KOBs Versus Pirates: The sibling rivalry since 1996

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By Ali Mutanje

Sibling rivalry is not a new thing in sports history. From Michael and Ralf Schumacher over to top sports franchise rivalries like Los Angeles Lakers vs Boston Celtics. This rivalry can locally be compared to the rivalry between KOBs and Pirates rugby clubs in Uganda. The two clubs have shared history and one could say they’re from the same womb as siblings do. 

They have rivaled each other for two and a half decades in a fierce row which has grown over time. Every build up to this game fixture has scuffles and blood fights. Brother versus brother each fighting for their badge of honour.

As the two teams face off this weekend, it is a title decider match that may end up profiting Heathens. KOBs are favourites to win this match since they remain the unbeaten team of the season. Pirates are a close second with 35 points and Heathens with 34points. If Pirates win this game against KOBs and Heathens win their game against Rhinos, Pirates will have handed the title to the defending champions. Ugsports takes you deep into the history and growth of these two giants of the country’s rugby league. 

Birth of Pirates Rugby Club 

KOBs have been around since 1963, exactly 33 years before Pirates was born in 1996.  

During their inaugural season, Pirates first crop of players was fished from Impis and KOBs,a move that was pioneered by KOBs legend Edward Kitaka. Kitaka was the force behind the formation of the sea robbers after disagreements with Sam Achanga, Edmond Owor and Foxy Ojambo on the board. 

The two teams shared a warm relationship until Pirates started registering progress and the old guard felt the new kids were gunning for their turf. 

Pirates later grew, like a son who moves out of his father’s house, and when they beat KOBs for the first time, it did not go down well with the Old Boys of Kampala. For long spells Pirates were considered an understudy to KOBs, to come and beat their “fathers” was unacceptable.. 

From friends to foes 

KOBs and Pirates shared a bond so close that in the 1998 title run, it is alleged they played a hand in the failure of title contenders Impis on the last day. 

Impis needed a win by a specific margin to take the league title from KOBs. However they were frustrated by the whipping boys(Pirates) and they failed to achieve their set goals, thus helping KOBs win the title. 

When Pirates set higher targets and started growing from 2005, KOBs saw them as rivals rather than allies. Pirates have been accused of match fixing and favouritism in the national team

Both teams have affiliations with top schools; Namilyango, Budo, St. Mary’s Kisubi which became hunting grounds for talent for the two clubs. Pirates however took the lion’s share of the upcoming young talent causing resentment from other clubs including KOBs. 

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Pirates register their first trophy  

Question marks were raised on their Uganda Cup win in 2007. 

Heathens’ win in the semifinals in the run in to the cup was overturned by the Uganda Rugby Union for fielding Scott Olouch who, according to the board, was ineligible to play because he had registered late. And yet similar situation was reported of Impis  player Alfred Karekaho who went unpunished. 

Pirates proceeded to the final and your guess is as good as mine for who they beat in the final, KOBs. Many KOBs faithfuls to date believe the match was won in a boardroom and not on the field. 

Growing grudges in the league

In 2008, KOBs players assaulted referee Mulindwa George during Makerere 10a against Heathens. Players were of course punished with lengthy bans. KOBs were penalised 3 points after Alfred Musika violated the ban. 

In 2009, KOBs player who was the then national team captain, Alfred Bukenya was stripped of the arm band. And it was given to none other than Rhinos’ Musika John who is a well known Pirate at heart, allegedly. Furthermore, Musoke’s engagement with two Pirates cogs, Ojambo and Ahamya to sell Kampala Rugby Club angered most KOBs faithfuls. 

KOBs believe their main rivals are Heathens because Pirates do not have the silverware to back up their talk. Even with one league title, two Uganda cups and 1 sevens title. Pirates fans don’t want to talk of silverware. They would rather talk about the institutional growth with a fine home in Bweyogerere and a strong Lady side in Black Pearls.

The Saturday fixture as expected will be a clash of Ugandan titans with each of the teams playing for honour. Ugsports will update you with the latest news. May the best team win.

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