to Uganda’s Vipers F.C with a focus on a national duty.
In October 2016, Tito told a Chimps Report journalist that,” I am working hard to put myself in the best shape possible not only for the team but also to catch the eye of the national team bench”
If this dream is anything to go by, then Uganda National Team Head Coach Sébastien Desabre must know that Tito’s eyes are on him and his team.
As evidenced, Tito has matured in the game and gained the much needed experience, talents and spectacular skills for national duty.
Patriotic Tito seem to have had his eyes on a national call up since resigning his professional stint in China and returning to play in the top national premier league.
Tito currently leads the scoring chart with 4 goals, with 1 goal against Karamoja, 2 goals against Bunyoro and 1 goal against West Nile where he also won the Man of the Match FUFA Awards.He has scored in all Drum 2019 matches.
As Uganda braces itself to play hosts and record tournament winners Egypt in group A alongside Zimbabwe and two-time African Cup of Nations (AFCON) winners Democratic Republic of Congo (winners in 1968 and 1974); there is a hungry Elephant waiting to blow its trumpet in Egypt.
The author is a Gulu Blogger and a member of Gulu Writers Club