Star runner Moses Kipsiro returns to Kampala today with the rest of Team Uganda after his heroic performance at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland, last week. Awaiting the 10,000m champion at Entebbe will be several government dignitaries and politicians whose interest in sports only comes to the fore while celebrating such victories.
In the build-up to Glasgow 2014, Team Uganda was stranded without funds for training. While the Finance ministry released Shs400m to prepare the team, the money vanished between the Ministry of Education and Sports and National Council of Sports (NCS). The Uganda Olympic Committee (UOC) pleaded with the two bodies to release the money in time for adequate preparations to no avail. Until the last week to the games, there was no money.
As a result, athletes trained on empty stomachs and some had no transport to access venues. NCS, which had received an advance of Shs245m from the Education and Sports ministry dished out part of the preparation money to federations only two days before the sportsmen and women left for Glasgow. Embarrassingly, NCS paid some federations by post-dated cheques, which matured long after the games had started! There was also no money for athletes’ allowances and kit from the line ministry until President Museveni promised to avail the money a day after the team’s departure.
Those scenarios meant Uganda was represented by a half-baked squad. Much as the results in Glasgow have been fair with five medals, there is need for government to change the way they run sports. World over, sports has become a multi-billion sector. If taken seriously, sports can help reduce youth unemployment in Uganda and hugely contribute to the economy.
President Museveni’s last-minute interventions for travelling teams have become commonplace. We welcome the interventions but they do so little in developing the sector. There is need to streamline things by putting structures in place, funding federations, rehabilitating facilities and constructing new ones.
The right people, for instance retired international athletes, ought to be given chance to man big sports offices while bodies like NCS, which are losing relevance should be considered for disbandment.
As Kipsiro has suggested, we must put athletes first by investing in them from grassroots level; not wait to praise them after they have excelled. Kipsiro has told of how he turned to his manager for airfare from London to Glasgow after officials at home had insisted he first goes back to Kampala to pick the ticket to Scotland. That is embarrassing and unacceptable.
Things must change.
The issue: Investing in sports
Our view: There is need to streamline things by putting structures in place, funding federations and rehabilitating facilities.