- Women Soccer. Her passing range helps her team in imposing their free flowing football but Akiror is also willing to throw in tackles and lead in pressing when necessary – pragmatic skills learnt in her formative years where she had to prove herself against boys.
- A real beauty and beast.
Tracy Jones Akiror is one of two players left at Kawempe Muslim, from the team that won the inaugural Fufa Women Elite League title in 2015.
Her loyalty has come with the kind of responsibility Akiror never envisioned when she was still a utility player trying to write her legend in that history making team that had household names like Sandra Nabweteme, Hasifah Nassuna, Ruth Aturo and Yudaya Nakayenze.
That team was so rich in talent and leadership that Akiror played a peripheral role in defence in the 2015 final against Buikwe She Red Stars in Nakivubo.
Three seasons later, one only needs to check Akiror’s social media accounts to understand how influential she is at the heart of this team of emerging but fragile talents.
More often than not, you are bound to see videos of her dancing and singing with teammates after their training sessions.
“As a senior player in the team, I have to mentor the young ones and the dancing or advice on academics is part of the motivation I can offer,” Akiror, who is lean but comes off as competitive and imposing on the pitch, shares after her signature hearty laugh.
Even though, the armband and official captaincy roles lie with Mariam Nakabugo – the other player from the 2015 team – Akiror is the defacto captain of the Kawempe team that claimed a fourth consecutive league title a week ago at Star Times Stadium, Lugogo.
“She is the vocal voice in the dressing room, the one who will tell the young players what it means to fight for Kawempe to keep pushing for league titles and pick them up when they make mistakes,” coach Ayub Khalifan tells SCORE, in the aftermath of the FWEL final where Kawempe beat Olila High School 1-0 to reclaim the trophy.
Khalifan recruited Akiror from St Mary’s School Nsumba, where she did her Ordinary Level (2008-2011), in 2009. This was after her vigour in midfield left Kawempe for dead in the Women Cup.
Since she was never a student of the school, Akiror mostly hanged around the school team playing for them in open competitions where the rules permitted. She continued to do so even after joining St Juliana for Advanced Level (2012-13), bidding her time till Kawempe started a club to participate in the FWEL in 2014.
Her responsibilities now have been stretched; from consoling budding and goal hungry striker Juliet Nalukenge on bad days to getting the team out of tight situations on pitch.
Akiror, who honed her skill right from the tender age of eight under the stewardship of coach Robert Ssekitto at Destiny Academy in Luzira, is effectively a box-to-box midfielder.
“I learnt football from kicking in mum’s womb,” jokes the player, who also played for Butabiika-based academies SMJ, Red Star and continues to practice with one of her favourite coach Siraj Arafat Elijah at Saska. Of course the other, the biggest influence on her life, is Khalifan.
Beauty and beast
Her passing range helps her team in imposing their free flowing football – a thing she does so easily that most of her male counterparts wallow in shame playing with her.
While Kawempe is likely to dominate most of its games, the same cannot be said of the national team Crested Cranes, where Akiror recently manned the midfield with Gafford Ladies’ Shakirah Mutiibwa.
Akiror still showed she was eager to deploy the scorned upon art of tackling and was a leading light in the pressing game whenever Uganda was not in possession – pragmatic skills learnt in her formative years where she had to prove herself against boys. A beauty and beast in every sense of the phrase.
“Football is about discipline, you must know what to do in each situation. I have the license to play anywhere in midfield and that helps me use my skills to influence games.
“I do not like playing in defence because it’s hard to influence games there but versatility comes with so many opportunities especially on the national team. In the end, I just want to play football,” Akiror, who has also got impeccable game reading, says.All good players rely on instinct and Akiror’s came to the fore in the playoffs where forwards Nalukenge and Asia Nakibuuka had outings to forget.
Akiror, any punters last bet to score the decider in a final, scored that much needed goal – picking a rebound off Olila’s defence that failed to clear Aisha Nakibuuka’s freekick, controlling it with her lower right foot and then smashing home, a goal fit to win any final.
Pick of the lot
Earlier in the semi-final playoffs – after topping Victoria Group – she smashed home a half-volley from Grace Aluka’s in-swinger from a corner to equalize against Kampala Queens in a 1-all draw. Moments later, she gracefully converted a penalty as Kawempe won 5-4 in the shootouts.
“When we got the corner against KQ, I just knew where I had to go. Our forwards had missed so many chances and I just thought I should get in there.
When I saw the ball skip the defenders, I wanted to square it back to Juliet but I quickly changed my mind to hitting it after a bounce.” Lo and behold, this player who had scored two seasons ago against Western United had scored her side’s most important goals of the season.
“The goal got so many people talking about my inability to score so in the final I kept around the box hoping for a chance to disprove them.” And it came with a fourth league title and Most Valuable Player (MVP) accolade.
Name: Tracy Jones Akiror
Date of Birth: August 25, 1997
Father: James Olongaria
Mother: Robina Night Nassali
Siblings: Three sisters and three brothers
Best Player (foreign): Andres Iniesta
Best Player (local): Saddam Juma
Best teammates: Sandra Nabweteme
and Hasifah Nassuna
Toughest opponent: ‘We usually dominate
our games so no one’