Local clubs should reconsider foreign players for success at continental level

Duel. Asan Kasingye, the FC chairman says match fixing, which is mainly fuelled by betting companies, is eating Uganda’s football. PHOTO/JOHN BATANUDDE

What you need to know:

  • Tough talking. Asan Kasingye is Uganda Police officer at the rank of Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIGP) who doubles as the Chairman for the institution’s football team, Police FC.
  • He started football management in 2000 as manager, a position he held for 11 years before he ascended to the chairmanship.
  • Kasingye was born in a footballing family in Sheema District where he picked interest in football at a tender age. The football fanatic talked to Sharifah Nambi about his ambitions. 

When did your involvement with football start?
My interest in football started at a very young age. I was born in a footballing family. I came to understand the world when my father was a great footballer and he used to take to the pitch with him. He would make balls out of banana fibre for me and insist that I have to play with them. I did so but I never went into a big stage like him because he played for Sheema district and he was a good defender. For me I was more of a fan than a player.

Even though I didn’t play for the school, I was involved in making sure that my House Uganda, since I was the house captain, performs better. We would play football in inter-house competitions and galas.
When I came to Makerere University a close friend took me to Lugogo and told me “he’s taking me to a club which I should support. I remember it was KCC (now KCCA) vs Coffee (1986) and that was my first time to see great players like Jackson Mayanja, Sam Ssimbwa, among others. During that time KCC used to play good football. Afterwards he promised to get me a yellow jersey and become a KCC fan but I said no, I have to watch another team. 

Then I went to SC Villa. By then Villa, Express and KCCA were on a good run but Villa was far ahead. It didn’t take me long to support Villa and we would just go present our university cards and they let us in to watch games.

Then how did you come to join Police?
In the year 2000, there was a review and focus of Uganda Police Football Club. The Inspector General of Police then, John Kisembo had agreed with management to get a new management for the team.
At that time, Dennis Obua who was running the club had been appointed the Fufa president thus the club didn’t have a substantial chairman. Obua used to run the club singlehandedly as the manager, coach, sports officer and sometimes the driver. 

Consequently, the club started performing poorly though they had the habit of beating the big teams (Villa, Express and KCC).

By that time I was the superintendent of Police. I had just returned from Japan after completing a three-year course. On arrival, I met with the IGP on matters regarding Police’s new management. He appointed Chris Opio as the chairman and me as the manager. 

That’s how I started management. I didn’t know a number of things but just as a fan of SC Villa. On that day I crossed from SC Villa and became a number one fan of Police.

How easy was it for you to cross from SC Villa to Police?
Never at all, I joined Police with all my heart and have never thought about Villa again. I only see them as rivals. 

In football, there’s a club you win 8-0 and you don’t get excited but there’s a team that you will beat 1-0 and you get excited the whole month. 

The people at Police know that my happiness lies in the victory over SC Villa. It’s also a source of inspiration to me that I beat the best team in the league. That alone shows that it was not hard at all for me to move on from Villa. To me SC Villa and Vipers are my rival teams.

After just three years as the club manager, you helped them to win their first league title ever. What did you instill in the team?

Upon my appointment in 2000, I asked the IGP to give me two years to win the league title. He looked at me and said, “What’s wrong with this young man?” He thought it was some craziness of young officers because it wasn’t in Police’s objectives to win a league title that early.  

In 2002 and 2003 we targeted certain players. I convinced the chairman that we must bring the right players to the club and he gave me the go ahead. I started with the goalkeeper and brought in Hannington Kalyesubula from SC Villa who was the best in the league back then, we went to the defenders, and brought in Simeon Masaba also from Villa and then Dan Mubiru. 

Tony Mawejje joined from Masaka and many other players including Geoffrey Massa and Martin Muwanga joined us. 

In 2005, the league was played in a knockout format. We topped Group B with 18 points .In the knockouts, we thrashed Express 4-2 and we landed on SC Villa in the final. 

We had to prove to the chairman that we can beat the league giants. It was a goalless draw at fulltime; we went into penalties and won 3-1. That’s my best memory in football and we really deserved it.
We invested in it, kept the players busy; I never gave them breathing space. I bonded with everyone at the team so it was a team’s success not an individual’s success. 

I used to take them to Entebbe (where I stay) every weekend because we didn’t have a game to train with Entebbe teams. After training, they would come to my place and do some form of a party.
It built a team spirit, friendship amongst us; the players, me and the coaches. If anyone had a problem that was the right time to talk about it. 

For one year, the feeling of winning that cup is not only attributed to hard work but also making the right decisions. 

Back then, nobody walked home, without his transport allowance, players were always paid on the last day of the month. So, I can say, it was a big investment.  Two days to the final with SC Villa, I took the players and hid them in Jinja and not even the players knew where they were going. It was between me and the Regional Police Commander of Jinja. We took them to a primary school and availed them with all the necessary equipment for training. Villa looked for Police players and they couldn’t trace them. 

The team was under the stewardship of Asuman Lubowa. What I learnt from it is that you don’t need to be a chairman or another manager but you need to understand how the game goes in order to bring the cup.

From the League title triumph to the Cecafa title, take us through that journey.
After the triumph, I went to the IGP’s office and this time round it was Gen. Kale Kayihura. I told him, Police is going to represent Uganda in Tanzania in the Cecafa Cup. I remember we went to Tanzania with Villa who we’re the defending Champions of the tournament. So, Uganda had two teams. 

By the time we landed in Tanzania everyone bullied us and actually they allocated us a hotel in the outskirts of Tanzania. I said no, we’re Champions and then I booked a hotel for ourselves in the City Centre. The act spread like wildfire and everyone was like what kind of club is that. From that day, they knew that they were not having just another club but a rival. 

I also had to change the attitude of all players.  I was always the first person to sleep and the last person to wake up to make sure that everyone sleeps and wakes up at the right time.  

We used to do everything as a team, praying and time management was key to us. I remember we had rules that everyone comes out of the room dressed before boarding the bus. We were going to play the quarter finals and coach Sam Timbe had already read the starting lineup. Mike Sserumaga expected to start but I told him you will come from the bench. He angrily came out of the room with his jeans and I told him to go back and change. He walked back but his attitude was not good.  

So, I told the driver to start and when Serumaga returned the bus had already left. 
He jumped on a boda-boda and found us on the way but I instructed the driver not to stop. So, he had to use his own money to enter the stadium. He came in as a substitute and scored the winning goal. When we went back, I told them, no player is bigger than the club. If you think you’re bigger, I will get you a ticket, you go back to Entebbe and everyone wasshocked that if Sserumaga can be told to go back then who are we? That’s the mentality I created in my players, a winning mentality.

22 years at the helm of the club administration but nothing is ‘visible’ such as a stadium for Police, anything in pipeline that we should know?
Police is a huge institution and I feel ashamed that we don’t have a stadium. This is something I feel that I should have worked on; a stadium, hotel and a training ground as well. Before Covid-19, I went with the then deputy Inspector General of Police, Mzee Ssabiti, to St. Mary’s Kitende. 

Duel. Police’s Muwada Mawejje dribbles past Villa’s midfielder Abdallah Salim during a Uganda Premier League football game this season. Kasingye believes Police will win the League and play continental soccer again. PHOTO/EDDIE CHICCO

Dr Lawrence (Mulindwa) took us to the Stadium and he showed us almost everything needed for a good Stadium. 

We came back and discussed building our own but then Covid -19 disrupted the entire plan though I am sure that the concept is going to be presented in the policy advisory committee meeting (the police council) and we start afresh.

What are you doing to attract more sponsors?
What I know is that sponsors dont want to associate themselves where they don’t have mutual benefit from it. So, as a Club we will try to have a convergence of ideas and benefits. 
We just have to play good football and attract more fans.  No one is going to spend money on us  when we are losing matches. 
The more we lose matches, the more it affects them. They want to be part of the winning team.

Do you think we have match fixing in Ugandan football?
We need to accept that there’s match fixing in Uganda. 
Many people including the administrators of the clubs don’t want to believe that there’s a problem of match fixing. They will know it internally, but they will never come out on camera like I did and say that ‘in my Club there’s match fixing’. It’s like in secondary school where they cheat in examinations and the headmaster come out to say; “I have a problem of cheating in my school”. 

It’s simply because it’s too bad for their brand. But the more we hide our heads in the sand, the more the problem becomes bigger. If we see these things and don’t talk about them, then we’re feeding on a dangerous Viper. 

Maybe I’m using a dangerous word in football. 
They may misunderstand me, but it’s like we’re feeding on a dangerous thing that will bite all of us.
We should all come out and discuss, talk about match fixing. Match fixing in Uganda has taken betting companies (the individuals that are in those betting companies) they demand that they want a 3-1 on such and such a game. Who is going to do that? The coach.  

Team selection is important to them so they target some players. They go to one or two and say if there’s a direct kick stand like this. And I am saying this because I have seen it happen to my club, Police FC.

Some people will look at me and ask, ‘What is Kasingye talking about?’
But I am talking about a real scenario that’s eating our football. It may not be players but referees even. We have audios of a coach demanding a budget for the referees. 

And if people think that I am talking about things which are under researched, dismiss me. 
We have another audio of a referee who calls someone else thinking he is the chairman of the club and demands his money. 

That happened between our game and a team from Mukono. Unfortunately, the team was relegated and that referee was banned for some games

What do you think should be done to cure this problem?
Having all the games televised is one way to reduce this. If you look at all the games they claim they have been fixed, most of them are not televised matches. 

If the game is televised and a referee does something, they end up in the Fufa disciplinary committee. 
That controversial red card to Ochan in Kitende where I protested, they banned the referees because it was never a red! And they don’t want to do the same things if they’re televised. 

They don’t want to lose their reputation. We should have integrity and build a legacy. For two years I have never gone back to the stadium because I don’t want my integrity to be lowered because of doing something that is not right. In all my time in football I had never been discussed even for a week for something that’s not right but this went on for about my month and everyone would meet me and say; “Oooh we saw you protesting on TV in Kitende”.
Trust me referees will reduce such blunders if we have all the fixtures televised.

What are your plans for Police now? 
The intentions of winning the league are the intentions of every club and so is Police. One of the reasons why I acted the way I did in Kitende is because we had set ourselves a goal to win the league and when you look back, we had almost won all our previous games in the season. We had a good run but it looked like everyone had ganged against us, many decisions were unfair decisions.  

I don’t change the coach because I know he’s one of the best in the country if not the best. I cannot pay the best when I want less. 

All that shows that I want a league title again and I will get it. I have the right players and in Uganda all players are the same, it’s only the winning mentality that differentiates them. 
Those in administration should just help us do the right things and let’s not play pre-determined matches then everyone will win the league. 

I remember Mbale Heroes under the stewardship of Sam Ssimbwa as coach player took the Uganda Cup after beating Villa at Nakivubo with the same players. 
That means that we must do the right things internally but we also need an environment in which everyone is a competitor.

As regards to playing at continental level, it’s also in our mission but that won’t come if the environment doesn’t change in the league. It renders it impossible and like I said, it all starts from here. 

What do you think should be done for our clubs to succeed at the continental level?
It’s time for Uganda to attract the best on the continent. The fact that we only have Ugandan players in the league, it means that were competing with ourselves. We cant predict any team on the continent because we don’t mix with them. 

I can use the example of South African Premier Soccer League, (PSL), in the last 3-5 years they have embraced a number of foreign players in their league, they have players from almost every country and the best players. At one time they even had a Kenyan coach.

If you have been keen with the continental football, it’s the PSL that’s leading. Mamelodi Sundowns team can field like 5 South African players on match day and the rest are foreigners. 

So, it’s something we should adopt. We should as well bring in technical experts both at coaching level and players and even the referees. We should professionalise the game inorder to bring competition to our players as well.

Never been banned
When FUFA banned you, you came out and vowed never to Step at any football match again, are you still keeping your promise?

I have never received a ban! I was charged for putting the game into disrepute for my antics at St. Mary’s. They sent me the charges and I accepted them. The Fufa Disciplinary Committee decided that I pay a Shs2m fine, in case I fail to pay, I will be banned for a year. The following day, I sent the money to Mengo through my assistant. My anger was not generated from that game with Vipers, it was rather a series of games so I was demonstrating that there’s something in football that we need to cure; corruption and poor refereeing decisions.

After that incident I remember I was at KFM and vowed never to go back to a stadium to watch a match, not even the Cranes and I am still standing by my stance because nothing has changed. Until the people that manage football in Uganda accept that there’s a problem and that they have put the following measures to cure that problem, I will not go back because I don’t want to get involved.

The club had a slow start this season and the players attributed this to your absence. This means that the club hinges around you. What structures have you put in place to ensure that even at your absence, the club keeps on at top?

Asan Kasingye Profile

Name: Asan Kasingye
Born: March 23, 1964
Profession: Police officer
Occupation: Assistant Inspector General of Police/Chairman Police FC 
Clubs managed: Police FC
Favourite clubs: Police, Arsenal


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