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Ottamax: Why I played for AFC Leopards without gloves in Uganda

Jul 19, 2023Jul 19, 2023

Former Harambee Stars goalkeeper Mathew Ottamax has fondly recalled how he played for AFC Leopards without gloves during a CAF Cup match against Kampala Capital City FC (KCC) of Uganda.

Then, the Ugandan club was called KCC before it was rebranded to Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA FC), and Ottamax has drawn attention to the 1997 game in which he had to man the AFC Leopards' goal without protective gloves.

The Kenyan club and the Ugandan outfit met in the CAF Cup, which later, in 2004, changed its name to the CAF Confederation Cup.

"AFC vs KCC of Uganda will remain one of the saddest days in my football history. On both legs, we looked like we had something but ended up chasing clouds.

"In Kampala for the first leg, only two goalkeepers travelled: Bernard Ouma and me. Unfortunately, Ouma forgot his goalkeeping gloves back in Nairobi, and in the only session we had in Kampala, I had to alternate a pair with him. He went in goal for the last kicks of set-piece training as I went to join my other teammates who were done with the day's session.

"I never bothered to take my gloves from Ouma because I knew they were safe with him and there was no hurry since we were residing in the same hotel.

"What? The next day, with just minutes to kick off as we head for the check-up, I ask Ouma for my gloves, only for him to show shock on his face; he had left them at the goalpost, assuming the team attendant would pick them up. They got lost!" Ottamax said in a statement.

For one hour, Ottamax, a former Gor Mahia goalkeeper, had to deal with KCC's attacks with his bare hands, and it took the intervention of a fan to rescue the Kenyan goalkeeper.

"I played for almost 60 minutes without goalkeeping gloves in an international match as KCC dangerman Jackson Mayanja kept bombarding my bare hands with hotshots. It took the intervention of a sympathizer fan, Mr. Antony Walela, who went to the nearby Owino Market and got me a pair.

"This man, Walela, was always there for me. I remember later that year, when my daughter arrived and money wasn't forthcoming, he bailed me out unconditionally. May God continue to bless you, Mr. Antony Walela," the retired goalkeeper added.

Ironically, after the gloves were bought and given to Ottamax, the goalkeeper ended up conceding, unlike when he was without them.

"Back to the game: with my bare hands, we were leading KCC by two goals to nil, and then the gloves arrived, and I stopped looking like a village goalkeeper. Unfortunately, they came with a price: I conceded two goals in quick succession in the dying minutes of the game," Ottamax continued.

Ugandan football legend Mayanja is the one who punished Ingwe with goals and ensured that the Ugandan giants progressed at the expense of the Kenyan heavyweights.

"We were heartbroken because we thought we had wrapped it up. We were sniffing the CAF Cup semi-finals until the last minutes of the game when we lost concentration and Mayanja punished us with a double strike!" Ottamax concluded.

Although AFC Leopards were regular participants in continental and regional competitions before, that has not been the case in the last two decades.

Ingwe have struggled on the domestic front too, as Tusker and Gor Mahia, the traditional rivals to Ingwe, run the show.