Saturday May 10 2014

Football has one foot standing in the grave

Cranes coaches and players wear tense faces in a qualifier against

Cranes coaches and players wear tense faces in a qualifier against Angola last year. Uganda has barely learnt lessons from past campaigns. Photo by Eddie Chicco 

By Moses Banturaki

So it’s May 2014 and the Afcon qualifiers have ‘fallen upon’ us once again. As is typical of us we are now moving around tripping all over each raising a team and all sorts of other things. Apparently we are short on ‘things’ like goal keepers and are actually struggling to raise a team.

It sounds surprising doesn’t it, that a nation must struggle to raise a football team but it should not when it comes to us. Like anyone who is even slightly familiar with the plight of football and footballers in this country will tell you, the real surprise is that we have anyone playing football at all, let alone at a competitive level like Afcon.

The reality for footballers in Uganda today which isn’t a story anymore can be summed up thus; poor remuneration, poor education, poor career guidance, and poor professional development. And yet all of this exists in an environment that promises plenty of opportunities but delivers little

Therefore football is not a career that people with a choice will go for. This is why it is at worst played by ‘idle kinds’ or at best by those whose school environments offer sports programs. In the former case stars are borne by default not design, while in the latter stars burn out as soon as the market for alternative careers opens up – which is just after school.

It is simple really because all that a footballer needs is to be able to sell their labor in return for a good life for their families, a decent education for their children, stable incomes, good health and social security just like the rest of us.

The way forward therefore is to change from this short term mentality of hurriedly putting together a rag tag bunch of men on the eve of a qualification campaign and expect them to wear the colors proudly like that puts food on the table

We ought to know well in advance about matters of basic existence and professional contract honor and the mental and physical state of our players. These are the issues that make quality players and they aren’t accidents. We ought to know and enable all of this, even before we appeal to the goodwill of corporate sponsors and other stakeholders like football fans and the media.

But instead local football has been standing one foot in grave for as long I can remember devoid of strategic planning and good governance. Why then should it surprise us that we are struggling to raise a team on the eve of a major qualifier?
Of course we will raise the 23 to play Madagascar. Football is too popular not to ensure that happens. But whether they will be ready to compete up to the desired level is another matter altogether. In fact it should neither surprise nor anger us anymore that we don’t qualify.

Until we address the strategic matters of planning and governance that can guarantee a career for a footballer we should not somehow expect to reap when we never sow. But knowing us it could be that we think a capable team will ‘fall upon us’ just like the qualifying dates do, year in, year out.