Afcon: It doesn’t matter who wins, Otai has brought Uganda a trophy already

Author, Gawaya Tegulle. PHOTO/FILE

What you need to know:

  • The gamble has paid off wildly, with fans on social media christening him the Ugandan Peter Drury.

At every big football tournament, one of the most important aspects thereof is the prediction drama – who will win which game and who will eventually walk home with the cup in their cargo. 

And tongues are already wagging about which way the Cameroon edition of the Africa Cup of Nations, Afcon, will go. 

But whatever happens, there is at least one special winner for Uganda: Deogratius Otai, a football commentator on UBC Television. He may be playing no part in the proceedings on the pitch, but from the look of things, thousands are falling in love with his commentary. 

The State broadcaster actually receives a complete package – video and audio combined from the source; but UBC took the gamble of muting the audio transmission, letting their own Otai provide the commentary. 

The gamble has paid off wildly, with fans on social media christening him the Ugandan Peter Drury.

Drury, who can be heard every weekend doing commentary during English Premier League games, is the king of football commentary, the one commentator whose lines alone have attracted a huge YouTube following. 

Claiming that a commentator evokes memories of Peter Drury is the equivalent of saying a president somewhere reminds you of Nelson Mandela or Abraham Lincoln.

Legendary football commentator, Nigel Pearson, of England famously said, “Being a successful sports broadcaster is all about having a passion for what you do,” he said. 

“That applies at all levels of broadcasting.” Otai cannot be accused of being short on passion. His voice carries it in kilogrammes. 

One big problem that we are facing with many of Uganda’s football commentators for television is that most of them began or horned their commentary skills on radio, then they transited to television later. 

On radio, one has the task of painting a picture in the listener’s head of what is happening on the football pitch, using words, carefully chosen and deployed. So you talk about everything you see, something absolutely superfluous in television. 

There is a romance; a smoothness and silkiness that television demands. There are things you will get away with on radio, but which will be completely unforgivable on television. 

Bad or inappropriate dressing, for example, will not be an issue with your radio audience; but it will be definitely a very big deal on television. Yet you see many television presenters today who, because they are used to radio broadcasting, go on air in a television studio looking like something the cat dragged in! 

Otai, has, thankfully, acquitted himself well as a television sports commentator. He has great power of observation and description, and delivers with a finesse and passion that keeps the viewers hooked and following along eagerly. 

Listening to his commentary, it is clear Otai is well-researched, has a mastery of the English language, and the presence of mind to know that this is television, not radio. 

Ideally, match commentary is done in the stadium press box, which is equipped with multiple screens and has constant briefing before and during the match, from the match administrators as to what is going on. 

Without the advantage of a press box, Otai is literally akin to a pilot who is successfully flying an aircraft without contact with Air Traffic Control on the ground. 

In a Uganda where there is so much depressing news, especially from the political space, it is a breath of fresh air into a country choking on its politics, when you turn on the telly and all you hear is excellence, from a youthful Ugandan.

Over time, as he grows bigger, Otai will have to come under closer scrutiny from experts in the field who will want to tear him apart and see whether he is made of sterner stuff. He will have to prove that he is up there with the best. 

And there will also be the usual fault-finding theory cats who just like to throw barbs, just for just. But until then, he is enjoying lots of praise from Ugandan football enthusiasts, who are enjoying his delivery…at Afcon. 

Mr Tegulle is an advocate of the High Court of Uganda     

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