It is always said that our judgment of footballers is peer-biased and that this is why older generations tend to rank Pele higher than Maradona.
Similarly, today’s fans would not even see the point in such a dated Pele-Maradona debate as it seems pretty straight forward that Lionel Messi is without equal.
In any case, it makes sense for the ammunition with which one approaches such a subjective topic to be derived not from some grainy documentary but real time experiences. And so it was that in a recent debate with a group of friends and football fans the lines that divided opinion when it came to Ugandan footballers, past and present could almost be traced along age differences.
I belong to the generation that swears by John Latigo, Paul Hasule (RIP), Moses Ndawula, Issa Sekatawa, Godfrey Kateregga, Alex Olum, Joachim Matovu, Steven Bogere, Fred Tamale, Jamil Kyambadde, Andrew Mukasa and the eternally young Joachim Buwembo, who I am sure, will not be particularly tickled by this age classification.
This, by the way, was from an era when most defenders and midfielders were really open knee surgeons and officials didn’t offer the protection that today’s player gets. Perhaps, the need to develop a survival instinct is what made men like Godfrey Kateregga evolve into magicians, and in a cyclic manner meant defenders had to employ all means necessary to counter that.
Even then, there were ball playing center backs like Latigo, Nkemba and Hasule (pictured above), and midfielders like Moses Nsereko whose skill meant they could survive without having to open up a magicians’ knee.
Then there were men like Matovu and Kyambadde for who it was all just in days’ work and who made you want to cry at the simplicity of it all. Of course, this could all be a case of acute nostalgia but when I look around today, I see nothing comparable.
The current crop of players maybe just as talented but they look like they are going through the motions. Yes, a wizard pops up from time to time but none of them makes you want to go back and watch them again and again.
They make it seem like the local game is just a routine stop-over on their way to that football grave yard that has become of the Vietnams’ semi-professional leagues.
Could it be then that poor attitudes explain the current lack of spark? There are many examples of boys today whose egos are inflated by one good performance.
But none of these would match Geoffrey Kateregga for ego, let alone skill.
Yet, Kateregga bewitched us for at least a decade while Mike Sserumaga hasn’t even put together a 10 straight game act!
Talking of which whatever happened to Chrisestom Ntambi? Maybe the environment these days churns out disinterested parties unable to hold their attention for more than a few games?
Maybe the apathy in our current crop is a product of playing to empty galleries and watching too much television?
Come to think about it, must be hard to maintain concentration in an environment that stopped caring. Whatever the case, I am no wiser and would greatly appreciate some insight into why we stopped making them like Fred Tamale.