Red Pepper Uganda

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: 50 Years Of Ugandan Sports Stagnation, The Way Forward

Uganda Cranes Team 1968

WHEN YOU’RE chronicling Uganda’s sports development over the last 50 years, you’re bound to be served a buffet of scanty success, near misses, perpetual wrangles and above all, inadequate funding. Without doubt football is the most loved game of all in Uganda with this undying love at times extended to International leagues like the premiership, Laliga Serie A, Bundesliga and Champions league.

History shows that after the European colonialists introduced novel sports disciplines in the country in the late 1890’s, nationalists like the late Sir Edward Muteesa, Reverend Polycarp Kakooza (RIP) who also composed the Buganda anthem in 1939 took it upon themselves to establish these games country wide. In his book, Improving Sports in Uganda the clergyman forwarded elements like good governance and taking sports to the grassroots as thresholds for a sustainable sports development. In the years after the 1962 independence, boxing and athletics took centre stage as reliable sources of medals for the pearl of Africa.

Institutions like prisons and police produced more stars courtesy of the colonial setting at the time. It’s not by coincidence therefore that the first Olympic gold medal came from a police officer, the legendary John Akii-Bua in 1972. But then again, the then President, the maligned Field Marshall Idi Amin Dada was a confessed sports lover. He had in 1950’s just conquered East African boxing title as a soldier with African Riffles. He juggled army, politics and sports wisely unlike current leaders.

Apart from financing sports and attending training and matches personally, The energetic Amin coined the everlasting statement; If you claim the judges cheat you, then knock your opponents out before the final judgment .That’s the spirit the renowned medal winners Leo Rwabwogo, Charles Bossa, Francis Nyangweso and John Mugabi used to conquer the boxing world. To be succinct ,During Amin’s eight years in power, Uganda was second in boxing behind Cuba in 1978,qualifying for AFCON was almost a must including the last time Cranes appeared in there in 1978 finals in Ghana.

All the stars that have graced this fertile nation including Magid Musisi, Philipp Omondi, John Akii- Bua, Denis Obua, Riyaz Kurji, Paul Hasule, Kakooza, Nyagweso, Andrew Mukasa, Gerald Kiddu and many others almost share one poignant trait; living a disgraceful aftermath. This all points to the ill preparations by the governments and the individuals themselves during their years at the apex a feat that cast doubts when the golden marathoner Stephen Kiprotich was handsomely rewarded 800 million recently by the government, well wishers and Nile special.

Many ugly scenes have also surfaced in our games but the boxer Charles Kizza 1996 was involved in a fake dollar scandal in US, swimmer Joel Arinaitwe defilement scandal in 2000, Majid Musisi rape case in 1997, runner Faridah Kyakutema fighting for a man in1988 Seoul Olympics, Villa 22-1 robbery of Akol in 2004, Moses Golola’s forceful retention of Andras Nagy’s belt last year and the concurrent running of two leagues(one by FUFA and another by USL) now reign supreme. Oh God, I can’t find positive deeds apart from the Akii-Bua, Kiprotich, Dorcus Inzikuru and Rugby African Cup Victories. But how could I when sports bodies in the country are embroiled in power wrangles from Lawrence Mulindwa v Kavuma Kabenge in football to Godfrey Nyakaana v Ntege Ssengendo in boxing.

So what are the possible remedies 50 years to come?

What we ought to do is well cut out. Like president Yoweri Museveni’s government came out strongly upon Kiprotich’s self made victory, governments to come need to bankroll sports because world over its becoming a lucrative business.

Wannabe athletes should learn a few things from Kiprotich and Akii-Bua to stay afloat whereas administrators should take on courses like the ones offered by Pearl Sporto. Government should evoke the late Amin sterner ways of dealing with seemingly unconcerned sports administrators who use our sports as a source of realising their selfish needs through rampant embezzlement of the limited available funds.

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