Ronnie Kalema, one of Uganda’s top referees, is facing a sudden fight to save his career after it emerged on Tuesday night that he has failed a fitness test to regain his FIFA badge.
The news hit the 35 year-old Kireka official within less than two years of his proudest achievement of taking charge of the Kenya – Botswana tie at the Nyayo National Stadium.
Kalema, who started refereeing in June 1998, has just completed his 15th season in different Uganda football tiers. He must work to regain the rigorous fitness standards required of elite referees if he is to make a 16th campaign.
Referees are regularly tested on a series of timed runs in order to meet the strict criteria. Kalema’s bosses want him to continue internationally and there is no question of his age being an issue since the relaxation of automatic retirement rules that’s stand at 45 in Uganda now.
He has always had a naturally stocky build but has never previously struggled to hit the fitness mark. The fact that referees have to take the test in March, immediately on the back of a long and strenuous season climax alongside in an AFCON qualifying year, may now be called into question.
Instead of having a chance to recharge his batteries ahead of the test, Kalema will go on working at Cyclops Technologies Ltd, a company dealing in Vehicle tracking and Fleet Management in Uganda and East Africa at large knowing his future is under threat more than one month ahead of the start of 2015 Afcon qualifying preliminaries.
The other notable casualties among the participants at the fitness test include FSL referee William Ssenkumba who also failed, Brian Nsubuga who is allegedly out of the country while Kalifan Kanakulya skipped the test.
Ugandan referees, have been CAF and FIFA targets more than their colleagues in the region, have not landed any international assignments at that level since the premature retirement of Mohammed Segonga in 2010.
FUFA president Moses Magogo attributes this to the remaining FIFA referees deteriorating form and even failure at fitness tests.
Magogo has blamed it on lack of fitness of FIFA referees in the country. Magogo said recently that because of the deteriorating form of Ugandan referees lately, CAF has found it hard to deploy them.
“When Segonga retired, he created a gap that has never been filled. Unfortunately our referees have instead deteriorated in their form making it difficult for us to defend our status and earn appointments,” Magogo said.
In December last year though some of the centre referees who hold FIFA budges among them Kalema, Ali Kalyango, Denis Batte and Brian Nsubuga failed the cooper test in September at Namboole, the FUFA Referees Committee went ahead to submit their names to FIFA.
FIFA always hand more budges to countries that have competitive leagues in terms of football and also in accordance to the performance of other referees who have been representing the country internationally, the previous year.
On international standards, referees do receive $700 per game officiated in addition accommodation and flight tickets.
Ronnie Kalema profile
Intl. since 2011-01-01
Occupation development worker
Hobbies Travelling, reading novels, guidance and counseling.