Saturday April 12 2014

Babu: Kinetic shifts attention from FNL to five-aside soccer

Kinetic Management Group boss Babu (right) posing with

Kinetic Management Group boss Babu (right) posing with former Cranes international David Obua. Babu is steadily growing KMG into a formidable sports management group. courtesy photo  

By Abdul-Nasser Ssemugabi

What is Five-Star Friday and five-aside soccer?
Five Star Fridays is a form of five-aside soccer, and this event is running is in such a way that we have 16 teams named after 16 bars in the Kampala area and the company I run —Kinetic Management Group—has recently concluded the FNL. So after a year of thought, we saw it wise to try another sport and of course soccer being the biggest sport (and a crowd puller) in the world.
In Uganda, the statistics are two in five people. You know, basketball is big but it is very niche—not everyone understands it or can play it. So we came up with this soccer format of five players aside, where each team is named after a bar. For instance Legends, Cayenne, Panamera, Asylum, Punchline.

So how is it going to be like—I mean the rules of procedure?
Well, we are making the rules fairly rigid such that each team is allowed to have as many professional players, licenced players as they can but there can only be one on the pitch. I have seen some big names. When they come with their following plus maybe their teammates, it is nice. And at any one time there must be a lady on the pitch.

A lady in men’s team, why not a separate ladies’ team?
No,no, no…the idea is that we want to create balanced sides. Because otherwise you would end up having Cranes vs Cranes vs Cranes—which is boring. It is all about the fans because ladies are always part of events. You have got to ask why they come. Like you see in FNL, there was a team called Team Amoding— led by Maureen, it had some men in it and they went all the way to the semi-finals. Blending women and men is attractive; I think it is human nature— it is nice to look at. Remember we want to link the bars to the general public. You have been spending a few evenings in bed, now you can decide to join a team of you bar and play as a fan. And here, bar owners are trying to give back to the people who drink and socialize at their bars.

What is the format?
A round robin; quarter finals; semis then a final. Teams shall be playing two halves of 15 minutes, so full-time is 30 minutes. Kick-off is 6:00pm and by 9:30 we would be done. We do not want the bars to complain about a decline in their clients’ turn-up. The season shall run for 2 months, that is, 8 consecutive Fridays.

So FNL has been a benchmark of fusing fun and sport?
Foremost, it is important to know that the definitions of sport and fun or entertainment go together. Look at all the major sporting events in the world like the Super Bowl; the European Champions League; the World Cup; the Olympics, et al, are all accompanied with entertainment. In the Super Bowl, for instance, one would be anxious about who will sing the NFL anthem during half-time; then others enjoy the splendour of the opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympics without paying much attention to what the athletes do.

And where do you see Five-Aside in the first year and in the next five years?
Let me take you back a bit. I started Kinetic Management as a sports and entertainment management company. I did not know there was anything different from what was happening in Uganda or in Africa. Because sport is a US$ 900bn industry. We are so far starting with an experimental season in Kampala and then with the achievement, we can maybe go up country in the coming years. But we need resources such that we expand into something across the nation.

Talking about resources, what exactly do you mean and what strategies have you adopted to get them?
Of course, here we are talking sponsorship. The companies also need to be educated on the value of sport such that they give us the aid we want. So it is a bit hard. We have partnered with Hope FC to tackle this issue from a technical point of view— but to spread it further, we need more resources.

When is the launch and what is your expectations on that day?
The event starts Friday, April 18 and kick-off time is 6:00pm at Lugogo Astro-turf. And about the expectations, I have managed them than anything else. So what we are doing is an experiment of season one and when the bars show up, then we shall be looking up to our partners Monitor and their respective brands to help us get the numbers. I hope we get bigger numbers than we have in FNL because soccer has a bigger following.

So you mean FNL has met your expectations?
More than that—it even exceeded our expectations. In fact we are even considering getting another location because that place is no longer enough for us. You know, when you have big crowds against a very small space it can be very dangerous.

Could one be right saying that whatever Kinetic Management touches turns into gold?
I do not know, I do not think it is that clear-cut but for sure we try to do things properly, maybe that is why we are a poor company. We are used to accepting that things cannot be a certain way. This business of saying “that is how a Mzungu does it…” I do not subscribe to that. You want to do something; you have to do it properly.

We cannot conclude a local football matter without talking about the federation. Where is Fufa and what are is their role here?
Well, I think they are on board. I have tried to involve them. I have met Moses Magogo, Edgar Watson and others. They are encouraging participation and are supportive of an idea that is going to make football more interesting.

Specifically, I mean are they playing their regulatory role?
Yeah, basically, our partners Hope FC, who are playing in the Big League, are the ones liaising with the officials and hopefully they will soon grace the occasion.

Tell me about membership of a player, is it permanent?
Actually, there is a transfer window after three weeks. It is in which that a player can change a team after agreement between the teams. A transfer release has to permit this mobility. But before the window, a player sticks with their current team.

And I can see the likes of Chameleon engaging the crowds.
I haven’t negotiated with the big boys, because for them it is schedule, so I cannot be biased now. Meanwhile, we have eight Kinetic Dancers to do the job as we wait for the big ones because, for them, they like crowds, you know.

Anything pertinent we haven’t touched?
Actually, I have shared it with your colleagues. There is a charity home called Grace Villa in Kabale by a wonderful lady called Ruth K. Ndyabahika. She left her job in USA to set up a home that caters for the well-being of the disadvantaged girl child. So as we have done with 40 Days 40 Smiles, some of the proceeds here shall be extended to Grace Villa. And other charities, like that…

Who then is responsible for the injured players?
We are working with the Agha Khan Medical team. They are contacting the UOC to provide the ambulances. We are, unfortunately, not rich enough to provide insurance cover, I hope the guys come with their covers… do not strain too much— it’s fun.