Conversation around life in retirement is welcome


What you need to know:

Most importantly, it sparks a conversation about a subject that has for some time—rather sadly—had the effect of numbing the empathy of Ugandans.

April is here, and it brings with it the inaugural Legends Marathon.

Surely, you must have heard about it. Held under the auspices of Impact Sport, the running event's well-intentioned sincerity gives it an easy relatability.

Most importantly, it sparks a conversation about a subject that has for some time—rather sadly—had the effect of numbing the empathy of Ugandans.
Since time immemorial, generations have watched retired sports stars frantically struggle to claw back a life that was already falling apart. While still active, sports personalities are routinely absorbed by the minutiae of their day.

But unlike your typical white collar worker who entertains the idea of retirement while on the fifth floor or thereabout, most sports stars usually call it quits when the fourth floor comes within eyeshot. 

Life in retirement is hardly a cakewalk for many; not just those that were once-upon-a-time affiliated with sports.

It is in retirement that many people tend to look aesthetically questionable.

This is squarely because of unheeded warnings that make clear the fact that [in]actions during one’s heyday build to a future with potentially far-reaching consequences. 

We do not seem to be in the habit of saving for a rainy day.

The fact that such an outcome has been met with a mixture of derision and alarm shows that it will take considerable effort to turn the corner.

More so a significant swathe for our retired sports stars that labour mightily in the dying of the light.

As stated before, it is bad that their profession bequeaths to them a bad hand (i.e. the brevity of their working lives).

Just as bad, if not worse, is the unvarnished truth that many of them continue to fail to play a poor hand well.

It is greatly pleasing that Impact Sport has opted not to take a decidedly dimmer view of how retired sports stars handle transitions.

Many of them handle the idea—of transition—gingerly, if they acknowledge it at all while in their prime. Because of the aforesaid failure, in retirement, many of them survive, barely.

There should be a critical mass that dedicates itself to talking with great clarity about how to live within the unforgiving strictures of retirement.

The reluctance to admit to mistakes that may have contributed to a rough patch in retirement is hardly helpful.

Your columnist was quick to pick out the aforesaid reluctance in Friday Ssenyonjo when I spent an afternoon with him a few years before his passing.

Ssenyonjo was struggling with fragile mental health and an unhealthy dependency on alcohol at the time.

He confessed to picking up the habit of binge drinking while on the payroll of Bell FC. Beers were always on the house, he disclosed.
I cannot forget Ssenyonjo's single room abode in Kisaasi.

It was packed with contents that somehow brought out the over-all emptiness of his life in retirement. An eerie calm prevailed as he ransacked the room for medals that were won with, among others, Express FC and SC Villa at the peak of his powers.

With the medals now draped around his neck, I could see my colleague greet recollections of the trajectory of Ssenyonjo's footballing career with a face that betrayed a mixture of annoyance and concern. 

While Fufa should be credited for attempting, in its own awkward manner, to skill retiring footballers and summarily carve out a decent post retirement future for some, there is still work to be done.

Lots of it, actually. Most disturbing is the undisputed fact that one has to be in the good graces of the Fufa president to crack open post retirement opportunities that the local football governing body has built within its ecosystem.

This, however, is a story for another day. For now, let us give Impact Sport its flowers. Here is to hoping that the conversation around life as a retiree yields dividends.

Here is to hoping that the expression on the face of anyone that cares to listen to their narrative in the future will be softer, and that there will be absence of barely concealed regret in the retirees.