Saturday December 2 2017

Football should at least mirror our tribal diversity

Son of the soil. When Caesar Okhuti left KCCA

Son of the soil. When Caesar Okhuti left KCCA to join Onduparaka, his stock improved largely because of the passionate support he got from the fans in Arua. PHOTO BY ISMAIL KEZAALA 

By Moses Banturaki

I get it. Football is expensive, and it needs its financiers. For that reason, the biggest football clubs in Uganda are also those backed by institutions or individuals with the means.
But consider this for a moment. What if for every KCCA, Vipers, Soana, BUL, Police, Maroons and UPDF, there was an Onduparaka, Kirinya Jinja SS, Mbarara City and other regional teams? What would it achieve in terms of generating a proper identification on which to grow a football club?
I say that because I think the vulnerability of most of our clubs, stems from a lack of an identity. Even the exceptions like KCCA and URA always live with the danger of knowing they are one corporate decision away from folding like was the case with Tobacco or Bell.
One also needs to look no further than Express to see that not even a rich heritage insulates these traditional giants from sliding into oblivion.

Case for regional teams
On the contrary, I feel that regional teams can become the extensions of their communities by appealing to the tribal instinct of fans.
That would give clubs proper credentials. Corporate strategy changes. Communities live forever. It is that simple really.
I therefore believe that, Fufa should deliberately develop regional teams. Their kind of tribalism is just what the doctor ordered for Ugandan football, which right now is struggling to attract back fans sucked out of stadia by satellite television and its European football.
I want to see more games like the 2016 Uganda Cup semifinal between Onduparaka and Kirinya Jinja SSS.
Hundreds of fans were bussed in from Arua completely unbothered by the 18-hour round trip. Not even their clansmen, who chose to live their businesses at Arua park unattended to as they joined in at Nakivubo, could help themselves.
I am not so naïve as to expect this to be the silver bullet for all our woes. A lot more than fan recruitment needs to be done to lift the game, as is implied by the many regional teams in the past that folded.
Fans get bored by schedule madness, biased officiation and maladministration. But I am still convinced a team with tribal roots stands a better chance of weathering such storms than one without.

Gor Mahia example
A good example lies not far away across the border.
Gor Mahia is a proper embodiment of tribal induced passion and longevity. And the club shows no sign of slowing down even if that nation’s football has one leg in the grave.
So, a league that mirrors our tribal diversity would build a bigger fan base and tap hinterland talent.
Onduparaka is living testimony of this. In Kenya, it gets uncomfortably tribal. Ours could be regional, taking care to avoid tribal sensitivities as it weaves its way from Kabale to Karamoja.
That I believe would be the best way to ensure Express, KCCA and Villa don’t remain the big fish in the small pond of limited talent and dwindling fan-bases.