We must cooperate for  football to return – Fufa

Monday September 14 2020

Challenge. Fufa head of communication Ahmed Hussein called for concerted efforts. PHOTO | FILE

By Andrew Mwanguhya

Uncertainty remains as to when and how sport in general will resume since President Museveni pooled it under the suspended mass gatherings in March when a concerted fight against coronavirus started in earnest.

Since then leagues have ended abruptly, while others such as basketball have cancelled their season.

International engagements have either been cancelled or postponed, while new campaigns remain on the guessing scale.
The new football season, which comes with unfinished business in the Fufa Big League playoffs to determine the third team to be promoted to the StarTimes Uganda Premier League (SUPL), is slated for next month.

Unclear home venue
There is also the U17 Women World Cup qualifiers, as well as the – now Afcon 2022 Cameroon determinants against South Sudan in November, with the later home tie unclear of its venue.

Namboole, Uganda Cranes home ground, was temporarily ruled out this year until it fixes some inadequacies to meet minimum standards, leaving St Mary’s Kitende, which also has to pass the last hurdle, as the only other option.

But before all that, there is the 2020/21 UPL season, which is also dependent on the government’s approval of standards of procedure (SOPs) submitted by Fufa and National Council of Sports (NCS), to start next month.


The questions
The questions are many. Of course, fans are ruled out at this stage, but how will it all pan out? 
Namboole, which is now a Covid-19 isolation centre, is ruled out, meaning that if they are to control the numbers and spread, the fewer manageable stadiums, the better. 
In Kampala, you are left with StarTimes Stadium Lugogo, St Mary’s Kitende, and if you cross to the East, Fufa Technical Centre.

Do you let each team host their games as has always been? How about clubs like Villa who host their games at the locked out Namboole?
And if you are to say, use only Lugogo and Kitende for easy monitoring; do the players return home or are they housed in camp? Who foots the bill for that and the regular Covid tests – which go for Shs240,000?

“The government will set directives of staying in one place or not,” Fufa head of communications Ahmed Hussein told Daily Monitor. “That will be followed by numerous tests.”
Clubs themselves are struggling to survive, so footing their accommodation, meals and Covid tests will hardly help their already dire situation.

“Of course, we are engaging to see how government can come in to help with the costs for tests,” said Hussein.
Asked about expenses relating to sports resumption and clubs capacities earlier, NCS chairman Don Rukare admitted the complexities. 
“We will get to the funding when we get the resumption green light.”

Fufa’s Hussein added: “Actually, a sense of cooperation from all involved is needed. If we are allowed to play without fans and each team hosting, then a home team plays its part of security and keeping fans away.

“Security is for all stakeholders under the current status. SOPs like sanitising, social distancing will be followed for all organisers, media etc.  It will call for professionalism and understanding. Each team must assure organisers.
“As for whether teams will host their home games, we will wait for clearance from NCS.”

No good news from Namboole
As for Namboole, the managing director, Jamil Ssewanyana, does not have any endearing news for football fans, Fufa and clubs. 
“For as long as the facility is still being used as Covid isolation centre,” Ssewanyana told Daily Monitor, “I don’t see any football activity happening here.”

Villa, who have often used Namboole as a home ground, have been forced to write to rivals Express asking to share Wankulukuku next season.
“We are waiting for their response,” said Villa CEO Shawn Mubiru.

Ssewanyana had already assured Villa it would not be possible to host them.
“We had a chat with Villa and we told them that they can use the facility but that will depend on whether we are still an isolation centre or not, and also on how far we’ll be with renovations.”

Caf and Fifa deemed Namboole below standards early this year and directed that in order for the facility to host a major international game again, they should upgrade floodlights, dressing rooms, improved the pitch and put up a media tribunal, among others.

“Part of that was expected to be worked on from the government quarter release of October, November and December,” explained Ssewanyana.

“But we’re confident by November, we will have done the basics to allow international football to be hosted again.”