Questions abound as rain leaves pitches unplayable

Sunday November 10 2019

Not Fit For Play. Many soccer pitches all over

Not Fit For Play. Many soccer pitches all over the country have been left soggy and forthwith unplayable this season. PHOTO BY GEORGE KATONGOLE 

By Robert Madoi

Whenever heavy rains pound Uganda, you can sense the fallacies that have been staked in the country’s making. The veneer of near perfection -- albeit very carefully assembled - cracks.

Potholes start to resurface on major transport arteries as episodes of flash flooding abound even in leafy suburbs. With the mask slipping off the facade, the improbability of a claim to near perfection is always exposed.

If that is Uganda for you, how about its football? Well, the past few years have seen Ugandan football fast-tracked into a very rarefied space. Qualification to successive Afcon finals and hitherto decent showings by KCCA FC on the continent showed a sport rattling along with terrific energy.

That notwithstanding, the feats enchanted respectably rather than astonishingly. Owing to this, praise was sometimes deserved – but not always.
A number of the things that reduce Ugandan football’s success story to merely a cosmetic exercise.

None though packs a punch as devastating as the growing list of infrastructural needs. Sports infrastructure in Uganda remains a work in progress that continues to horrify many with its hot air and depths of lack.

True the infrastructure is not nearly as shambolic as some assume, but it’s also not nearly as impressive as authorities presume. So what exactly is it? The truth lies somewhere in between the aforesaid polar opposites. And we have to thank the rain for sweeping away the camouflage to give us a clear-cut picture.


Downpour after downpour has created a chaotic mix of peril and promise. Peril because pitches have been turned into potato gardens that endanger good football as much as the health of players.

Looking for options
The other peril, which has been framed as a promise (through the lens of synthetic pitches), is that this sorry state of affairs has impelled some to take a decidedly dimmer view of natural pitches. They hold that extreme weather -- be it torrential rain or incessant heat -- makes managing natural pitches that much more difficult.

That any attempt to make such pitches playable ends, as it so often does, on a puzzling note.
Maybe it does, but this shouldn’t be the death knell for natural pitches. After all synthetic pitches come with disadvantages by the bucketload not least predisposing players to injuries. Casting the lot with synthetic pitches will only ease the pain, barely.

We need to probe this problem as deeper as torrential rain does in our banana republic. The truth of the matter is that the potentially dangerous undesirables Ugandan football is grappling with when it comes to natural pitches in extreme weather is a microcosm of a broader Uganda.

It speaks to typically Ugandan problems like poor drainage systems and erecting structures in wetlands. Which all means this shouldn’t the first or last time we hear of the problem.