When Locker Room, Scoreline defined sports show on radios

Saturday May 23 2020

The trio of Ssali, Kabuleta and Ssekamatte have

The trio of Ssali, Kabuleta and Ssekamatte have set the bar tuner too high for radio sports talk shows. COURTESY PHOTO 

By ISMAIL DHAKABA KIGONGO

It’s now dawn till dusk. There is always a radio sports show tickling your ears. Most of what you are likely to hear is content that you have either read about or are likely to find on digital media.

Yet there was a time you had to count on luck for any kind of sports information, let alone analysis, on radio.

When Andrew Patrick Luwandagga and his team started a weekly programme, Sports Desk, it spiced UTV (now UBC) menu. Every Tuesday night, the crew that also had James Opoka delved into the detail within the scores, times and anything else.

Yes, there had been football commentary on radio, Radio Uganda to be specific, but little to do with analysis and review. But liberalisation of the mass media opened the airwaves to private radio with Radio Sanyu and Capital FM going on air.

Sanyu and Capital did not seem to find a niche in sports or perhaps they did not see an audience worth paying attention to. Voice of Tooro and CBS joined in 1996 but sports remained on the periphery.

Locker Room is born

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However, in 1997, sports found a voice on Radio One. The Locker Room, on Saturday 1-3pm, was first aired on September 13, 1997, two days after Radio One went on air. The show still runs today.

“Actually, Locker Room was the idea of Maria Kiwanuka (Radio One proprietor),” Mark Ssali, a pioneer presenter on the show, said.

Scottish Neil McLeod, involved in setting up of Radio One and programme scheduling, was also producer of the show.

“We wanted to bring the sports pub to the radio,” Elvis Kalema, a mainstay at Radio One and current Head of Programming, says. “The ambiance was of guys in the pub just talking about the game. In fact, a few times we did live broadcast from Just Kicking Sports Bar [in Kisementi].”

Radio One had come in as a market spoiler for Sanyu and Capital, so it offered more than the entertainment that the other two fed their listeners on. Sports was the new catch.

Ssali was joined by Philip Besimire and Briton Nick Cavell.

“At the time, local sports was way more popular than foreign. We did analysis and reviews of the events that happened during the week,” Ssali, then a sports writer and editor at Daily Monitor, says.

Although DStv was already on the market, European football was not as popular and the trio was part of the campaign that popularised foreign leagues.

“What made people want to listen was the knowledge and the depth,” Ssali adds.

Erik Van Veen, then Besimire’s boss at MTN, was a regular, too.

As the show grew in appeal, the panel introduced a popular segment dubbed ‘Moment of the Week’ where they gave their best sporting moment of the previous seven days.

Sooner, they involved the listeners who would call in and share their own moments of the week.

The format grew beyond analysis and review. A prediction segment was introduced with listeners competing with panel to forecast results for selected games each week.

Airtime was the prize for listeners and the studio would light up whenever a listener beat a panelist.

Sanyu smelt the coffee, launching Sports Unlimited, on Saturday at 10-11am. Many could argue that it never really had the panel to provide competition to Locker Room. This type of show, all in English, had now transcended language.

Luganda FM stations like CBS, Radio Simba and Super FM caught the bug. CBS’s Akati K’emizanyo joined in, ‘poaching’ Ahmed Bogere Masembe from Sanyu.

While the show now runs Monday to Friday, it was initially a bi-weekly then tri-weekly with Aggrey David Kibenge and Abbey Mukiibi joining. Their focus was local football.

Locker Room remained a rock.

Kabuleta and Aldrine

The introduction of Joseph Kabuleta changed the dynamic for Locker Room. Kabuleta thrived on controversy and criticism of sports administrators.

“When I have an opinion, I put it out, regardless of what others think,” he says.

Often late for the show, he let the rest focus on the goals and times while he tore into the arbiters and administrators.

“I came late because I would be laying Sunday Vision pages or completing my column,” he said.

Kabuleta’s love for tennis and Formula One was profound and says Locker Room thrived because it was first of it’s kind.

“Three hours of sport and music yet relaxed. It covered all sports. Most shows that followed it were just football,” he says.

“Locker Room also had an input from Terry Paine in South Africa Supersport, and Cavell and Ssali were really good together. I picked up as we went along.”

His description of administrators as thugs and sex pests, among other terms, cannot be forgotten. Former Fufa president Lawrence Mulindwa bore the brunt of his criticism.

“I never had anything personal against Mulindwa. I wasn’t criticising him in any other capacity apart from that of his position as Fufa president, and mine as a sports analyst,” Kabuleta has opined in a previous interview.

Locker Room became the cradle of many sports analysts. Aldrine Nsubuga’s passion for love shone through as guest pundit there. Often an irritant for his open love for Liverpool and KCCA on air, Nsubuga pushed the boundaries of neutrality often expected from sports pundits.

The Scoreline

In 2001, Daily Monitor launched its own radio, 93.3 Monitor FM. Charles Onyango-Obbo, then editor-in-chief, decided that Ssali could no longer continue working for Radio One.

“That was it, I had to move immediately to Monitor FM,” Ssali says, who partnered Allan Ssekamate.

Named Scoreline, it was the first daily English sports show, running from 6-7pm, on weekdays. While Ssali maintained his unbiased analysis, Ssekamate brought something new.

He was grounded in language and deep with scores and fixtures. Largely adopting the Locker Room format, they created camaraderie that made Scoreline a must listen.

Many people could no longer just wait for a weekly discussion and this gave Scoreline leverage though the two competed for ratings.

‘Mark and Allan’ became household names. The 2002 Fifa WC in Korea/Japan gripped the nation and the audience became bigger as people tuned in to understand what they had watched.

“Back then, I would watch a game but then wait for analysis of anything I may have missed,” David Lumansi, a radio and TV broadcaster, recollects.

“There was always something they would bring that was different or was more than winning and losing which are the obvious results in any game.”

The two shows became a reference point for anything sport. But then Monitor FM changed its format. Scoreline stayed on a little longer before it folded, with the rebranded KFM opting for bytes and a single weekend show – not the detailed daily buffet.

Ssali soon left and teamed up with Kabuleta – his partner on WBS TV’s Sport-On alongside Ssekammatte – to launch Touchdown, a mutant of Scoreline, on Power FM. By then, every radio station had a sports talk show except Capital, which joined in with The Score only a few years ago.

What they say

“I listened to Allan & Mark on KFM. Scoreline it was. What a show it was! It was an in-depth discussion by two respected journalists in sports, especially football. They had a clear understanding of sport, history of Uganda’s football, administration of clubs, Fufa politics, regional and international perspectives and, of course, views on the future of the game.” AIGP ASAN KASINGYE, POLITICAL COMMISSAR UPF

“Scoreline was the show that filled my evenings at school. Many times I was late for supper and even preps because of Scoreline. Mark and Allan made sure of this by giving us an in-depth of both local and international sports every weekday. They had what I was always looking for. A preview and review of what was going on around the world of sport. I was in boarding school and getting up-to-date news was hard. I think I spent much of my prep time having extended Scoreline sessions.” JOAN LOGOSE, DIGITAL COMMUNICATOR

“The Scoreline, I loved the combination of Mark and Allan. There was a way they analysed especially European football that would make one fall in love with it. Though I watched the Premier League, they made me fall in love with Spanish and Italian leagues.” KENNETH KAZIBE, JOURNALIST

“The depth in analysis and eloquence of Mark, Kabuleta, Nick Cavell and Philip Besimire it was. They had a thorough understanding of local and international sports. You would feel their thorough preparation for the show in their confidence – they had facts at their finger tips at the time ‘Mr Google’ wasn’t yet born. We relied on Locker Room for information you could not find in the newspapers and indeed they never disappointed. I comment from the position of a younger Douglas Mazune at 21 or thereabout. But make no mistake of comparing the present-day Locker Room with that of the late 1990s, early to mid 2000s.”DOUGLAS MAZUNE, JOURNALIST

“Locker Room was rich and qualitative in content. It covered a wide range sports disciplines. I liked the independent opinions. Locker Room helped attract many youngsters, including myself, into sports journalism. I only regret the time it got personal in attacks.” SWALLEY KENYI, JOURNALIST

“The experience, indepth knowledge of Kabuleta, Ssali and Besimire made Locker Room a must listen to. I don't think we have had a better combination of analysts in in Uganda.” HERBERT O. MUCUNGUZI, MARKETER 

ENGLISH SPORTS RADIO SHOWS

Kfm Sport 93.3 KFM

Locker Room Radio One FM90

Sports Unlimited 88.2 Sanyu FM

The Score 91.3 Capital FM

editorial@ug.nationmedia.com 

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