Cricket’s equivalent of an own goal is when a batsman - attempting to play off their back foot - unwittingly hits their wicket. Second Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of East African Affairs Ali Kirunda Kivejinja did just that at a dinner Uganda Cricket Association (UCA) treated its stakeholders to a couple of Thursdays ago.
Kivejinja’s speech, which would be sure to put the priest to sleep, was punctuated with some strange submissions.
The mood of the invited guests, who had earlier on networked energetically before washing down their five-course meal with a glass of wine, darkened substantially.
The Second Deputy Prime Minister got off to an unfortunate start when for some reason he thought cricket and golf can be used interchangeably.
He was no different from Sports Minister, Hon. Charles Bakkabulindi who uses plural form to refer to cricket as if the sport is a leaping insect.
Thankfully, Bakkabulindi was a no-show at the dinner. The man he asked to step into his not-so-big shoes - Omara Apitta, a commissioner in the line ministry - could hardly be accused of not putting on much of a show.
Apitta was actually pleasantly surprised by the warmth with which his terse speech was received.
This was down to the simple fact that the eloquent commissioner hit the right notes in imploring Kivejinja to ask the powers that be to stop giving sports crumbs from the pie that is the national budget.
Kivejinja’s response to the request saw not just his, but government’s credibility shot to pieces.
As if calling cricket by another name was not bad enough, Kivejinja dwelled upon the peace that the seating government brought to Uganda. As he lumbered back to his table after delivering a lukewarm speech by any measure, there was a collective sigh of relief from the audience.
High caliber delegation
Amongst the audience was a high level delegation from the International Cricket Council (ICC), the game’s world governing body.
Part of what informed the delegation’s trip to East Africa was to commission a cricket stadium whose construction was partly bankrolled by the Rwandan government.
The peace that Kivejinja spoke so passionately about what should ideally give government leeway to make similar investments in sport. Instead, this peace has left Ugandan sport in pieces. Sports fields keep being given away with alarming ease, not to mention the fumes on which it runs.
It is truly an absurd case of own goals galore.
What Falcons’ rise and fall teaches us
Having claimed a seminal slice of Ugandan club basketball history, Falcons’ relegation to the second tier this past week was always bound to receive the attention it eventually got.
When Falcons announced its arrival on the club basketball scene in the 1990s, Ugandans hadn’t experienced anything quite like it.
Least of all its sheer will to rule the roost. John Ssimbwa was the reason why the attitude to win was so deeply ingrained in the club’s fabric.
That Ssimbwa had Falcons’ best interests at heart is not in doubt. He always preferred a nudge to a shove when it came to financing the club’s lofty ambitions.
He, however, failed to extricate Falcons from what has ultimately proved to be a fatal embrace with the notion of cult of personality.
Instead of setting out to build structures, Falcons opted to ride piggyback on Ssimbwa’s larger-than-life personality. His passing a couple of years back was always bound to sap the club’s enthusiasm.
Falcons’ top brass has been quick to tell all and sundry that relegation to the second tier won’t be the club’s epitaph.
That the club officials have been quick to defend the club’s status as an independent institution (one told your columnist that it will linger on in the memory no matter what) than guarantee swift promotion back to the topflight shows all too clearly the stain on their conscience.
The half a dozen league titles Falcons has under its belt might be unprecedented, but this does not make the club an institution by any stretch of imagination.
Institutions stay the course because they have structures. Falcons cannot lay claim to the latter.
It is teetering towards the precipice because it has always relied on individual brilliance both in the boardroom and the court.
Last season, the irrepressible Stephen Omony vigorously defended the record league champion’s topflight status as it ominously flirted with relegation.
The writing was always on the wall when Omony made the painful decision to leave his boyhood club for City Oilers in the off season. More than anything, Falcons’ travails should serve as a chastening lesson to others that cult of personality can only do as much.
What we now know
We now know that Fufa has received applications in the hundreds for the job title of Cranes head coach.
We know that the applications were not just many but also varied. The Caf C licence holders that threw their hats in the ring have since been swiftly struck down. We also know that there was diversity in the foreign applicants. At 69, Frenchman Claude Le Roy is the oldest applicant.
Le Roy needs no introduction to African football having won the Africa Cup of Nations title with Cameroon in 1988.
We know that Joao Ferreira was aged five when Le Roy landed the Holy Grail with the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon.
If successful in his application, the 34-year-old Portuguese could be the youngest coach to take charge of Uganda’s senior national football team.