Don’t hate the Oilers, follow their wonderful lead instead

City Oilers’ Kami Kabangu (L) was very instrumental in his team’s 4-3 finals victory. Photo by ISMAIL KEZAALA.

What you need to know:

There was really nothing complex about how the Oilers achieved what they did, and rather than speculate about bank balances the rest of the basketball fraternity as well as clubs and teams in other sporting disciplines should just borrow a leaf from the general conduct of this organisation.

KAMPALA

Ugandan sport has been graced and blessed with a franchise that can go on to set the standards to which all clubs and teams - no matter which sports discipline they choose to undertake - should aspire, and the opportunity and challenge should be embraced rather than shunned.

There have been others in the past that did not stay around too long to have the desired impact and inspire a cultural transformation, and Spear Motors Football Club which had cropped up in the late ‘80s to early ‘90s is one of those that come to mind. How I wish they had stuck around a while longer.

Latter day sporting fortune has however cast upon Uganda the City Oilers, the basketball club that has made history by being the first to win the national title in their first season in the top flight, after a series of promotions had elevated them through the divisions in successive years.

It would be typically Ugandan to dismissively explain away the City Oilers’ monumental feat as one oiled by truckloads of money, but it would be a sorry excuse to hide behind and this once the country’s sporting fraternity has got to reject lazy, inaccurate hypothesis, look deeper, learn, emulate, even surpass.

Money did help City Oilers’ quest; but never mind the exaggeration and inflation of figures by a good majority who when not armed with information will prefer stereotype to fact, the simple reality is that in Ugandan basketball itself the dethroned champions Warriors will for example testify that huge investment does not necessarily translate into instant success.

I would have picked up the phone and asked any of the City Oilers officials for their investment amounts but, having watched two of their games in the semifinal series against Power and then three of the seven in the final against Falcons, I am convinced I don’t need those figures for this.

Having borne witness as several Power players belatedly strolled into the Arena for Game Three against the Oilers, the difference was all too clear to me and it had little to do with wallets. At that point honours had been even at 1-1, but Power went on to lose that game and eventually the series.

The Falcons didn’t come late for their games in the final, but trailed early in virtually all of them including the ones they won, being left to play energy-sapping catch up for seven tough games.

A casual look at the rosters of the playoff ensemble this year will reveal or confirm that, regardless of how much money they might have spent, the City Oilers were not the strongest team out there. They did not have the experience and depth of the Falcons, Warriors or Power, neither did they possess the talent and versatility of UCU.

Many of the attributes they brought to the court, which were all too clear to me on courtside, are the very basic ones that Ugandan clubs and teams somehow perplexingly fail to fully adopt.

Their success was about professionalism; the respect for time, team ethic, rules, and authority. The absence of egos was so perceptible it almost slipped into a lack of leadership, the togetherness easily discernible as the none-active and unused players on the bench willed their toiling mates on. This was just a well organised club and well coached team.

There was really nothing complex about how the Oilers achieved what they did, and rather than speculate about bank balances the rest of the basketball fraternity as well as clubs and teams in other sporting disciplines should just borrow a leaf from the general conduct of this organisation.

While you are all at it, don’t stop at photocopying those notes, go to the Oilers and ask for clues about soliciting corporate sponsorship too, without which it is impossible to cope in sport at this level anymore. I know a bit about those guys, there will give you those clues.

[email protected], @markssali on twitter

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