Team Iman left the Lugogo Hockey Grounds with all the bragging rights after pipping Team Ekon at the buzzer in the Friday Night Lights Season IX (FNL9) finals on January 05, 2024.
The final score read 33-31 in favor of Iman; but who was keeping count? For FNL has over the last decade positioned itself as Uganda’s premiere sports-meets-showbiz event, offering a unique blend of music, food and beverages with the basketball action only serving as a side dish of sorts.
It is why the organizers always encourage the players to employ an easygoing approach on court; with the participating teams expected to field a blend of league players, fans and celebrities in their lineups.
It is fitting therefore that it was a fan that scored the buzzer-beater for Iman.
“It was an honor to be considered a Captain in FNL9. Winning it all left us super proud; especially seeing that the winning basket came from a fan,” said Ritah Imanishiwe, Team Iman captain.
While it was Crysto Panda and BigTril stealing the show in the second leg on December 22, 2023, this time around it was arguably Uganda’s greatest of all time (G.O.A.T) artiste, Jose Chameleone attracting the loudest cheers from the fans.
The only disappointment was his reluctance to sweat it out on the court, preferring to remain seated in the VIP section alongside Uganda Boxing Federation (UBF) boss, Moses Muhangi and Grace Namutebi, Brand Manager, Crown Beverages.
It was left to Mr Mosh (also known as Ssendi Mosh Afrikan, at least to the Makindye East III residents – who he represents as Lord Councilor in the KCCA Council) to roll back the years on the mic with a patois-infused dancehall freestyle and a sample of the Ngoni classic 'Digi', a song he featured on around 2005, as he led out Team Comfort onto the court.
Nutty Neithen, who suited up for Team Afande and Nina Roz, were the other notable entertainers in attendance.
Castle Lite beer the headline sponsor under its new Unlock, Refresh and Enjoy tagline was heavily discounted, with a bucket containing five (5) bottles going for UGX 15,000 while a single bottle cost only UGX 3,500.
Joel Galla, Brand Manager, Castle Lite said, “Castle Lite is about unlocking new frontiers of entertainment and spaces where people can get to enjoy themselves in cool and refreshing ways and FNL is the perfect fit as was evidenced at the finale.”
NRG Radio, the vibes partner went all out as well; with a number of its star presenters and DJs bringing the heat. The Trojans dance crew, DJ Beats and host Sheila Salta did their usual thing with Sean Preezy and DJ Vanss also coming through.
Alex Dangote, NRG’s Head of Marketing said the radio was all about “bringing the energy,” promising to go even harder in the next FNL season.
Qi Sports Management, the event production group and its partners at ATS were at it again on the glamour front with top notch mood lighting, grand audio visuals (AV) displays and pyrotechnics.
Several half-time challenges saw fans win lots of cool prizes from the sponsors including t-shirts, hats, cash and headphones.
National Council of Sports (NCS) Chairperson Ambrose Tashobya and General Secretary, Bernard Ogwel were on hand to hand out some of the prizes to the winners.
Tom Ocamringa, the FNL Team Leader, preferred to thank the sponsors (Castle Lite, NRG Radio, Mountain Dew and Safe Boda) for their generosity, the fans for continuing to embrace FNL and the participating captains and teams for showing out every game night.
With the last game, ending after 1:00am, the awards ceremony was postponed to a later date.
The schedule for Season X – which will take place later in 2024 – will be announced soon.
All the eight (8) teams played their last group games before the finals.
Team Wazee picked up its first win beating Team Afande on the back of former Oilers big, Francis Azolibe’s strong showing.
Both Team Iman and Team Ekon registered 3 out of 3 wins in Pool B and Pool A, respectively, which propelled them to the finals as group winners.
1. Team Iman - Ritah Imanishiwe
2. Team Ekon - Brenda Ekone
3. Team Melo - Saidi “Carmelo” Amisi
4. Team Afande - Henry Okoth
5. Team Comfort – Leticia Comfort Awor
6. Team Drileba - Tony Drileba
7. Team Soro - Godfrey Soro
8. Team Wazee – Assorted ex-players, fans