Football is undoubtedly the most popular sport in the world. This year marks 119 years since the inception of the beautiful game in Uganda. But do we know how football started, and how it went on to become the number one sport in the country?
Football was introduced in Uganda by the early Anglican Church Missionaries. Many records point to the Archdeacon Reverend Robert Henry Walker as the godfather of football in Uganda.
That was football in its raw form; where a few people, especially the missionaries, would just have casual kick-abouts. Semi-organised football started around 1911 with mission teams; majorly Nsambya FC and Budo.
In 1924, a more organised football format was birthed with the formation of the Uganda Football Association (UFA, later renamed Fufa).
According to the book; Football in Uganda (1897-1998) by veteran journalist Freddie Sekitto, Fufa was basically a brainchild of Walker, and others including D.G. Tomblings, H.H. Woods, Rev. Father Minderop and Reverend Father Martin.
Locally, the contributions of individuals like Prince Badru Kakungulu and Rev. Polycarp Kibuuka Kakooza should never be under looked. Kabaka Daudi Chwa II staked a trophy (Kabaka’s Cup, later renamed Luwangula Cup).
This was the first major trophy in the history of Uganda, played annually on a knockout basis. At that time, a number of football clubs had been founded to participate in the Kabaka’s Cup. Chief among these was Nsambya, the oldest football in the history of Ugandan football, founded in 1911.
Apart from the Kabaka’s Cup, other tournaments came into formation. These included Bika by’ABaganda, which was a preserve for Baganda. This created need for non-Baganda to also play organized football, thus the birth of the Wardle League in 1932.
Here, clubs and mission teams were allowed to compete. Wardle, the founder, was an English administrator in the protectorate government and offered a trophy to give chance to the non-Baganda who were not allowed to compete in the Bika Cup.
The Wardle tournament was played on an annual league basis. Football had become so popular that the Kabaka’s Cup, Bika Cup and Wardle League were being played simultaneously.
Towards Uganda’s Independence, the Wardle League was replaced with the Kampala and District Division League. Nsambya, Budo United, Bitumastic, Railway, Police, Coffee, Army, Express, Prisons and Mutungo were the participating teams.
In 1926, the Gossage Cup (current Cecafa Senior Challenge) was also formed. The Aspro Cup competition was formed in 1952 to bring together the four regions of Buganda, Northern, Eastern and Western. This changed names a number of times.
It was known as the Aspro Cup (1952-1966), Madhvani Cup (1966-1973) and then E.A. General Insurance Company (1974-1978).
With football spreading outside Kampala, there was a need to introduce a national league. In 1968, Fufa organized the first ever national league of eight teams, aptly named the National Football League (NFL). This was arranged in divisions One and Two. Division One had ten teams and was played on a home-and-away basis. Fufa randomly selected Simba, Express, Prisons, Coffee, Police, Kilembe, Lint Marketing Board, Masaka, Arua and Jinja to play in the maiden NFL.
In 1968, Uganda, Ethiopia and Somalia organized a ‘Friendship Cup’ that was aimed at strengthening ties between these countries.
In 1971, Fufa introduced a national knockout tournament, named the Uganda Cup (later Kakungulu Cup), which still runs up to date.
In any case, football had to cross Uganda’s boarders. Uganda was a pioneer participant in the Gossage Cup in 1926, alongside Zanzibar, Tanzania and Kenya. Uganda is the most successful team in this tournament, with 14 trophies.
In 1960, Uganda got affiliated to Fifa and the Confederation of African Football (Caf). The Uganda Cranes have played at the Africa Cup of Nations on five occasions (1962, 1968, 1974, 1976, 1978 and 2017). The 1978 edition remains their best outing, having reached the finals and lost 2-0 to Ghana.
Soccer in brief
First Uganda Football Association (UFA) Executive (1924)
President: Daudi Chwa II
Vice Presidents: I.R. Sturrock, Agutamba Tito Winyi (Bunyoro), Ezekeri Wako (Busoga)
Members: Rev. Festo Luboyera, Samson Ssebaana, Paul Mukedi, Rev. Fr. Robinson, C. Loyd
Joint secretaries and treasurers: D.G. Tomblings, Serwano Kulubya
Member clubs: Nsambya Old Boys, Old Budonians, King’s College-Budo, Makerere College, Mengo Central School Old Boys, K.A.R. Bombo FC, Comrades Association, Mengo High School Union, Rubaga FC, African National Medical Course, Mengo Central School, Mengo High School.
Continues next week.