President Museveni on Tuesday gave the sports fraternity a rare reason to smile at a time when the Covid-19 pandemic has served so much pain.
In a letter to the nation, the President paid tribute to former Cranes skipper Jimmy Kirunda and directed the Ministry of Education and Sports to compile a list of exemplary Ugandan sports performers at the continental level, the Commonwealth or the Olympics since 1954, such that they can be rewarded dead or alive.
It is commendable that the government thinks highly of sports despite continuing to box it by categorising sports as leisure like the National Council of Sports Act 1964 does.
In weeks to come, the Sports ministry will submit the list as per the President’s directive. But there is one salient item that will not appear on their list - Sports infrastructure.
It is important that the Sports ministry includes a post-script (PS) at the bottom of this list indicating the status of sports facility, especially that of Nakivubo stadium.
Not that the ‘former’ national sports facility needs a medal. That is far from it. But the President has been clear enough – alive or dead.
Nakivubo might be dead now, but it is not dead enough. A PS about Nakivubo stadium should serve to remind the President that without this stadium, Kirunda and many legends who have carried the national flag with so much pride, would probably never have gone that far.
It is at Nakivubo that Kirunda helped Uganda qualify for Ghana ‘78 Africa Cup of Nations. It is at Nakivubo that Kirunda and the heroes he went with to Ghana trained and plied their trade in the national league.
It is at Nakivubo that Uganda hosted national games. It is at Nakivubo that one of the legends who served the nation with distinction alongside Kirunda and later as an administrator, Denis Obua, breathed his last.But Navikubo is no more.
What is left of it are the excuses that crop up whenever concerns are raised about the facility that lies comatose in ICU. Pillars, deep gullies and stagnant filth welcome you to the once Mecca of Ugandan football.
The government surely does not expect this country to have more Kirundas when sports grounds are turned into car bonds and shopping malls.
But it is never too late and while we cannot expect so much, government must address the Nakivubo stadium shame.