Athletics’ success puts football in the shade


What you need to know:

There is need to have the sports budget based on checks and balances of different sports

Success in sports requires regular information from the competition. If you pause for even just a day, you may find yourself or the team going backwards.

So, this in many ways requires benchmarking from every tournament or event one watches; whether at the World Cup, Olympics, World Championships, etc. For Uganda’s case, our sports administrators are required to take a leaf from the best practices and implement them back home when they return.

Over the past few weeks, the who-is-who of top-level sports administration in Uganda have been traversing the globe; right from the World Athletics Championships in Oregon, USA to the World U-20 Athletics Championships in Colombia and now the just-ended Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England.

In this almost one-month spell, billions of shillings have gone into facilitating business class travels as well as per diem in dollars for officials to benchmark the best sporting practices and identify opportunities to improve Ugandan sport.

 This has always been the routine every time there is an international event but what is baffling is that we hardly learn anything.

 It can even be argued that we don’t need to take dozens of holiday makers masquerading as technical officials to global events when they can benchmark the basics from home.

 Uganda is lucky to be gifted with generational talents from the Sebei Sub-region who continue to raise our flag. 

These Sebei athletes are not overnight stars and it has taken years of grooming and vigorous training to reach the top of the world. Some of the notable ones over the past decade are Joshua Cheptegei, Jacob Kiplimo, Moses Kipsiro, Stephen Kiprotich, and Vincent Kiplangat, among others.

These men succeed against all odds given the negligible attention given to them. They train with limited facilitation, inadequate training facilities in the region, and poor medical care, among many others.

It is why I credit the Uganda Athletics Federation for providing a platform of hope for budding runners amid all the challenges.

I am sure that if more attention and care is given to Sebei, for instance, Uganda will have a basketful of medals at every tournament. I also think that the construction of the high altitude training centre in Teryet should be fast tracked, and Joshua be given help to complete his training centre.

The same can be said of netball where the She Cranes continue to punch above their weight.  In a space of five years, the She Cranes have risen from being the third-ranked team in Africa to upstage Malawi and South Africa and after finishing fifth in Birmingham, they are now setting eyes to be serious medal contenders at the major event.

This is a sign of progress in a sport that doesn’t even have a permanent home.  However, it goes without saying that the continued rise in athletics and netball has served to cover up for the mess in other sporting disciplines such as football, where Uganda continues to regress with each passing year.

The Federation of Uganda Football Associations (Fufa) takes a truckload of officials to every international game in the form of providing exposure only for them to return with flat screens after spending their time there on a shopping spree. 

For example, during the 2021 Olympics, the Daily Monitor reported that Uganda sent a 56-member contingent to Tokyo, 25 of them athletes competing in four disciplines- the most since the 1984 Los Angeles edition.

The rest of the contingent - 31 - included coaches, general officials, administrators and government officials, which the authorities appeared to defend then. There were even allegations of officials fixing relatives in the travel teams although it wasn’t proved.

In contrast, the same people will not bother to attend the Masaza Cup where there is a lot to learn from in terms of organisation, talent-spotting and marketing. Instead, they try to create rival tournaments hoping Masaza can fail.

Many of these officials are often cited in match-fixing irregularities right from schools’ tournaments, soliciting bribes from players to be summoned to the national team and also stealing tickets meant for fans to watch international tournaments. Yet they continue recycling the same narrative of building teams in the hope things can work out. 

In conclusion, there is need to have the sports budget based on checks and balances of different sports.

Mr Immanuel Ben Misagga is a football investor.