This past weekend the Suba Lakers travelled to Homabay to defend their title at the BUOP Tournament. Last year the girls captured the trophy and carried it home to Mbita, so this year they had to return the trophy and try to win it back. The team consisted of 11 primary school players (mostly 7th and 8th graders) along with 3 who finished high school recently. The BUOP is a tournament with mostly secondary school teams and a few colleges who are preparing for their upcoming seasons. Over 20 girls team participated in the event this year.
One of the best aspects of the tournament was that not only did was Suba Lakers represented as a team, but there were also many Suba Lakers competing on their schools teams. 6 of the 20 girls football teams had Suba Lakers on them. Five of those teams reached the Quarterfinals, 3 reached the Semifinals and 2 of those teams played in the Finals. There were Suba Lakers represented everywhere! Mawego had 5 Suba Lakers, Sindo 3, Magare 2, St. Mary’s Magina 1 and Kobala 1.
In the preliminaries, the Lakers were in Pool D and faced off with St. Theresa’s Secondary School in their 1st match. June Brenda opened the scoring with a goal in the first five minutes and Mercy Adhiambo added another one in the 18th minute of the first half. In the second half Phylice Akoth closed out the scoring in the 10th minute to give the Lakers a 3-0 win. In the 2nd match, the young Lakers played Asumbi Teacher’s Training College. Against the much bigger and stronger college team, the young Lakers used their speed and ball skills to control the possession. In the final ten minutes, their hard work paid off by forcing a handball in the box which led to the winning score from the penalty spot.
After emerging on the top of Group D, the Lakers qualified for the Quarterfinals on Sunday where they faced Bakita Secondary School. June Brenda again opened the scoring in the 4th minute with a long shot from outside the box. In the 2nd half Irine Achieng added to the total with an even longer shot from the left wing. The final score came from Winny Akinyi on a high bouncing ball that eluded the goalkeeper.
That win earned them a spot in the Semifinal against their rival Moi Girls Secondary School Sindo. Moi Girls barely survived their Quarterfinal match-up with Ugari when it took them 13 penalty kicks after their scoreless draw. For the Semis, the teams were sent to the main pitch at Homabay High School where thousands thronged the field to watch. It was a tough physical match-up that was interrupted every few minutes with players suffering injuries. The Suba Laker coach was called onto the field 4 different times to help treat injured players. The match was very balanced until the final minutes when the referee awarded Sindo a penalty kick with a very dubious whistle. They converted the penalty kick which turned out to be the match winner.
In the other bracket, the pre-tournament favorite Kobala had been eliminated in the Quarterfinals, so the Championship Game was not as much of a challenge as what Sindo faced against the Lakers in the Semis. They went away with a 2-0 victory in the finals against Magare, and took the trophy home.
Though it was disappointing for the Suba Laker team, at least they knew the champions were helped by 3 Suba Lakers. It was another great experience for the young girls to play against older more experienced players and have a chance to play 4 different matches. They have showed the ability to compete with anyone.