It was hardly an inspiring performance by Team Uganda as Kenya swept all gold medals in the four races at the just-concluded Africa Cross-country Championships.
Of course the under estimated under 2,000 spectators on Sunday would be a welcome sight at any local football league today but for an event as big as the one we hosted at the weekend, the numbers were wanting.
For those not well acquainted with the event, let us try break it down for easier grasping.
The Africa Cross-country Championship is, you could say, an athletics equivalent of the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) in football.
Just like any other sport, competing countries send their best athletes. Now, imagine Afcon being hosted here, the vibe, the atmosphere, the euphoria!
Okay, that is too much to ask of Uganda Athletics Federation (UAF). Besides, the Shs900m government promised to help with preparations came in late; late enough to avert the athletes’ strike before the championships, and too late for them to avoid a month in camp without allowances albeit their arrears were paid later.
Yet while it is true athletics is not as entrenched amongst Ugandans as football, there were ways UAF would have still employed to have more Ugandans cheer on their team.
For starters it is not pancakes and tea - especially here in Kampala where the term ‘twakoowa’ is best defined - interesting spectators to an event only popular when Stephen Kiprotich and Moses Kipsiro turn up with a gold medal. UAF should have known that.
Of course they did. But they still went ahead to charge for an event that ended up with a good number watching it for free as the road behind the pavilion remained open. And that despite scrapping the Shs100,000 for VIP, reducing fees from Shs10,000 (standing) to Shs5,000 and Shs30,000 (seating) to Shs10,000 after President Museveni reportedly paid the other half.
The charges aside, UAF’s promotion of Africa’s Cross-country prime event was as least inspiring as Uganda’s podium finishes. It actually was not there at all.
How such an important event goes on without any promotion in the media and outside broadcast, save the news stories, is baffling.
But National University of Sports Federation of Uganda (Nusfu) has a chance to try sell the upcoming World University Cross-country Championship scheduled for Saturday at the Entebbe Golf Course this Saturday. It’s not too late.
A few campaigns, albeit seemingly late, in the media and outside broadcast promotions in Entebbe rallying natives to come for the event will do them some good.
Nusfu’s advantage lies in the fact that locations outside Kampala tend to warm up to sports activities more than the capital.
Besides, the event will be free. And boy, how often do you have the rest of world meeting up in the country, all at once? Go rally the team.
2015 AFCON DRAWS: WHY KEEP TEAMS WAITING?
Some things just get to happen only in this part of the world; like Confederation of African Football (Caf) and their affiliated federations.
It is at these associations where the amazing happens; amazing in the word. I have had a chat with Cranes coach Micho Sredojevic and he is as amazed.
“How do you conduct draws at the end of April yet you will play games just two weeks later,” he said after draws for preliminary rounds of the 2015 Nations Cup qualifiers were postponed for the umpteenth time in January, “When do we research about our opponents?”