It has been clear for some time that Ugandan football is lurching backwards in the fight against match fixing. Efforts to get a handle on match fixing have fallen far short of what is needed to adequately suppress the vice.
There is something veritably denialist about how we view this cancer sweeping across the nation. One can be forgiven for arriving at the unpopular conclusion that Ugandan football is trapped by and condemned to live with match fixing.
How else would you explain stakeholders being oddly impervious to news of topflight club Kyetume buckling under the strain of match fixing? The silence of it is unfathomable. The story even did not find an audience among mainstream journalists.
Driven to exasperation by the necessity of difficult choices, Kyetume’s top brass indefinitely suspended two players for what it termed “unprofessional conduct displayed…against Kitara FC” in a StarTimes Uganda Premier League match. Kyetume lost the relegation six-pointer 4-2.
The intent behind the statement was clear – the behaviour of both Joel Mutakubwa and Julius Ntambi in a match against the league’s basement club offended a spirit of competitiveness.
We know that in a stunning response, Mutakubwa roundly objected to the characterisation that he foolishly threw in his lot with match fixing (he was sent off for head-butting an opponent).
In an audio that went viral, the goalkeeper says he retains a clear understanding of football’s Rubicon. He goes on to add that Kyetume cares little about crossing the said Rubicon. Offering one specificity – a 7-1 hiding inflicted by Onduparaka in November of 2019 – Mutakubwa further alleges that episodes where Kyetume players intentionally underperformed in seasons gone by are rife.
So then, again, why the deafening silence? The presumption of innocence does not begin to explain why match fixing is talked about in hushed tones.
It is increasingly becoming apparent that the presence of this vice privileges a cross-section of key stakeholders in Ugandan football, journalists inclusive. So this is essentially a story about privilege, and the shamelessness and insensitivities that come with it.
The feeble attempts where concerned authorities try, and inevitably fail, to muster a clampdown on match fixing are hardly accidental. Also the reduction of mainstream journalists to deafening silence is not an untoward happenstance. They, much like other stakeholders, appear to be making a fortune from the vice.
If the journalists were a well-meaning stakeholder, then they would see to it that the back and forth between Kyetume and Mutakubwa reaches a logical conclusion.
They would effortlessly ensure this by holding all parties involved accountable. Past precedents, however, show that this is a big – even impossible – ask. Ali Kimera walked straight into Busoga United’s first team weeks after Mbarara City had cut him loose on account of intentionally performing poorly during a league match against SC Villa in April of 2019.
Ideally, there should have been an inquest into the circumstances that hastened Kimera’s departure from Mbarara City. Instead, he was parachuted into action. It did not help matters that the mainstream media opted to turn a blind eye. It could have used its leverage to wring more out of the disturbing episode. But it didn’t.
Instead, Kimera was given a clean slate. It was like he had no backstory. No baggage. Usually, it is overwhelmingly in a sport’s interest to clear the air. Dispel fears. Ugandan football appears to be a different animal. It lives by a vastly different creed. This has squarely been made possible by a passive mainstream media.
The latest episode involving Mutakubwa offers a chance to press the reset button. We should not let it pass us by. Let us ask questions and question the answers. That is precisely our job.