This week, I did a tour of Madison Square Garden in the Manhattan borough of New York. The multi-purpose indoor arena is famed for many things but mostly basketball, and is famously referred to as the ‘Mecca of Basketball.’
It is also the oldest National Hockey League arena, second oldest NBA arena and is the fourth busiest music arena in the world in terms of ticket sales.
MSG, as it is known, has a rich history of sporting milestones and records and its owners have done a fabulous job of preserving its history.
In 1971, it hosted the historic ‘Fight of the Century’ between Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali.
Frazier won the contest, knocking down Ali and handing him his first defeat.
Home of history
The year before a limping Willis Reed, an NBA Hall of Famer, had inspired the New York Knicks to their first NBA world championship after a Game 7 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers.
In 1993, John Starks famously dunked over Michael Jordan and Horace Grant in one of the most iconic plays the arena has witnessed.
In February 2009, Kobe Bryant scored 61 points against the Knicks to set a new record at the Garden.
In 1974, Ali avenged his defeat to Ali by winning the second of their legendary triology at MSG.
The milestones by the New York Rangers and several other sporting and non-sporting events are etched in stone all over the concourse of MSG. Later on, I went to Bronx to do a tour of the Yankee stadium, home of the Major League Baseball team New York Yankees.
My tours there, at MSG and Yankee stadium, felt like an immersion in history - a baptism of sporting lore.
It made me think about home, and how we have not done anything to preserve and conserve the little history our sporting arenas boast.
The MTN Arena located at the National Council of Sports (NCS) in Lugogo is 62 years old and played host to some truly legendary fights in the eras of Thomas Kawere, Francis Nyangweso and future world champions Ayub Kalule, John ‘The Beast’ Mugabi, Cornelius Boza Edwards and Kassim ‘The Dream’ Ouma.
The Lugogo Cricket Ground Oval inside the Lugogo Indoor Stadium has been host to a number of truly great individual innings by a number of batsmen including tons from Sam Walusimbi and Nehal Bibodi among others.
Nakivubo stadium, once a multi-purpose sports arena, was home to some terrific motorbike rivalry in the era of the late Paddy Blick. It has also staged some of the most memorable matches at club and country level and was visited by legendary Pele in 1976.
But these mementos and more are kept in the memories of those who were there or others who have read and conserved them in their hinds.
It is wrong. It should not be that way.
It goes without saying that our arenas and stadiums have been mismanaged if not neglected by authorities for years on end.
Full credit to NCS and MTN for touching up the Indoor stadium, but Nakivubo depreciates by the day and is now a relic.
In fact, Nakivubo is now all but gone, with the stadium now all but submerged by the bus park and malls around it.
It is safe to say Nakivubo’s rich history has been both erased and destroyed by a society that pays little or no attention to archiving memories to behold.
The ground where the likes of Philip Omondi, Jackson Mayanja, Magid Musisi and Andrew Mukasa thrilled fans looks like it is only hanging on, awaiting the guillotine.But should it be this way?
The National Hall of Fame remains in the pipeline – it has been there forever – and yet it should have been an eye opener for honour our sporting greats dead or alive.
Yet the arenas can still take the lead and champion that tradition by etching in stone or otherwise the feats of individuals that have passed the test of time.
It is done at the Santiago Bernabeu, Nou Camp, Old Trafford, Emirates, MSG, Maracana and in all other world famous homes of sport.
We would not have to re-invent the wheel.
What our sports arenas ought to do is take the lead and champion their own hall of fame concourses and moments. It is not rocket science!
With Vipers unveiling coach Abdallah ‘Tabliq’ Mubiru as their latest addition to the technical team, it serves to whet the appetite for next season’s Uganda Premier League (UPL).
Many who have worked with the former KCCA and Uganda Cranes international say he is a useful technical brain and Vipers will be hoping that his addition to coaches Edward Golola and George ‘Best’ Nsimbe gives them the edge.
From the perspective of the entire league, a stronger Vipers is precisely what the game needs.
In as much as they are not SC Villa, Express or KCCA, the Buikwe-based team are a formidable team whose financial muscle – with the able pockets of their owner and Fufa honorary president Lawrence Mulindwa – allows them to lock horns with any team in the country in the transfer market.
What the UPL needs is increased competition, new rivalry and teams with detailed tactical approaches to the game.