Sports administrators in the country have been sending positive messages to stakeholders in the wake of the coronavirus-enforced break.
Indeed, it is understandable that we must see and smell the roses even while walking on thorns.
Yet there is a problem as serious as the galloping pandemic itself that the administrators are either not seeing or pretending not to. They feel this timeout is a minor blip. But it’s actually fatal for many sportsmen and women.
For years, sports clubs in Uganda have been run on shoestring purse, with players reduced to picking whatever comes their way. And now, as the coronavirus ravaged the sports arena, it exposed sportsmen as a society of needy talents on their knees, holding up begging bowls to nobody in particular – probably hoping for God’s intervention. Take football, for instance.
Most topflight clubs only pay players when they play. When the league is on, they get bonuses and other incentives such as training allowances. With the StarTimes Uganda Premier League suspended until at least April 20, most players are hoping that they will at least receive March salary. And then after that, God knows.
The ugly global health timeout is like a buzzer to sports administrators. A loud call to revisit how sports activities are run in the country. We will be the sorriest lot on earth if, God forbid, a similar pandemic swept away sports activities in future but left our sportsmen in the same oar-less boat.
There might be an ocean of gulf between Uganda and Europe, but reports of professional footballers donating toward efforts to fight coronavirus are quite sobering. Why should players in other leagues be foregoing their wages for months, taking pay cut and engaging in public health support when those in Uganda and their employers cannot even offer sugar to stricken persons in their community? Why should players be praying for salary?
The future of our sports administration that is present in Europe should not be left to time. Authorities have the virus break to thank. Lay that foundation today. There is gloom all around us but even if everything grounded to a halt but sports, there would be so much respite.
Sports isn’t just a diversion. It’s a deeply interwoven connection that binds us to all its thrills, spills and the chills. From salving us after tough times in various engagements, lifting boredom off us and giving us the much needed break, sports makes a community of us all. But we must first make sports stand taller than the community it makes in us. If there are roses in these thorny moments, it should be in rethinking how we run sports.
To the sportsmen, the coronavirus break is a reminder to invest. It is hopeless to rely on clubs and federations all year round. The average sportsman has only 15 active years.