The Cranes job is vacant, but I sense and understand the unease among Ugandan applicants. One has to go back 15 years to find our last indigenous national team manager - Mike Mutebi. It’s been five managers since then and if you discount those who serve in interim capacity, it seems we are intent on making the national team job a preserve for foreigners.
The interviews don’t segregate but foreign applicants clearly enjoy a head-start allowed by an infatuated federation and the myth of exposure, while locals have a powerful incentive not to complain, as those who do lose the opportunity to become assistants.
The Federation promises that this serves a capacity-building purpose, enabling local managers to learn from their more exposed foreign bosses.
The reality is often different, and we have just bid farewell to our third foreign manager in a decade, with no sniff-in for locals.
I think it must be devastating to spend a career building value models and networks but still find oneself on the wrong side of the magic line between those who get the top job and those who end up as assistants. And yet that is the fate of native managers.
It is like they are engaged in an endless struggle to build a fulfilling career, without being crushed by the indignity of being by passed by every time destiny beckons. Granted, not every local manager is qualified for the top job, but I believe many do tick the biggest box of them all – the ability to groom and promote local talent in the most cost-effective manner, something a foreigner far removed from the wretched realities of footballers in this land would always struggle with.
Still we bring in “expats” and put them on generous salaries easily up to three or four times what a local coach would pitch for. And this isn’t to say it should be a cost saving exercise but the theory that foreign managers are a sure ticket to success and that the benefits eventually outweigh the costs, is a myth.
Ability has no direct relation to exoticness and one of the facts I find most liberating about the recently concluded Afcon is that the final was made by two local managers. Throughout the tournament conditioning and experience were the key drivers for success and you don’t need foreign leadership to guarantee this.
But if as is likely our latest search throws up a non-Ugandan at least the federation ought to ensure we have a well-meaning cap on tenure – the successful candidate shall groom a local assistant to take over within three years.
This way, the Federation shall have insulated themselves from their typical impulses and will be obliged to ensure that the next search isn’t a mere procession for the first foreigners to show up at Mengo. We need to build the standards upon which we will judge our progress and if one of those is to grow local capacity, then we can’t continue to make the top job a preserve of non-Ugandans. Just saying.