I believe you’ve all heard about the Uganda Cranes Initiative.
If you have not, it’s a drive by Ugandan football supporters aimed at raising awareness, funds and introducing the team to new friends and supporters all with the aim of achieving more sporting success.
Our job should be simple: to encourage Ugandans to be more than just football fans on match day but to be permanent supporters of the team and the game of football.
This is a group that was drawn together by the pain of elimination from next years Africa Cup of Nations.
The day after our national team the Cranes fell short against Zambia, with a few guys, all hurting, all paining, agreed that we’d meet and discuss how we can help the team. The result of the several meetings is the Uganda Cranes Initiative.
We believe this initiative is for every Ugandan and everyone who loves the game of football and wants the national team, the Cranes to improve because you cannot be a fan of sports and sit idly by.
We are aware of the cynicism and negativity amongst some fans, but if you are a Ugandan whose heart is warmed by sports, if you appreciate what sports can do for a country, a people, then you cant allow yourself to continue to be consumed by self pity, and the agony of past failures.
This country is gifted, we have incredible talent, and we have unbelievable sportsmen who achieve so much with so little. We can’t continue ridiculing them, abandoning them, ignoring them and pretending they don’t exist; yet when they strike gold, when they win, when they achieve great things, we feel proud and jump in to jubilate.
GOLDEN BOY: Stephen Kiprotich got millions from happy Ugandans
The Cranes and their fans are like a caged animal, ready to rampage to the top of Africa the moment they are let off the leash.
But breaking this leash isn’t a job we can leave to the team and the officials at Mengo alone. We the fans must transform ourselves into real supporters of the team we love.
In some countries the government does most of the funding, but government funding neither guarantees the best support nor success. Most successful clubs and teams have solid support base. These supporters back the team financially and because of their numbers, corporate companies are always lining up to be associated with the teams with the most supporters. That’s how clubs like Real Madrid can afford to pay players like Cristiano Ronaldo in one week, what Uganda football grosses in an entire year.
But remember it all starts with the guys who pack the stadium every week and buy club merchandise. Otherwise no company wants to put money in a team without any supporters. It’s because of supporters that you get corporate endorsements and TV broadcast deals not the reserve.
Governments can help kickstart teams but government funding is not sustainable. The best way to success is not via government subsidies but via a solid supporter base. But since our government isn’t interested at all, it’s best the supporters pitch in and help assist the team get better.
And fans in Uganda, like in many other countries, have the capacity to make the Cranes and football the best that it can be.
Ugandans gave to Stephen Kiprotich almost Shs400m when he won gold at the Olympics in London in August this year. Imagine if that money was availed to the team while it was preparing for the Olympics? Would we have gotten more medals? Most probably.
Imagine if every company in Uganda, every corporate body that used Kiprotich’s image winning gold for marketing purposes contributed UGX1million into a special fund. How much would be raised for the athletics federation?
Work on the high altitude training camp in Eastern Uganda is yet to start because of bureaucracy in government not because there is no money. Its good old red tape at its finest. Imagine if fans of athletics collected this money, work would have started by now.
Now the Uganda Cranes has the biggest number of fans in the country and yet, it’s the most underfunded team on the continent. I believe as fans we can change this.
The federation that runs the game receives funds from several sources but it is just not enough to take us to the next level that we all want to be.
The team that eliminated us, Zambia, recently received a storage facility worth Kwaca 200m about Shs100m. A private company built it as its gift to Zambian football.
We don’t have such a facility in Uganda but we have companies that can willingly build such facilities. That’s when Uganda Cranes Initiative comes in, to bring such companies into football.
SUPPORTERS: Uganda Cranes Initiative team at Rivonia Suites
For long fans have behaved like the Uganda Cranes team is the burden of only FUFA and the coach alone. But the current FUFA administration has been around for a few years and will soon leave office, yet the Cranes have been around long before I was born and I wasn’t born yesterday. And I will leave this life but the Cranes team will still be there.
Now imagine, if every Ugandan who loves football donated Shs10,000 and we have more than a million fans. Why would the Cranes spend 19 hours on a plane to Congo Brazzaville yet a direct flight is less than four hours from Entebbe?
It’s a shame that Zambia charters a plane into Entebbe, reject the hotel we have reserved for them and book themselves at five star Sheraton, while our players in their own country with the finest fans in Africa, are residing at Sky Hotel deep in Naalya.
Am not saying Sky Hotel is bad, no, they offer a fantastic service, but if we want the national team players to represent the country with pride, they should enjoy the finest services in the country.
Imagine against Zambia, with its players lounging in Sheraton and our boys holed up at Sky Hotel, Naalya and reading the Zambian player postings on facebook. Even before they step on the pitch to kick the ball, our players must have been thinking, their opponents are richer and better because they slept at Sheraton. Yet we play the game and in 90 minutes, we beat them.
Now imagine if our players were at a hotel better than Sheraton? Hotel accommodation doesn’t guarantee success but maybe the boys would have faced the champions of African with more confidence and more pride and maybe, just maybe we would have scored two goals and not gone into post match spot kicks.
As fans our only financial contribution to the team has been the ticket we purchase on match days. This is normally too little and too late.
BEST EVER: The team that played Ghana in the final of AFCON in 1978
But even with that little and that late, and the noise we make, these boys have showed us that they can dream, they’ve beaten the finest teams that Africa has brought to our land.
Of course they have broken our hearts along the way but that is sport, we have to take the good, the joy, the thrill together with the bad, the heartbreak and the pain.
With little support, the Uganda Cranes have proved that they have more than strong wings and that they can fly and take the country to a better place, to the world stage.
Now imagine if we the fans gave a little bit more and not waited for just match day to buy tickets and go to the stadium?
I believe if we engaged with the Cranes and did the small things for them, the small things that we take for granted, like shin guards, we would achieve more and the boys would make us even more proud.
That is the belief that drives me as a person, the same belief that drives every individual member of the Uganda Cranes Initiative. And we are convinced that we are not alone.
If you love the sports, if you love football, if you believe the Cranes can get better, then this initiative is for you. Come join us.
Come help us put to an end our miserly and a life in sporting mediocrity.