Saturday August 30 2014

Chenga Challenge U-14 to be applauded

By Moses Banturaki

I have always insisted that apart from the obvious lack of leadership, the challenges of this nations’ football can be distilled down to lack of youth development.

This is why I am keen on the City Tyres Chenga Challenge U-14 football tournament that ends today in the bubbly town of Masaka, far away from the cynical crowd of Kampala that is pampered by European football.

It is an under-age event that has drawn young boys from places as far flung as Kalungu, Arua, Katuna, Gulu, Sheema, Tororo and Lugazi. The objective is to identify the gifted of the gifted and coach them on to bigger things.

It was always meant to be like this by the way, and once was. In the 60’s and 70’s - a golden era for Ugandan sports, regional champions came together perennially to decide the nations next stars. It was a talent sieve for no ordinary men and luminaries like David Otti (RIP) are a notable by-product.

Then just like much else in the country, football was crippled by lack of attention and fell into a leadership crisis it is yet to recover from.

Today we all are witnesses to regime after regime of ideologically inept football administrators who are swept into power at the head of praise -singers galvanized by flowery promises and who almost always leave behind the ashes from the fires ignited by narrow interests and nothing else.

And because of this we are now reliant on the benevolence of men like Hajji Ahmed ‘Mandela’ Omar and the private initiate of organizations like Friends of Football who have come in and attempted to fill the vacuum created by the chaos.

And long may this continue because in the absence of a national youth development structure, theirs is a cause that is way up there in the nobility stakes.

It makes Fufa look very incompetent yes but one can only hope that the hurting of egos can be pushed into the background for once.

And I must note, however, that even if past suspicions still linger Fufa ought to be recommended for easing up of late.

Whether that is due to battle fatigue or the pretense of office, it is of no value here. What matters is progress.

Besides, at least it lends a little bit of sincerity to the efforts of men whose tenure of office ordinarily defines the limits of their interest in the development of youth football.

Either way the historical determinism of Mandela, an old friend of football, and others who simply refuse to be handicapped by our dire circumstances ought to be applauded and it is my sincere hope that their efforts be used as the motivation for many more initiatives on tackling the numerous ills of our football. Momentum is to be harvested from such ventures.
So, today, Masaka should cheer for much more than just the football abilities of these young men. This should be much more than entertainment and corporate social responsibility.

It should be the first step on the single plank bridge that crosses the chasm between those who think we can drift along randomly and those who believe and are ready to act upon the fact that everything worthwhile comes at the end of deliberate effort.