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Football should learn from lackluster year to thrive in 2023

Fufa president Moses Magogo

Fufa president Moses Magogo

If there is one thing we can learn from domestic football over the past 12 months, it that funding means little without proper planning.

In other words, Fufa’s ability to acquire billions of taxpayers’ money is not in any way an indicator of a thriving entity but rather, a classic adage of casting pearls before swine.

Over the past 12 months alone, Fufa has acquired more than Shs 50 billion, including Shs 17bn from the government. No sports federation comes close to even a tenth of that but the sad bit is that Ugandan football continues to sink. Club football is a mess while the various national teams lack any form of identity.

Ordinarily, while most effort is supposed to be poured into talent development and expanding the game countrywide, Fufa’s efforts mostly go towards expanding its human resource base to absorb and silence critics, constructing buildings, and creating a television.

For Moses Magogo, the Fufa president, his 2022 highlights were fighting imaginary foes and promoting the enactment of his one-man Sports Bill. Granted, we badly need a new Sports Act but the manner and spirit in which he promotes it leaves a lot to be desired because he fronts football as if it is the only sport and also takes swipe at the National Council of Sports (NCS), a body he has been fighting for some years.

Yet again, it is obvious NCS, as a regulator, funder, and supervisor, needs an overhaul to create an independent body, free from government control.

However, Magogo’s approach to this is nothing short of hypocrisy because whereas he introduces drastic measures, including term limits, for the proposed Uganda Sports Commission, he continues to ring-fence his Fufa position to increase his stranglehold on the game. Take the scenario when Kyetume FC got kicked out of the league. Fufa was the complainant, prosecutor, judge, executor, and final appellant court.

So, what we actually need is a commission with not only powers to overrule any sports body on sports matters, it should also have the capacity to ask for accountability from sports bodies, something Magogo cleverly evades in the bill.

Haven’t you noticed that when Fufa needs money, it begs from government but when there is asking for accountability, Fufa claims interference? Honestly, not many sports disciplines fared better than football last year but the progress in netball, rugby and athletics cannot be underestimated.

Netball and athletics continue to raise the national flag at international events. Rugby, for one, is leading the commercialization of sport, attracting big sponsorships and most importantly, youthful and corporate fans. This is evident even for non-rugby fans.

If you visited Shoprite in Lugogo on a rugby match-day weekend, you will struggle to find a parking space. And it doesn’t stop there; there are hundreds of people who feed off rugby indirectly through the sale of various items and merchandise. Such a flurry of activity is a lost dream for football because there is hardly anything when KCCA is playing across the road.

For a club that used to attract at least 10,000 supporters on match days, KCCA today seems content with a handful of fans. Matters are not helped by the fact there are no emerging stars good enough to put their footprint on the game and attract fans in droves.

And, KCCA is not alone in this mess. Many clubs lack direction and this is partly the reason we have mediocre players when they try to go out for professional football. How else can you explain that a player who had ‘emerged onto the national scene in 2020 and went to play for a top-tier club in Egypt ended 2022 with a Ugandan second-tier side?

The solution is simply for football stakeholders to benchmark what is making rugby such a crowd and sponsorship puller. We should come up with an indaba to forge a way of making football vibrant in these hard times when the game’s rulers are bent to keep power at all costs.

So, the biggest observation from last year is that the sport of football is on shackles by the leadership and the earlier we wake up and work as a unit, the better.

The author is SC Villa first vice president in charge of mobilization

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