It is 94 years since hockey was introduced in Uganda by Goans.
Despite that longevity, it is not among the popular sports here with only six clubs and about 15 schools running hockey programmes.
But this Saturday, at Uganda Olympic Committee (UOC) offices in Lugogo, the fraternity has a chance to change this course as they usher in new executive members.
“The biggest challenge for the new leadership will be to steady the boat that has been wrecked by this outgoing executive led by Dunstan (Nsubuga),” Ronald Kawalya, a player, said.
We look at some of the issues the new leaders must address.
UHA must design an achievable plan of how they expect to grow the sport to a level where they can compete with regional and continental forces like Kenya and Egypt.
The outgoing executive has had an unhealthy relationship with National Council of Sports (NCS) over the use of the hockey pitch at Lugogo Indoor Stadium.
NCS have continued to hire out the pitch, most times without consulting UHA, and also stopped a plan to fence it off. A total disregard of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by the two parties ahead of laying the astroturf in 2008.
Most hockey games are played in Lugogo. But UHA’s partnership with NCS ends in 2019 – subject to renewal for at least 15 years.
But given the bad blood between the two bodies, it is time to think about new venues.
The largest source of income is subscription (Shs300,000 per club) and tournament participation fees (ranging from Shs100,000-Shs300,000) from clubs. Sponsors like Sadolin and Ruparelia Group, that in 2003 agreed to inject Shs460m, have given up.
New ones like Monitor Publications Limited offer support in kind yet for the sport to grow beyond Lugogo, the sum of those contributions is even less than a drop in the ocean.
The Africa Hockey Federation (AfHF) promised three years ago to start a coaching academy at Lugogo but that is yet to be realized.
Keeping with capacity building, the number of umpires is wanting yet few retired players are willing to serve the game.
It is not alien to see primary school children compete in the national league with adults fit to be their parents. That shows how much grassroots and ‘elite’ programmes of our hockey are merged.
Because we have no defined grassroots structures, children are rushed into competitive hockey and quickly stagnate before realizing their full potential.
There are no equipments to support schools and the few development programmes are run by individuals.
In 1972, Uganda had a hockey team at the Olympics yet for the six years of Nsubuga’s tenure there has been no national team.
Consequently, players have lacked motivation and exposure. The qualities of competitions also leave a lot to be desired and we have always played second fiddle in the face of Kenyan opposition.
Joachim Namala Wandera
Vice Chairperson: Michael Nashimolo
General Secretary: Philip Wafula
Assistant General Secretary: Stanley Tamale
Treasurer: Stephen Kasenge
Assistant Treasurer: Kenneth Tamale
Publicity Secretary: Joshua Opolot
Committee Members: Gerald Kirema, Fatumah Namubiru, Daniel Kyaligonza