Handing out punishment for a living is not exactly the best job in the world, but for retired prison officer and former Mukono District sports officer, Sylvester Ssemakula Nsaali, a job is a job.
“I neither hated it nor loved it; to me, it was nothing more than just a job I had to do,” said the 76-year-old about his six-years stint in the Uganda Prisons Service (UPS).
After completing a diploma at Uganda College of Commerce Nakawa, (now Makerere University Business School (Mubs) in 1968, Nsaali enrolled in the Prisons working at East Buganda in Bombo as the assistant chief warder until 1974.
“I felt it was time up for me as I left to pursue the things I liked,” he reminisced.
Nsaali, who is the father of seasoned sports journalist Fred Katende ‘Malibu’, was not quitting into retirement but it was to follow his passion of sports.
He had applied for the district sports officer job in Mukono where he was the successful candidate.
He now enjoys a peaceful retirement in his village of Mbaliga in Mukono District although he has another home in Kalungu, Luweero District.
But he wasn’t always the cheerful man that many villagers know him as today.
Nsaali first worked at Kabanyolo University farm in 1962 as a clerical officer after completing Junior Two from Makerere College School with a certificate in bookkeeping, accounting and typing. It was a temporary job he performed for just nine months.
He then changed jobs later that year working as a prison warder in Bombo until Mukono District took him in as the district sports officer, charged with developing sports, especially football, a job he diligently executed.
However, his work at the Prisons didn’t last long and he prefers not to mention the circumstances under which he left although he offers it was a great love for sports that enticed him away. He left at the rank of sergeant and at the time he was head of sports at his post.
“I left for my own reasons but I will tell you I am happy I left to follow my passion,” he said.
Passion for sports
Most of the achievements in sports arose from his role as the district sports officer. After studying an elementary coaching course, he travelled to Germany with the legendary Ben Omoding where he qualified with a Level 1 certificate. This introduced him to refereeing as well. He upgraded in 1982 with a Class C licence at Lugogo.
In 1980, he was the go-to man in north Buganda – Mpigi, Mubende, Luweero, Nakasongola and Mukono as the general secretary of the football association.
In 1984, his efforts alongside the then Fufa delegate Pius Kawere were recognised when Mukono was granted a Zone Status by Fufa becoming Zone 12, breaking off Zone 8. By the time he retired from sports, was the administrative secretary of Mukono District in 2009 under the leadership of Lawrence Mulindwa.
He was paving way for new blood of Sam Mpiima, Joseph Mwanje and Jackson Mayanja (the then District Football Association head.)
Nsaali was one of the main protagonists in the formation of Kyetume football club formerly known as Lufula. As the district sports officer, he was invited to make a roadmap for the formation of the team. Kyetume, which now plays in the Star Times Uganda Premier League, had been started in 1974 but had failed to hit the ground running.
Studying the booming cattle slaughter business and several modest football clubs in Mukono Zone, he recommended that the team calls itself Lufula in line with the sponsors.
He consequently became the team’s first coach in 1977 handing over the managerial roles to George William Walakira. He helped the team qualify for the Premier League in 1980.
The highlight of his coaching roles saw him miss promotion in the super mini-league of 1977 although he helped them reach the 1979 Uganda Cup semi-finals before losing to eventual winners Uganda Commercial Bank 2-1.
He had other passions too. In 1960, while in Junior Two, he had trained as a netball umpire before becoming a coach in 1962.
He is now the deputy sports director – general at Bugema University where he teaches associations and coaching.
After nearly 42 years of active service in sports administration and prisons service, Nsaali retired in 2004 and is now content living out the rest of his years in his village with his children (he prefers not to number them) and grandchildren.
“I have no regrets for all the work I did. I never have any sleepless nights because I never cheated anyone. I distanced myself from shoddy deals that characterised football and I did every job as nothing more than something that I had to do in order to support my family,” said the aged gentleman, with a sort of determination one doesn’t see very often these days.
Nsaali says his journey to a shrewd farmer he is today was not rosy. When he retired as district sports officer, he had saved some money.
According to him the only viable business to invest his savings was farming. The decision of farming was informed by the fact that he had bought more than 20 acres of land in Gayaza.
“Three years before retirement, my wife advised me to buy land in Luweero. We bought land in Busiika and I decided to practice mixed farming. At the farm we grow cassava, maize and some vegetables. I also keep chicken,” said Nsaali.
From his poultry project, Nsaali is able to pay school fees for his grandchildren.
In a good season, Nsaali earns about Shs200,000 from selling eggs to retail shops per week. He also harvest the cassava and sell it to major markets in Kampala such as Kalerwe.
Advice to retirees
“Start saving the day you get employment. There has never been enough money and any salary is good money. Do not wait for the last days,” he warns. Because retirement increases lust for alcoholism, Nsaali also advises retirees against excessive consumption of alcohol. Research shows that most retirees resort to alcohol because of boredom caused by idleness.