The past two weeks have been as intense as they come in Ugandan football. First was an unwelcome tirade by Federation of Uganda Football Associations (Fufa) president Moses Magogo, as he tore into the national team players.
Then came the arrest of former Uganda Cranes forward Sulaiman Mutyaba over holding “an illegal protest” at the federation’s offices, calling for the resignation of Mr Magogo over unpaid player dues.
That was all eclipsed by the retirement of two of illustrious football players – Denis Onyango and Hassan Wasswa. The pair have been dominant figures of Uganda Cranes squads for the past 15 years.
In that time, Wasswa became perhaps the most versatile and the most dedicated while Onyango made a case as not only the greatest footballer, but also as the country’s supreme sports personality.
Together, they won over 150 caps to represent Uganda and took the team to two Africa Cup of Nations football finals in 2017 and 2019. Before 2017, Uganda had waited 39 years to play alongside Africa’s elite.
Their moment of retirement has been lost in the attacks by Mr Magogo and the demands by Mutyaba for better wages, which should be an eternal fight.
While Wasswa has not played for the national team in two years, there is popular belief that Onyango was pushed over the cliff by the ongoing feud between players and Fufa.
Before his retirement, Onyango spoke of the current administration in not-so-glowing terms. This is bound to take the shine off the crystal ball. We are meant to be celebrating careers of individuals who have exceeded many a Ugandan. Technical ability is always fronted as the most important attribute to a successful career.
The pair of Onyango and Wasswa have proven that it’s not. In fact, dedication, focus and mental fortitude are the most critical elements to a great career.
These are lessons that Fufa and all football stakeholders should preach. Besides, previously, there have been occasions when testimonial games have been promised and not delivered. It’s high time they became a culture for all who serve the beautiful game diligently.
Luckily, Fufa took a decision to organise testimonial matches for national team players who retire after eight years of service or those that have put indelible marks to the team as decided by the executive. Today, everyone is posting a farewell message but those are momentary ‘finger-thought’ statements. After all the sun has set, we need to go beyond a few words. There is need to find ways to keep retiring players within the game and draw from their well of knowledge.