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Fufa’s siege on football with inconsistent rulings

The round of 16 of the Stanbic Uganda Cup has been ongoing since March 14 with matches at different grounds.

But before that, Bul FC and SC Villa had to replay their round of 32 clash on Saturday, March 11 at the Fufa technical centre, Njeru. This followed the Fufa Competitions Disciplinary Panel’s (CDP) decision, to order a replay of this game, that Bul had won 1-0 in February.

According to the CDP, it found a valid reason to order a repeat of this game because SC Villa had petitioned against an assistant referee’s call, where their would-be genuine goal in the match, was wrongly ruled out. However, JOHN VIANNEY NSIMBE examines this decision, and what it says about the state of football in the country.

Bul FC was the only side that had to play two Stanbic Uganda Cup games in five days, and managed to win both of them. They edged SC Villa 1-0, before making the daunting journey to Arua, where they clinched a quarterfinal berth, following a 1-0 win over home side, Onduparaka FC.

On this background, Bul chief executive officer (CEO) Joseph Mutaka can be vindicated now, after he said before their replay with Villa, that they would not contest CDP’s ruling. Everything has just worked out well for the Jinja side, otherwise, he would probably be grumbling in the background, cursing the CDP, had matters turned for the worse.

Heading into the replay with Villa, all Mutaka could say was that Bul’s position on the matter was above his office.

“I believe it is an issue that was handled by the two brands, Bidco and Fufa. There is nothing more to it, that I can say,” Mutaka said. 

Therein lies the big elephant in the room; the kind that suggests the siege under which the Moses Magogo-led Fufa has placed unto the game of football. The fact that Bul has been quiet since the CDP decision, yet it is inevitable that they are angry about it, is a pointer to how much control Fufa has over the clubs.

There is so much fear of reprisal even when they know that Fufa is carrying out injustice. That is the state of the game in the country. William Bakkabulindi, the CEO of Proline FC has seen his club bear the brunt of Fufa so many times, that it has become laughable.

Bakkabulindi said: “The decision to have the Bul and Villa game replayed has set a very dangerous precedent. Our game was taken hostage by people, who are supposed to be supervising it. Instead, they make decisions that serve individual interests.”

He added that Magogo has become too powerful, and has everybody running scared, including clubs and media, that are supposed to check his excesses. Instead, because there is no independence, people would rather do things that please him, Bakkabulindi noted. But Denis Lukambi, Fufa head of legal matters discounted that argument insisting that Magogo has no involvement in the decisions of the Fufa judicial bodies.

He added: “In fact, to suggest that replaying the Bul/Villa game is a precedent set, is wrong. Every football decision is judged on its merit as per the evidence. It was clear, following the admission of the assistant referee, Khalid Muyaga, that he erred in ruling out Villa’s would-be goal.”

Lukambi added that because the Uganda Cup, being a knock-out tournament, provided no chance for reprieve or recovery, as the league does, Villa deserved a replay. According to Lukambi, it is on that premise, that the replay was sanctioned.

What Lukambi forgot, was that last year, Fufa ordered for the replay of the Onduparaka and KCCA FC game, after the original game was aborted. This followed a last-minute penalty awarded against the Arua side. In the same game, the fans of Onduparaka vandalized property of the visiting fans, and it took the firing of teargas, to quell the hooliganism at the Green Light stadium, where people’s lives were at stake.

While the Fufa competition rules stipulated very clearly, that in case a game ends prematurely, because of crowd trouble, the team whose fans are responsible will lose the game by forfeiture; that is three goals and three points. This could extend to a points deduction from those previously earned.

Just this season, Busoga United and Express FC game aborted in Jinja, after crowd trouble. At the time, Express had just scored their first goal while Busoga were staring another home defeat in the face. The rule mentioned above applied, unlike in the case of the Onduparaka and KCCA game.

In addition, when a section of Villa fans attacked team officials of Wakiso Giants earlier in the season with stones in Wankulukuku stadium, the Jogoos were ordered to play five successive home games at Akii-Bua stadium in Lira behind closed doors. Such is the inconsistency, which has suggested that the flouting of rules is dictated by a certain ‘big brother’, whose rule of thumb determines how the Fufa judicial bodies work.

That said, Fufa executive secretary for football development also former referee, Ronnie Kalema said in turn that there was no controversy in the CDP decisions. Kalema emphasized that the CDP has powers to give out penalties or mete out sanctions beyond what is stipulated in the regulations. That defeats the essence of written rules, then. It has provided space for impunity in the Fufa leadership.

Former Fifa referee, Ali Waiswa laughed off the CDP decision, as ridiculous. He wondered: “Just how many times this season have we watched games, where referees have made costly errors, yet the games have not been replayed?”

While Waiswa is not opposed to referees being suspended for a protracted period, as has been the case for assistant referee Khalid Muyaga, following his decision to wrongfully rule out what would have been Villa’s equalizer, Waiswa is unimpressed by the fact that Fufa picks and chooses whatever it wills, and when.

This season alone, referees have been at the centre of many wrong decisions. For example, in the game involving Express/Vipers at Wankulukuku, the visiting team’s forward, Ibrahim Orit entered the penalty area, and after he dribbled past the defender, he was felled to the ground.

When the centre referee Asadu Ssemmere blew his whistle, the whole stadium went silent because it appeared obvious Vipers were going to be awarded a penalty. But when Ssemmere reached the scene of the foul, right in the box, as some Vipers players were celebrating an expected penalty, the referee awarded a free-kick to the hosts to the dismay of many.

Before then, the Express/Gaddafi game had witnessed two outright offside goals counting in the glare of assistant referee Marlex Nakitto. Arua Hill were awarded a last-minute penalty against Bright Stars when it was clear on video replay that the ball hit the chest of defender Warren Bbuule and not his hand.

When KCCA FC edged Wakiso Giants 1-0 on the opening fixture day of the second round, video replays showed that Rogers Mato had scored from an offside position. It is a call that assistant referee Ronald Katenya made. Yet, after discussing with centre referee Ali Sabila, his call changed, much to the chagrin of Wakiso, who, on the other hand, should have got a point from that game.

The count of Fufa competition rules being flouted continues to rise and seems to have become a constant in Ugandan football. Yet, it goes on unabated. In the 2009/10 season, after the season had ended, Fufa re-arranged fixtures of earlier games that had not been played. Arua Central failed to travel to Mbale to face CRO FC on the original fixture date, which would have meant a direct walkover of two goals and three points.

That did not happen. Instead, because Fufa was feuding with Boro-Boro FC from Lira, they made sure CRO and Arua Central played, ensuring that the former scored enough goals, to eclipse Boro-Boro’s goal difference.

In 2012, Fufa in its fight with the Uganda Super League (USL), chose to create a breakaway league known as the Fufa Super League. But because SC Villa and Express FC leadership of Fred Muwema and Kavuma Kabenge respectively stood its ground then, Fufa decided to create ‘fake’ Villa and Express teams to play in its league.

Other clubs, like KCCA and URA FC played along in the Fufa league, yet they were aware that the mandate to run the top flight league was now the preserve of the USL. USL had come into existence through the Jinja Declaration, supervised and ratified by Fifa, which as is the case in most foreign leagues, are run by a body constituted by the football clubs, and not football associations.

A case in point, the Premier Soccer League in South Africa, English Premier League, the Italian Serie A and the Spanish La Liga, just to mention. Notably, another classic case of abrogation of rules by Fufa, happened in the 2018/19 Uganda Premier League season. Fufa ordered Proline to play a league game during an international break, well aware that some of the club’s players were with the national team.

On top of that, the international football governing body, Fifa, stipulates in its rules, that there cannot be top flight league football during international breaks. It is a rule observed across the world.

But at the time, Proline were also without two of their first team players, who had been summoned to the national team. So, to accept and play SC Villa then, would only be at their discretion. It was not mandatory. Proline refused to honour the fixture, and then Fufa announced that they had lost that match by forfeiture.

Proline petitioned the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). However, CAS told Proline that for the case to be heard, as the plaintiff, they had to pay for themselves and the defendant, in this case, Fufa. But Proline could not afford to pay reportedly $20,000 (Shs 70m), leading to the collapse of the case.

While in the corridors of Fufa, they were all smiles, that they had vanquished Proline on a technicality of failure to afford the CAS fees, Bakkabulindi noted that the game continues to suffer from the disregard of rules by this Fufa.

But ultimately, it all comes down to the lack of a united front from the major stakeholders- the clubs. The failure by clubs like Bul to oppose an illegality, that saw them replay their game with Villa, is what keeps them happening, and Fufa will not stop.  

jovi@observer.ug

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