Diana Peace Bagala is a sports journalist with CBS FM and BBS Terefayina. She is mostly known for football commentary and analysis and as Dianne. She could name The Cranes starting line-up as early as primary school.
From that point on, she was determined to translate her passion for sports into a career and at just 24 years, she has covered high-profile sports events. Of late, you may know her as the one quarter of the Kalisoliso crew, a daily sports-humour 30-minute show, where she enjoys a seamless camaraderie with her co-hosts.
But if that is all you know about Bagala, start paying more attention, writes David Lumu. Sometime last year, there was a lot of agitation in the newsroom about a young ‘girl’ who was taking sports journalism by storm.
To be sincere, I had no idea. It is a male-dominated field whose demands are often beyond the capacity of ladies. It was only a few weeks ago that the debate was reignited following my inquiry about the amazing new voice on Kalisoliso crew. Only then did I get to know Dianne. I felt compelled to find out what makes her tick.
On this Monday evening at CBS FM, I find Dianne doing a match report from the KCCA versus UPDF FC game she has just watched at Lugogo. It is clear she wants to beat the deadline, because the story has to air on the 8pm news bulletin. She has to write the English and Luganda versions.
However, some colleagues that did not make it to Lugogo are distracting her. I counted four different calls, all inquiring about the match. She has to inform them about the match result, who scored, how the goals came about and what the respective coaches said after the match.
Dianne labours to explain all this and somehow manages to submit the stories in time. She switches to scouring the Internet, taking time off to scribble some words on paper.
“I’m noting down key stats. This is my routine before I go on air and, I also have to prepare for Kalisoliso,” she tells me. “I have to be knowledgeable and updated on everything I talk about because we broadcast to a well-informed listenership. If you don’t [do your research], you are exposed.”
Welcome to the world of Dianne, a person who is at work by 6am and leaves shortly after midnight.
“I love my job and I’m so fine with the schedule,” she says.
I’m surprised she is very humble, far from the agitated football commentator I listen to on radio.
For 22 years, Kalisoliso is the highest-rated Ugandan morning show in its time segment, thanks to the presenters’ humour and witty language; but Dianne has formed a genuine bond with the crew.
Abby Mukiibi, her co-host, is full of praise: “She is so well-informed that we no longer have to worry about giving listeners the latest news.”
“Dianne also has so many key sources of information in sports and it makes our work so easy.”
These contacts enable Dianne to add behind-the-scenes information to the show.
“I’ve learnt to treasure people who give me information. I’ve learnt a lot and when you win someone’s trust, they will always be feeding you information, which helps me to have up-to-date sports information,” she says.
Dianne is also very active on social media, with more than 4,800 followers on Facebook. Indeed, my efforts to be her latest friend did not succeed when Facebook alerted me: ‘This person has reached the friend request limit and can’t accept any more.’
On the platform, I observed that fans often let her know they are listening in. If they are not asking about her analysis, they are inquiring about a transfer target or even betting tips.
Such is her huge following that many posts are met with about 300 likes and comments. “I also have created a WhatsApp group to interact with fans and they engage me throughout the day,” she says.
But not every social media post or comment is met with approval or debate. Some, she notes, have rubbed some people the wrong way to the extent of making threats towards her.
“There was a time a clique of Villa fans hated me, especially my views in regard to the chaotic game against Vipers. They trolled me for a few days but that didn’t bother me,” she says. “I’m thick-skinned and I know how to address a situation when it becomes personal.”
Dianne admits she did not stumble upon sports journalism but has been passionate right from her primary school days.
“I remember those days when my brothers would sneak out late in the night to go watch European football games at a nearby kibanda. I didn’t understand much about football but I would follow them simply because I feared to be left alone in the house,” she recalls.
Back then, she wasn’t necessarily keen about football but the passion grew when she joined Mukono High School, where she got her first taste of football.
“When women’s football was introduced in the school, I was one of the few who volunteered. We were only a handful of players but we enjoyed the few competitive games we played,” she says.
This practical introduction got Dianne entrenched in football to the extent of becoming different.
“Can you imagine that while other girls would be writing love letters and latest music lyrics during free time, I would be writing line-ups of the top European football teams?” she says.
Joining the school’s Writers and Readers club laid the foundation for Dianne’s interest in journalism and it is through her weekly sports bulletin in the school that she gained the confidence to address masses.
“Reading sports news at assembly raised belief in my ability,” she says.
So, it was a no-brainer when she finished senior six.
“I didn’t get enough points to pursue my first choice course of mass communication at Makerere and my family couldn’t afford to pay my tuition as a private student,” she says. “I settled for a diploma at Umcat and, looking back, it was a wise decision and helped me meet mentors such as Bbale Francis [RIP] and others.”
In 2013, Dianne joined Star FM, a subsidiary of Uganda Broadcasting Corporation (UBC), as an intern. She was primarily a sports reporter but quickly rose through the ranks to become a panellist on one of the shows before venturing into live-match football broadcast.
“It [commentary] was a challenging experience because there were very few women to look up to...the likes of Jane Kasumba, Aisha Nassanga and Fifi,” she says. “With time, I learnt the trade and what helped me most was my knowledge of the players and rules of the game.”
She would later find herself wanted by other stations and in 2014, she part-timed with Kingdom TV.
“At UBC, I was on internship but Kingdom offered to pay me,” she says.
However, this kind of lifestyle opened her eyes to life’s challenges.
“There were days I used to return home at 3am yet I had to be at the station at 7am,” she says. “It would sometimes be scary. Life was tricky and I would spend months without seeing some of my neighbours.”
When CBS FM offered her an opportunity in 2016, she grabbed it with open arms.
“Simon Sekankya, owner of Hardware World, helped connect me to CBS and that prepared the ground for the biggest turnaround in my career,” she recalls.
At Bulange, it was an altogether different situation for Dianne, who felt intimidated by the prospect of working alongside established figures.
“CBS is very challenging and has a wider audience. The station has had celebrated sports presenters like the late Makumbi, Ndugga and David Lumansi. So, I set out not to be the weak link,” she says.
It took only a year before Mukiibi recommended Dianne to join the station’s flagship show, Kalisoliso.
“The feedback from listeners about Dianne was very overwhelming. I thought we could utilise her immense potential on Kalisoliso and it has worked like magic,” he says.
Dianne admits there is little room for error at CBS.
“CBS is very sensitive. We have a varied group of listeners from the elite to the ‘common man’. So, I have to ensure I use a language acceptable to the bakungu as well as the bakiyaye.”
Being a lady in a male-dominated field has also come with its challenges and opportunities. Dianne admits it has helped her be easily recognised, but also given her sleepless nights.
“Many people always come here to see what I look like. They are always shocked I’m not as big as they thought. Many give me money and commend me for standing out,” she says.
However, she admits there are many misconceptions.
“Some think that being a woman, I don’t qualify to talk football. Others think we just read scripts prepared by somebody else, while some think I don’t have a normal life of a girl like others. To me, I feel I’m perfectly in the right field.”
Dianne notes that she derives her energy from feedback.
“The people who encourage me keep me going strong and doubters also motivate me to prove them wrong,” she says.
Dianne also feels she is yet to reach the levels she dreams of.
“I’ve not achieved anything significant to be satisfied.”
However, she admits having a fan base that includes prominent people is a great triumph.
“There is this time when the katikkiro [Charles Peter Mayiga] came to visit CBS. I was down in the office when my colleague came and called me out and said: “Dianne, katikkitiro akuyita [the prime minister needs to see you].”
I was quite anxious and thought I had said something wrong but when I met him, he congratulated me for doing well and said he was my number one fan.
When I meet the lord mayor [Erias Lukwago], he also tells me he is my fan; Hon [Joseph] Ssewungu also calls me his best presenter. That lifts me up and motivates me to do more.”
Interestingly, much as she is best known for football, Dianne is quite diverse and keenly follows other disciplines, particularly basketball, rugby, cricket and athletics.
“I set out to be versatile; I want to be knowledgeable in all aspects of sports,” she says.