KAMPALA. One of Grace Kwizera and Nasser Sserunjogi will be your new Fuba president by Sunday evening, and Ambrose Tashobya - a happy, retired but hardly tired basketball statesman - will be looking on with pride; patting himself on the back after a good 12-year ride.
Among others, the winner of Sunday’s polls will be expected to maintain Uganda’s newly found international stature.
During Tashobya’s reign – Uganda, for the first time, qualified for the Fiba AfroBasket 2015 and 2017 in Tunisia and Senegal. The women’s side as well secured a ticket for the Cameroon showpiece in 2015.
Incidentally, both contestants can claim having been part of this success as they are all servants in the current regime.
But being part of the national teams committee, Kwizera - who has played and managed the game in both leagues with City Oil - will claim the bigger chunk.
National teams, Zone V
“I believe as basketball, we are making good progress and am part of that process. I’ve been vice president marketing, media and publicity since April (2017), and since then I’ve brought in Shs100m from Uganda Breweries.
“This wasn’t easy. It’s because of the great relations with these corporate people. I’ve got a sound track record and this trust has been built over the years, and management at City Oil has also come in handy.”
And it looks like Kwizera and Sserunjogi have been doing a great job of keeping tabs on each other.
“I disagree that the national teams are not that important (Sserunjogi only disagrees with approach/model),” said Kwizera, 39, “Our dream is do it big and the national team is important in selling us.
“And by the way, the national team committee was not fortuitous. Ambrose (Tashobya) called Mohamed Hajji and asked him to do this. “Ambrose wanted to separate national team operations from Fuba because he realized from his travels that this was what other progressing federations were doing.
“Why Ambrose called Hajji is because he had seen his contribution to the game way back from Div basketball with City Oil.
“And with the successes at City Oil (the six-time national champions) Ambrose saw potential of what Hajji could do with the national teams.
“Fast forward we hosted the Zone V Club Championships in 2017 with me handling operations, Hajji and Mohammed Hassan Santur getting the money. For me the success is in how we handled it. I have to say it remains the best organized Zone V tournament.
“The one thing that Hajji asked Ambrose was that he would work with his crew, and that’s how Santur, myself and Albert Ahabwe came in, and then Carol Kisukye.
“Previously stories of how the national teams travelled and how they were accommodated are chilling, and it was until January of 2013 that the national team flew for an international engagement for the first time.
“So when Hajji listened to all these things, he decided “Never again.” That was a mindset change. So when we started our job on the national team committee we decided to get better in all areas.
“This business of some players having a sense of entitlement on the national team also had to end. Discipline, team spirit and keeping time were some of virtues we quickly instilled into the national teams.
“And not just the national team, the story of City has also been built on such values. I think City Oil have represented the country well.”
Kwizera was actively involved in both the national teams (men and women) qualification successes in Tunisia, Senegal and Cameroon in 2015 and 2017.
“Today, Fiba and other international federations reach out to us because the national teams have represented us well, and because City Oil also raised the flag. Our 3x3 also doing well and this is one of the competitions I will prioritize.”
Uganda’s U2O 3x3 men are ranked number one on the continent, while senior men and women are number two and three respectively.
NBA junior league
“For me the NBA Junior League remains our grassroots priority. About 66 schools have so far benefited. So you have NBA Africa say we are not giving you cash, but here is equipment worth $15,000 (Shs55m), 10 balls per school, replica jerseys. “You have a former, current NBA player, a president of NBA Africa coming to grace the finale, such great inspiration for the youngsters.
“Each of the schools involved now has a court. From zero, now Fufa has 66 basketball courts in schools. As a result, schools are offering more scholarships, kids playing early, former and veteran players hired by schools to coach, increased pool of referees.
“I’ve heard some stories that I ‘ate’ NBA money, complete lies. But well, I hate to say this but I’ve spent about Shs300m running that league, the workshops, referees, rent, travels etc.”
“Sponsorship” is one area Kwizera will prioritize. “We need money for our leagues and the national teams. “Like I said earlier, I have already helped bring in money from Uganda Breweries; I have also been part of the process of making things happen for City Oil, organizing Zone V, international travel, camping proposals etc. So we have the connections and expertise.
“Priority number two is international relationships. We need to continuously have the national teams compete at international level because it is from there that we also get scholarships and coaching deals, get to meet powers on the sidelines.
“Local relationships is another area. We must show UOC, for example that we are worth when it comes to major decisions. NCS, we need to keep that relationship. I can tell you that should Nasser become Fuba president tomorrow, that relationship is doomed.
“Nasser chased Patrick Ogwel from KIU as sports tutor, and guess who is at the helm at NSC? Ogwel?”
“I know Ogwel is a civil servant but you and I know you can’t take this lightly especially when it comes to NSC making a decision and Nasser is on one side and another federation the other.” Sserunjogi, however, dismissed talk there is bad blood and that he was responsible for Ogwel leaving KIU as a sports tutor.
Kwizera added: “I have been asked about having more people in the stadium. All that I want to do equals to improved quality of the game; the partnerships and sponsorships, junior league etc… All these will attract more people to come to the game.
“For example the score board City Oil gave to local basketball, that improves quality of the game and I’ve been part of all that.”
Name: Grace Muguli Kwizera
Playing career: City Oil
League titles: 5
Zone V: 2 (as team manager)
Occupation: Investment banker
Administration: Fuba Vice President
Marketing and Publicity, national team
committee member, City Oil team manager,
NBA Jnr project manager
Collective achievements: 2015 and 2017
AfroBasket finalists (men and women)