Florence Nakiwala Kiyingi’s ascendancy to the Express throne on June 6 coincided with her appointment as Minister for Youth and Children.
This bred a fundamental question; how would she handle the two dockets and perform to her expectations?
In her interview with SCORE, Nakiwala lifts the lid on her profound love for Express FC, lofty ambitions for the club and how she manages to work in a male dominated field.
Nakiwala and Dinah Nyago (Kirinya - Jinja SS) are the only female club chairpersons in the 16-team Azam Uganda Premier League (UPL). Below are excerpts of SCORE’s interview with the charming Nakiwala.
You’re usually smartly dressed in red attire, is it down to your support for Express? Red is my best colour. It shows the healthy relationship between the body and blood. I’m mindful of my dress code for whatever function I’m going for and that’s why I don red at Express events.
What attracted you to football?
I have been an avid Express supporter since my campus days though some people have just started seeing me going to football venues. Even before I replaced Francis Ntalazi as chairperson, I served on the Express board and I contributed funds to the club. At home, I argue a lot with my husband who is a Villa diehard and I have persuaded him to contribute millions to Express’ revival drive.
What is it like working in a male-dominated institution?
I like to deal with men. I give them respect and treat them well. I have attended the monthly club chairmen meetings at Namboole and I have found these men charming and ready to learn from one another. All of them know that I took the Express job on merit and that I’m a result-oriented woman ready to put back our historic club back on the rail. No one can bully me at any one moment because I’m grounded.
How would you describe you first days in office?
I got a warm reception from the fans and players and the first fundraising party justifies that. I live in Mutundwe just a stone’s throw away from Express home base Wankulukuku and I make it a point to jog to the stadium to watch the boys train. I spare some hours to jog with the team and this has helped me to know each player by name.
Speaking of fundraising, some people say the Shs110m collected is nowhere to be seen.
Express fans should change their mentality towards money. There are those that thought we are going to eat the money without saving. Express is a sleeping giant that requires a sound financial muscle to rise up again and we can only achieve that by saving and accounting for all the money we get from our loaded friends. They should stay calm because I know how to handle money having learned that from my time as assistant to the late James Mulwana, Buganda Youth Minister and as UTODA treasurer.
What are your long-term plans and how can your ministerial position benefit soccer at large?
I want to get the club a sponsor as soon as possible. We had promising talks with Star Times recently. My administration that has experienced people like Pastor Samuel Kakande, Jeff Ssekandi and John Kitenda aims at reviving the 51 branches, setting up fully fledged club offices. So far we have managed to give all our players contracts and signed new players in anticipation of winning next season’s league title. For the entire league, I’m planning to let the players benefit from the youth livelihood funds in my ministry.
You planned to celebrate the club’s 60th birthday next year but some legends dispute that.
All the records in the club archives indicate that Express was formed in 1957 and we are going by that. That said, we will make the celebrations last for five years so that every aspect is catered for.
How do you balance your time handling Express affairs, Parliament, the ministry and family?
Interestingly I love multitasking and if I don’t have anything to do, I fall sick! First, when I retire to bed, I put a decree that no one wakes me up. My normal day starts with preparing our five kids to go to school. I then take care of my husband of 19 years, Hon, Deogratius Kiyingi who I treat as my sixth kid. I then head to Wankulukuku to check out Express training and do some exercises. I prepare lunch for my husband because we normally have it at home. I head for my political work and work till late. In the evening, I have various meetings with people that matter in the country until late in the night.
Fundraising money is not sustainable, where will Express get the funds to run the entire season?
The problem with getting sponsors in Uganda is that companies fear rejection for siding with certain clubs which is not the case with Uganda Cranes. We have rich fans willing to fund us behind the curtains. I have the ability to solicit money that can keep Express afloat for the entire season.
Through partnerships like the one we have with KLM Airlines, we have managed to get Kenyan defender Eric Masika from AFC Leopards, while my deputy Pastor Kakande has promised to get us partnerships from top clubs in East Africa as we aim to make lasting structural changes.
Lest I forget, we have signed a partnership with Rayco Garcia to market our players in Europe in the coming seasons.
Express has a history of fan violence, how are you planning to tackle this hooliganism?
Through our fans coordinator Joseph Kakooza, we have put out strict guidelines to check the supporters’ behaviour code. Some people out there say our fans utter obscene words during matches but for the time I have been at Red Eagles’ games, all I hear are energising club songs.
Express former chairman Julius Kavuma Kabenge predicts you won’t last your first year in office, are you concerned?
I heard he gave me only six months to fail but I want to tell him that politics won’t grow football in Uganda. I’m not in competition with Kabenge and I can only urge him to join my administration to better the club.
No one owns Express and the fact remains that I’m the only chairman of the Red Eagles at the moment with all the necessary documents to take the club to the next level. I have brought prominent figures like singer Bobi Wine to grow the club image and get corporate entities on board and forget the past club wrangles.
Don’t you think Villa, Vipers and KCCA are outright favourites for the title next season?
In my 19 years of marriage, I have never looked at what my co-wives do and all I do is to better them. I want to take this opportunity to state that Express will be crowned league kings at the end of the season come what may.
Express FC at a glance
Founder: Jolly Joe Kiwanuka (RIP)
Patron: Prince Kassim Nakibinge
Club president: Bbale Mugera
Chairperson: Florence Nakiwala
Vice- chairman: Pastor Samuel Kakande
Executive member: Jeff Ssekandi
CEO: Ram Abubakar Muhammad Hadji
Head coach: Wasswa Bbosa
Deputy: Alex Gitta
Club registrar: Hamza Jjunju
Finance manager: Victor Aiden Ssebudde
Publicist: Musa Kagimu
Technical director: Robert Mujabi
Fans coordinator: Gideon Kigonya
Marketing chief: Patrick Matovu
Corporate relations: Michael Bwisho
Brand manager: Bobi Wine