National Pool Open leaves a mark, but what next?

The Nile Special National Pool Open championship came to an end at Lugogo Indoor Stadium last Saturday with Caesar Chandiga and Rukia Nayiga the last man standing. Chandiga’s Team Scorpion paraded the trophy through the streets of Gulu with ‘Yoo Leng’ booming on the speakers while Nayiga is still in shock that her father attended her crowning moment.

We take a look at some of the best and worst moments of the day-long event inside the packed Lugogo Indoor Stadium.

The best performers

Caesar Chandiga came into the tournament as an unseeded player and even though all evidence suggested him as the favourite, he remained firm before a mammoth crowd and talented 127 other sharp shooters. Elegant and composed, Chandiga ripped his opponents apart.

Outstanding from the first game until the last, the 22-year-old completed what he hadn’t done all his life: win the National Open championship, his first major national title. The best of Chandiga was mostly witnessed at the Centre Table and in winning the championship, he became the 10th winner of the prestigious event since 2001.

If that’s not a perfect description of a man that over-performed, here’s another one. Just like Chandiga, two-time winner Jonah Turigye defied the odds and battled his way to claim third place at the championship. Commonly known as Joker, he exhibited talent, speed, and a mathematical mind on the table.

Apart from the game against Chandiga where he was left to shake his head as he lost 7-0, Turigye possessed a compelling finish that made light work of such stars as defending champion Mansoor Bwanika.

And that cannot go without mentioning the ladies’ winner Rukia Nayiga. You could say penalties are a lottery, but they help decide winners. Actually, it was a fair way to separate her from the ‘beast’ of the table, Rashida Mutesi, her younger sister after an enthralling action that ended 5-5.

The biggest underperformers

Champion of the East African region Mchana Cup in Kenya, the PAU King championship, and by far the most stylish player of this generation, could there be a better fit for this category than the Little Magician Ibrahim Sejjemba?

Sure, such championships are more complicated but Sejjemba is left to rue the missed opportunity. In the Round of 64 tie against Moses Omara, Sejjemba didn’t take a single lead until he levelled the game 4-4 to force the dreadful decider. The umpire did the unthinkable and stopped the game while Omara was on black, and as the rules state, the balls had to be re-positioned. The damage had been done by the messy umpire and the fans, who were chanting for the Luo players, were happy to see how Sejjemba struggled.

But the most dismaying performance came from last year’s Seed One Ibrahim Kayanja, who is yet to win an individual championship this year. But not even his stylish play that wows fans could stop the humiliation. There is little to be written about Kayanja, who was eliminated early by Rashid Wagaba.

The good

Downgraded and subdued until D-day, one could have described the National Open qualifiers as a shadow of wind. From the moment the games cued off at Lugogo, the music changed. There are good moments, and then there are really good moments.

Seeing one of the greats of pool, Ssalongo Kasawuli, the proprietor of Samona Pool Club was heartwarming. Farouk Kisuze, the immediate former chairman of the pool association was also in the stands alongside former Aruu County Member of Parliament Odonga Otto. For official duties, the chairman of the National Council of Sports (NCS) Ambrose Tashobya presided over as chief guest.

For a sport that fights perceptions of being a bar sport, the attendance of bigwigs is an assurance to the young ones that the future is bright. On the green bed, the five years of waiting were worth it.


We can’t actually talk enough about Chandiga in this piece; he should be getting all the flowers. But the old rule is: No one remembers who took second place. Azali Lukomwa’s second-place finish still remains a tasteless salad for those who have teeth for many other courses. On the other hand, Turigye showed he hasn’t lost an ounce of his talent, it’s up to him to get back to his level.

But let’s turn our focus to Lawrence ‘Dangote’ Ssengonge, who finished fourth after losing to Turigye 5-0. Ssengonge was the surprise of the day eliminating one of the top contenders Simon ‘Computer’ Lubuulwa from the race. Many had equated Lubuulwa’s loss as a survival from sinking with the Titanic and dying from a shallow puddle, but Ssengonge insisted it was business as usual.

Ssengonge, who opted out of the Pool League where he was featuring for Kansanga, has enough flexibility to build around him and significantly force himself to the national team.

The bad Soap opera-style drama is very much in demand.

Fortunately, there was no shortage of it at Lugogo. And surely, for every action, there is a reaction. Whoever writes the regulations for pool should remember this. The time-limit rule left a lot to be desired among the umpires and it was a big talking point. It frustrated many players and ruined many interesting match-ups. When the umpire on Table One suspiciously removed the balls as Moses Omara was about to take his last shot against Sejjemba, many fans were irked.

What followed could only be described as some of the most contentious moments of the season.

The rules state that if the balls are disturbed, they have to be replaced where they were. The referee replaces the balls to their original position as accurately as possible. His positioning left a lot to be desired.

Omara potted the black on the long rail and Sejjemba could do nothing but lament as his plea to replay the full game was denied any audience. Usually calm, he was so incensed that he left the arena in protest.

If that wasn’t saucy enough for you, there’s another more disputed moment to reflect on.
Who can forget another umpire who picked the cueball on the table that was almost going into the centre pocket and she pleaded that after all the black had been potted.
Sure, the messy umpires can escape punishment, but it’s pretty disheartening that they couldn’t do their job well.


It bothers her to play her younger sister and she is right because they are best friends. The global pool scene awaits the 2022 African champion, Rukia Nayiga. The crown and Toyota Raum car at Lugogo were deserved, we now await to see what the future holds.


About Post Author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.