PATRICK MUGUMYA: The Selfishness Of Expecting Uganda At AFCON

I thought I’d never write this again, because this has almost become a ritual. Uganda Cranes reaches the last round of the group stage and has a chance but we always blow it.

Tonny Mawejje and Kizito Luwaga try to halt Guinea’s Soumah Seydouba during the 2015 African Cup of Nations qualifier in Morocco on Wednesday. PHOTO BY AFP
Tonny Mawejje and Kizito Luwaga try to halt Guinea’s Soumah Seydouba during the 2015 African Cup of Nations qualifier in Morocco on Wednesday. PHOTO BY AFP

The latest was Wednesday night’s 2-0 defeat to Guinea in Morocco.

It’s very hurting because Ugandans really believed that the team could finally break the jinx. We needed a point and we had beaten Guinea at home in the same campaign, that was reason enough for us to believe but it wasn’t to be.

I am not a qualified tactical person and I cannot give a competent analysis of the game. But in the heat of anger and frustration, it’s very easy to lose focus of the bigger picture. And this is something that I have written about several times over the years.

What The Cranes were trying to do on Wednesday night and have tried to do over the years, trying to get into the finals of The Africa Cup of Nations, was put a roof of tiles on top of a house of mud and wattle.

What do I mean? It’s not by accident that we haven’t been to the continental stage for over a generation (37 years to be exact).

After the defeat in Morocco, Uganda Cranes must wait for at least 39 years before they make a return to Africa’s most prestigious soccer competition. Photo/John Batanudde
After the defeat in Morocco, Uganda Cranes must wait for at least 39 years before they make a return to Africa’s most prestigious soccer competition. Photo/John Batanudde

The 37-year wait is a result of no progress on our football industry. Yes we have football clubs and very talented players some of whom have played for very big clubs over the years. But as a country we have not invested enough to end the long wait.

Over the years, sports in schools is increasingly being seen a useless pastime. More and more schools are selling off the play grounds. My former school had five football grounds, only two exist now, only one is being used. On the other grounds, the school administration planted trees. The public playgrounds in the city have all been sold off to investors.

Football and sports, whereas it employs millions of people in other countries, continues to receive lip service from the government despite the huge numbers of unemployed youths in the country.

SC Villa's Hassan Wasswa (left) and Express skipper Willy Kavuma duel for the ball in a Uganda Premier League game. Ugandans have shun the league.
SC Villa’s Hassan Wasswa (left) and Express skipper Willy Kavuma duel for the ball in a Uganda Premier League game. Ugandans have shun the league.

Our football league is only being established. Before the league took a break to allow the Cranes time to prepare for continental football, there was a story in the news that FUFA had put all clubs on notice that they must hire qualified coaches with the minimum of CAF B License. Two clubs in the top tier league have coaches lower grade license.

There is absolutely no government effort to train football coaches or any coaches in any sports disciplines.

Only FUFA tries to arrange these courses every once in a while. Schools don’t have qualified football coaches. The many universities don’t offer football coaches courses.

It’s not only football. At the recent Commonwealth games, the Uganda boxing contingent, which brought home two bronze medals had to rely on borrowed coaches from Kenya because our national team coach was not qualified enough to be allowed at ring side.

The whole of Uganda doesn’t have a boxing coach qualified to be at the commonwealth games.

That’s how low we have sunk.

Last month there was a much hyped football tournament featuring the top Universities in the land. I followed the league and I can tell you it’s embarrassing that many of the universities don’t even have football grounds to host their own teams. Then the state of the grounds is another embarrassment. Many of the grounds don’t have any grass on them. You can’t believe that an institution like Makerere University, whose students have put together a hybrid car cannot develop a type of grass that can be used on football and sports grounds in the country and the region. (Am told the fancy grass you see on TV grounds in leagues from outside countries cant do well in the heat of tropical Africa)

What are the botany students doing?

The University football league final was staged at Namboole, the national stadium. The surface at Namboole is a national shame. The stadium is rotting away. I am told the irrigation system, which, was installed by the Chinese got spoilt and the company that made the parts closed so the whole system needs to be replaced.

But we have students building hybrid cars and we cannot have the engineers at Kyambogo University do an irrigation system for Namboole? Talking about Kyambogo, their Semi Final clash with Nkumba was a wash out. It was played after an afternoon downpour and the ground was water logged. The Nkumba coach said they had not played football but water polo. An institution that claims to have been ‘skilling Ugandans since 1926’ cannot put up a football ground that drains itself.

I can go on and on but I think you get the gist. We have not invested enough in sports as a country.

Some time ago I blogged how even the fans of football shouldn’t expect much from The Cranes if they aren’t willing to invest their time and money in local football.

Many of the fans who took to social media to abuse Andrew Mwesigwa for his errors have never paid a shilling or spared 90 minutes of their time to attend a game at KCCA grounds. They have no idea where the players come from, but they want them to defeat Guinea and make the country happy.

It’s a kind of selfishness that beats my understanding. What have we done as a people, as Ugandans to expect The Cranes to be at AFCON? Ugandans shun the league and the clubs that produce the players but want the national team The Cranes to make them happy by taking them to the Africa Cup of Nations.

A government that puts zero shillings in schools football but is willing to splash over a billion shillings on the Cranes in two months just for the final prize.

We don’t put any money or time in the sowing, but are ready to splash billions and our emotions in the harvest?

I will not talk about the football league and the clubs and the complicated situation they find themselves in and which as Ugandans we are willing to ignore until the boys break their legs and reach the group stages of the next qualification campaign.

But the basic truth is that we can only reap what we have sown.

Before you kill yourself over the Cranes, first ask yourself how much emotion do you invest in Ugandan football that is not The Cranes?

I support the Uganda Cranes but I appreciate that for years, as a team, we have been punching above our weight, trying to force ourselves into the class of the African footballing elite. We are not yet good enough for that class and one of the reasons it’s taking longer for us to join is because you and me and our government aren’t putting enough effort in the game of football or any game for that matter.

Like I’ve always said before; if you want your children to graduate you must put them through school. If you want to drive a nice car, you must buy one, if you want to live in your own house, you must build it. There are no short cuts to success. If we want our football team to make use proud, we must invest in our football.

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You can read more interesting stuff on his blog Ugandan And Proud

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