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After latest Afcon setback, we need a football indaba

I don’t recall a time when Ugandans have ever been disinterested in The Cranes like they are at the moment.

It is shocking because just last Friday, The Cranes had a chance to qualify for the 2023 Afcon but there was hardly anything trending about the match on social media. Even when we missed out on qualification for the second straight Afcon, there was hardly any buzz about it.

People must be tired of asking the same questions without getting any tangible answers and we have reached a point where Ugandans have better things to focus on than football. Yet just a few years ago, Fufa told whoever cared to listen how Uganda would be at the 2026 World Cup.

This was shortly after The Cranes’ qualification to the 2019 Afcon. That’s when Moses Magogo coined interventions like FLIP (Funding, Law, Infrastructure and Policies) to take the game to another level. Four years later, that level is at the bottom. How I wish Fufa would do a self-appraisal about the progress of the 2026 World Cup project, if it indeed ever existed.

Instead, they will blame the poor state of Namboole, as though it was an abrupt occurrence that Fufa did not foresee to create mitigating measures. What we need to restore the dignity of the game is an indaba, which is loosely a council at which people meet to discuss some important questions.

The key question in this case is: Where are we going as a footballing country?

Previous efforts to have an indaba have merely been Fufa lectures to a few select individuals and sycophants already silenced by the transport facilitation. This deception of PowerPoint presentations can work sometimes to divert and distract attention but it is the results that matter, and those results can only be well planned if the government takes a keener interest in the sport.

There are a number of eminent people that can help guide the restoration of sanity, but that is not Fufa’s style of governance. They lecture and you listen—no exchange of ideas. They only turn to government to beg for funds, yet what Fufa should be fronting in form of help from government is technical help in form of benchmarking and training opportunities.

For instance, you cannot expect coaches who only gained certificates through attending seminars locally to fully comprehend what it takes to develop players. So, it has never been clearer that we need an overhaul in the running of the game.

Gone are the days when Uganda would lose a game, but focus would be on the positives from it. We would focus on the upcoming talent as a reason for better results going forward; we would console ourselves with the beautiful style of play. In fact, we always blamed bad luck for the times we did not meet expectations.

Today, almost every problem with our football starts with Fufa. Prospects are getting off the boil even before they reach their peak; old, rusty players remain the backbone of the team and it is hard to blame coach Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojevic. He cannot do much with the current squad because even the Uganda Premier League, the supposed main producer of talent, is a toothless competition after Fufa usurped most of its powers.

Today, the UPL board cannot do anything without having express orders from Fufa. Perhaps this answers the question of why Arinaitwe Rugyendo, a once hands-on UPL board enforcer, is always deflated whenever he is addressing UPL matters.

In all this, the shadowy FLIP project roadmap was only aimed at being a political vehicle for Magogo, who entrenched Fufa in all financial aspects of the game. This is reflected in its priorities for starting radio and TV stations at the expense of developing talent.

It is of no consequence for Fufa to own a television when it is the same regulator of football media rights. No serious football federation in the world engages in direct broadcasting when it can earn millions of dollars selling media rights. This conflict of interest is not only a sign of greed for a few individuals, but it doesn’t in any way improve talent because it is made for audiences, not results.

Developing and grooming talent is the core focus for any serious footballing country and looking at how Tanzania’s young players frustrated Algeria to deny Uganda an Afcon berth, there is no doubt theirs is an upward curve, but the same cannot be said of Uganda’s.

Dr Lawrence Mulindwa had set The Cranes up when he left the mantle to Magogo in 2013 and his fledglings went to make amends, but the level at which we are sinking is cause for worry for any football enthusiast.

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

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