Ugandan football is abound with tales of players being denied opportunities to further their careers as club owners preferred domestic league glory over players joining the paid ranks.
Godfrey Kateregga, Fred Tamale, Phillip Obwin. Isa Sekatawa, Hakim Magumba are some of the names to have missed out on potential deals over the past three decades.
Those times have since changed with domestic clubs reaping big from selling players especially to the more lucrative European leagues.
Few have benefited in that regard more than Vipers who sold Faruku Miya for a reported $400,000 to Belgian side Standard Liege three years ago.
At the unveiling of their new gym at the St. Mary’s Stadium, Vipers president Lawrence Mulindwa stated the development is in line with the club’s ambition of preparing players for greener pastures.
“That’s the part we are doing. A player can only be improved if that player is prepared. We don’t want the last destination of these players to be Vipers. It’s a conveyor belt, from here they can go to better teams than Vipers,” stated Mulindwa who was flanked by former captain Miya, club chairman George Mulindwa and development manager Eddie Butindo.
“We’re proud to have our former captain at St Mary’s and Vipers. He left the club when he was still very young but because of the good preparation that was done, he was still able to go to Europe,” Mulindwa said of Miya who had paid a courtesy call.
While many football clubs across the world own gyms, it is the first time any Ugandan sporting team will own such a facility that according to Mulindwa will be accessible to players from other domestic clubs depending on the schedule.
“It will help us monitor players’ fitness and make better decisions in regard to who is more prepared. We shall also ensure there is no misuse of the equipment because football demands are specific,”Butindo explained.
The gym is also in line with continued development at the stadium with plans to build a swimming pool and expand the western wing in the pipeline.
The club is also set to revert to its old recruitment policy with emphasis put on promoting more players from what is basically the club’s academy St. Mary’s Kitende as well as young outstanding talents in the league.
The academy formed the backbone of the team’s 2015 league success with the likes of Miya, Keziron Kizito and Dan Bilikwalira, Siraje Sentamu all key to the club winning their second league title.
Bilikwalira and Sentamu have since returned, the former after being loaned out along with the younger generation of Ashraf “Fadiga” Mugume and Frank “Zaga” Tumwesigye.
The club also promoted Karim Watambala, striker Richard Basangwa and defender Jacob Okao to bring to five the number the number of academy products promoted since the start of the season.
The others are Aziz Kayondo and Bobosi Byaruhanga who all featured in the second round last season in addition to Bashir Asiku and Geoffrey Wasswa who are now established at the club.
The club also brought in Allan Kayiwa, Rashid Toha and Paul Willa all with premier league experience.