New Sports Minister Hamson Obua has his work cut out

Sunday January 19 2020

Before his appointment, Obua (3rd right) was

Before his appointment, Obua (3rd right) was among the legislators that welcomed Fufa’s Moses Magogo to office. PHOTO BY JOHN BATANUDDE. 

By Robert Madoi

One of the most colossally overrated ritualistic acts took place this past week. New ministers first took oaths and later some received instruments of power amidst promises to inject a burst of excellence into their respective dockets. The richness in symbolism notwithstanding, it is hard for one not to come away from such ritualistic acts feeling short-changed. Yet for sports hope seems to spring eternal.

It is easy to tell why the sports fraternity is not quite looking at the appointment of Hamson Obua as such an unsatisfactory outcome.

Charles Bakkabulindi, erstwhile sports minister since 2005 and a veteran of four reshuffles, seemed to have the lives of a cat only to run out of road last December.

Bakkabulindi had long reached the end of his tether by the time the axe dropped. Signs of fatigue among sections of the sports fraternity were palpable, but many members were resigned to fate regardless. The dropping of Bakkabulindi was not widely tipped beforehand.

Now that it has happened, Ugandan sport finally gets a golden opportunity to push the reset button. Obua’s chance at success will undoubtedly be contingent on maintaining distance from the mistakes — some shockingly brazen in their nature as display — his predecessor committed. He must also strive to take risks that pay off as opposed to carving out the trail of devastation Bakkabulindi’s bold decisions always left behind.

Your columnist would like to think that Obua knows that any false starts will see his stock flatline. He should also be alive to the unintended side effects of being so football-centric as his predecessor seemed to be.

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A 21st century mindset pines for the relentless advance of meritocracy and not an entitlement mentality. Seen as a promoter of the avant-garde, it will be deeply disappointing if Obua does not put in place a framework that will stop other sporting disciplines from being subservient to football.

There are of course a number of people who will dismiss all this as nothing more than a flight of fantasy. The manner in which Obua hobnobbed with Moses Magogo on his return from a Fifa-sanctioned suspension was quite perplexing.

It was, some would hasten to add, very Bakkabulindi-esque. Besides being jarring to senses, such an assessment could quite easily be dismissed as being a tad too harsh. Maybe Obua was reaching out to a key actor he suspects he will have to establish a working relationship with.

Whatever the case, the fallout that ensued should serve as notice to Obua about the vibes that can be picked up from calculated risks. The new sports minister will certainly need to tread carefully in the future.

Caution should, however, be thrown to the wind when holding a conversation about sports infrastructure. Of which he will! Your columnist was pleasantly surprised after bumping into Obua at Legends Rugby Club early last year.

Sure, the 39-year-old could have been pouring an unfortified wine by the glass at a less crowded restaurant. Instead, he was at Legends’ squarish foyer that can fit about 50 people if they all hold their breath.

By my count we were about 30 at the foyer on that scorching Saturday afternoon, watching a match in the Rugby Premier League. What Obua may or may not know is that Legends and its lush pitch have attracted the interest of a certain property developer. This has left its owners and patrons saturated with guilt and fear.

It is not just Legends that is overcome by the hopelessness of the situation. Sports grounds keep dwindling by the day in Uganda. This has had such profound effects. Children are for one grappling with obesity because their schools have no sports grounds.

A few years ago, Stade Rennes’ TV crew was left completely bewildered after learning that a red dirt pitch in Mulago where Majid Musisi first kicked a football had given way to a shopping complex.

Stade Rennes was interested in shooting a documentary about a player who scored 28 goals in 51 league matches in its unmistakable rouge et noir (red and black…in case you skipped French class) strip. Ultimately, the French club reconsidered the project. The opportunity to publicise Uganda to a French audience slipped us by just like sands through the hourglass.

He may not have a magic wand, but Obua has been known to have an unstudied grace in his every step. This means that any myopic attitude to sports infrastructure will come as a surprise. He might at times find himself powerless, but what the sports fraternity will expect is some semblance of a fight. Ugandan sport (not just football) need to get off the ropes.

What we now know...

We now know that Steve Tikolo is no longer head coach of Uganda’s senior national cricket team. Tikolo, who is of Kenyan descent, took over the Cricket Cranes’ coaching reins back in 2016.
We know that he won the ICC World Cricket League Division four tournament with Uganda in 2018.
We also know that the 48-year-old Kenyan had some difficult times in the dugout with Uganda, but had seemed to weather the storm recently. He leaves having steered the Cricket Cranes to the summit of the Cricket World Cup Challenge League B. We know that Davis Turinawe will serve as Cricket Cranes coach in the interim before a substantive appointment is made in February.

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