I was shocked when President Museveni advised parents to tell their children not to waste time watching the World Cup and instead advise them to learn more about NAADS and farming. While these are good government programmes, discrediting the most popular global sports event is disgraceful and unfortunate.
If the celebrated cattle-keeping President only knew how countries struggled to host this tournament, then he would appreciate the value soccer brings to the world community. It is business, fun, unity, hope, tourism and identity. It gives brand to a nation. Indeed, everybody knows about Brazil with a leaning to soccer than coffee. If you gave an ordinary Uzbek a quiz to name Uganda’s President, one may think you are interpreting the language of rocket science.
A social sports programme, Kafolu, is the secret behind Brazil’s success story in soccer talent and world football. In turmoil, war and poverty, it is a strong psycho-social tool that can transform the lives of many people. In Mexico 86, one of the most successful FIFA tournaments, only comparable to Italia 90, Argentines got off for a short-term holiday to forget the poverty, frustration and brutal dictatorship of the military junta because of the flair and soccer fame brought by Diego Maradona. After Sadaam Hussein was overthrown in Iraq, I watched the American soldiers playing soccer with ordinary Iraqis to give them hope.
Soccer and other sports disciplines can be adopted as a psycho-social therapy in bringing hope to people of the greater north who have suffered under LRA rebellion. In 1998, the Russian sports minister was summoned by the National Assembly to explain Russia’s dismal performance in France 98. South Africa is known because of it’s industrial potential and sporting facilities that have hosted a number of global events and the 2010 soccer showpiece has given it a plus in the sporting world.
What is the identity of a Banana Republic like Uganda in the world community?
One area where President Museveni can inject resources is the development of soccer infrastructure. This will offer job opportunities for the youth. I am wondering what our presidential advisers actually do. They should be telling the President what he should hear, not what he wants to hear. Don’t only tell him how best to prolong his stay in power and effectively steering the wheels of the yellow bus to plot 1, Kyadondo Road! Tell him that an organised and well-funded soccer programme is as good as-- or even better than-- cattle keeping in wealth creation.
If the President claims to be a Pan- Africanist, he should have watched that winning goal of England’s Jermain Defoe against Slovenia. The English fans celebrated as Britons. The beautiful game knows no race; it fights racism. The President should actually use the billions meant to pay RDCs to teach patriotism to fund soccer projects.
I know his confidants, apologists and sycophants may respond defensively that the President may have been misquoted. I believe and insist that cattle keeping, a celebrated activity for the President, can be a successful anti-poverty tool alongside sports development.
Mr Sundia is a career cricket volunteer and developer, Uganda Cricket Association