Local football governing body, Fufa, belatedly brought in a tough regime of sanctions this past week intended to streamline operations in academies. The term ‘game-changer’ has – in more than just hushed tones – been endlessly mentioned since, with turbocharged imaginations visualising a corner being turned.
Success will, however, be dependent on the degree and quality of compliance as the bend is being run. And if this will be a slow grind, as many predict, then any headway made will owe an audible debt to the existence of an apparatus to enforce the welcome regulations.
The merits of policing football academics must nevertheless not pale into insignificance even when enforcement challenges press in. High priests of age grade football have always found it unsettling that academies in Uganda enjoy complete freedom to go about their business.
This cookie-cutter outlook has always been to the detriment of emerging talent. Highly impressionable and susceptible, emerging talent need a support system that shields them from what can be construed to be pollutants.
Since young blood in academies are unquestioning in their acceptance, it is decisively important that those selling pitches to them be certified. The approach to the educators’ craft shouldn’t be one that runs counter to best practices. The reverse is, unfortunately, true with most football academies dotting Uganda.
Challenging the idea that you can get away with eschewing a time-honoured approach is as such very much a step in the right direction by Fufa.
While a certain unease remains uninhabited, there is breath-holding hope that the move to regulate academies will extinguish a few fires. And, lest we forget, there are many fires to put out in this banana republic.
But what kind of regulation are we talking about here? Well, academies will be scored against a five-tier standard that includes governance, sporting, finance, infrastructure and equipment as well as personnel and administration.
Whereas the composition is hardly an outrage that deserves to be condemned, treating education as an afterthought cannot be classed as a flash of genius. Fufa president, Moses Magogo, has been happy to talk about how the semblance of organisation will position academies to enjoy a windfall when their graduates eventually make it to the paid ranks.
Despite being too parochial, Magogo’s submission is factually correct. The potential of being at the vanguard of some kind of windfall cannot be understated. The absence of money usually strangles the joy out of academies in this part of the world.
But we should also be alive to the fact that players from this part of the world keep being buffeted by the winds of retirement.
It is, therefore, ironic that while the Fufa president talks a good game about the bank accounts of academies, he risks falling grievously behind in addressing the more important issue of life after football question.
Conditioning academies to equip players with transferable skills is of such vital importance. These skills are ultimately what will help players keep their heads above the water once retirement blips on the radar. And, make no mistake, it always does. Way earlier for a footballer than any other professional.
Most football academies in Uganda continue to show little enthusiasm for giving footballers skills to transfer into retirement. They choose to look at children entrusted to their care as a means to an end. There is often hardly anything to talk about education. This is unfortunate.
Even more unfortunate is the fact that Fufa’s doublespeak makes the next brush with fate a distinct possibility. The local football governing body truly dropped the ball by not making education the bedrock of its regulatory framework.