There has been an increasing presence of children of the First Family at domestic sports events in recent times. This appears to have raised the expectation, that sport is in greater tidings, than ever before, reports JOHN VIANNEY NSIMBE.
First division basketball games have not been a favourite pass-time for many. Yet, on Sunday March 24 at the MTN arena in Lugogo, Natasha Museveni Karugire, the first daughter graced the opening league fixture involving the UPDF Tomahawks and Rez Life.
Natasha inspected the two teams, as chief guests do. But more importantly, she was introduced as the president of the Tomahawks. It is a position that was recently created in the hierarchy of the team, following her shown interest in the team.
How far her interest in the team goes remains anyone’s guess, though. Tomahawks team manager also UPDF officer Moses Mugagga told The Observer that because of Natasha’s interest in the team, they felt that getting her position in the administrative structure would be handy.
They created the position of president, which she duly accepted. Ordinarily, many feel that with Natasha associated with the Tomahawks, they have just hit the jackpot. They feel she will bring in lots of money. Or at least, she can convince her father, to give the team more money to sustain itself, and also to acquire better players to dominate whichever division they play in.
However, Mugagga said that picking money from her handbag is not her major role.
“As an institutional club, we have a sports budget from UPDF,” Mugagga said. But he added, that she will be instrumental in endearing corporate sponsorship. Because of her influence, Mugagga believes she will help sell the Tomahawks brand.
This, he reasoned should help improve the welfare of the players, and also make the team more popular. Right now, Mugagga intimated that they are still working out modalities on how the whole structure of the club will run since she is still new in the set-up.
One thing Mugagga emphasized is the fact that they have time on their side to plan for the future of the Tomahawks. Having been relegated from the top flight league at the end of last season, Natasha will feel the team needs to bounce back to the top flight immediately, where the action and media coverage is biggest. And for the long haul, she has all the time needed to transform the club without much hindrance since her position has no term limits.
Besides, she is genuinely passionate about basketball, because her sons play the sport, Cedric Babu, the president of the Uganda Tennis Association noted. Children have a way of influencing their parents, and in this particular case, for good measure: “I see the Tomahawks benefiting a lot from Natasha, because her children have made her fall in love with basketball. Natasha is part of the new generation of leaders, so by being close to sport, can easily push her father to support the emerging industry even the more. So, we can only celebrate her arrival at this juncture,” Babu said.
That said, Natasha’s elder brother Muhoozi Kainerugaba has a longer association with sport. He has been involved with boxing, basketball and football more closely. A few years ago, Kainerugaba offered a donation of Shs 3 million to the Uganda Boxing Federation (UBF) in 2013.
On top of that, it later emerged in 2015, that Kainerugaba backed the establishment of the Special Forces Command (SFC) Boxing Club, as a patron. The SFC is the army that provides the inner ring of the president’s security. It competed in National Boxing Championships. In 2017, during the Uganda Sports Press Association (Uspa) annual gala at Imperial Royale, Kainerugaba delivered a Shs 30 million kitty from his father to the Uspa Sacco.
Dennis Mbidde, former Fufa vice president sees this as rekindling past glory. Mbidde told The Observer, that Kainerugaba was always a sports lover, from their days at St Mary’s College Kisubi.
So, that passion from 20 years ago does not easily die especially when one’s contemporaries are involved in sport.
“But I also think, there is a political side to all this. The First Family probably realizes, that there is need to appeal more to the youth before the 2021 elections. And the only way to do that, is through sport, ventures that Kainerugaba and Natasha have entered,” Mbidde said.
It should be noted, that Kainerugaba is the patron of the Uganda Olympic Committee, a position the boxing administration led by Kenneth Gimugu wanted him to occupy, but without success. Maybe Moses Muhangi, the current boss of boxing can convince him.
That said, the SFC Boxing Club has since missed a number of tournaments, because of lack resources (finances), it is reported. In 2015, SFC Boxing Club failed to honour the hosting rights of the armed forces boxing tournament in Entebbe, reportedly because of logistical problems.
The UBF had to find an alternative host. In addition, the SFC Boxing Club did not compete in this year’s National Boxing Open at the beginning of the year, because they had not paid up the annual subscription fee of Shs 150,000.
But Gilbert Mitala, the coach of the team said they simply missed because they were busy, and not because they had no resources. Just maybe how far that boxing club, and the Tomahawks go over time, with confirm whether the Musevenis are indeed in sport for the long haul to develop it into an industry.