The Bumbuli story: Time for players to take matters into their own hands

After having his career tragically cut short, Bumbuli should count himself lucky that his story has been highlighted and help been forthcoming. It has not been the case with the others in similar situation. Photo BY SWAIB RAUL KANYIKE.

Comment. I believe every media outlet should have a former footballer as one of the panelists as a bare minimum, in the same way I deem it a must for all corporate sponsors of the game to have former footballers in their ranks.

Tales of the sorry plight of our sportsmen, past and present, are so commonplace that they seldom draw any attention or sympathy from a Ugandan public in which almost all other groups have not been treated any better and in which almost every individual has too much on their plate already anyway.

Being more in number as part of the country’s number one sport, the footballers have had their sad stories most frequently chronicled; the isolated philanthropic gesture aside however, there has not been any concerted nationwide efforts to reverse the everyday trend of the short superstar sporting life, the miserable life after, and the pauper’s death.

At the top are exalted names like Phillip Omondi, Godfrey Kateregga, Magid Musisi and their ilk. But along that chain are thousands of former internationals and others of great talent and commitment who have gone the same route or are on their way.

If players who have managed to use their various gifts to contribute visibly and significantly can endure that kind of fate, what then is expected for those who do not manage to prove themselves worthy to the nation, because their careers have been rudely and prematurely interrupted by some tragedy or other?

It is in that light that I commend the media for highlighting the story of the young Isaac Imam Bumbuli, a player of great promise, who lost a leg after being shot following a fracas at a nightclub.

My immediate sentiments were that police could and should have handled his case better and averted that ill-fated shooting, and that even after it happened they could have done more and perhaps eliminated amputation as an option.

But they have their own side of the story, and would most likely have viewed any attempts at extra assistance as some admittance to error or guilt on their part.

That whole episode leaves so many unanswered questions, but it is not the focus of my concern because the next footballer to get shot (Bumbuli was not the first) will endure that misfortune from an altogether different party, like armed robbers, with nobody to even remotely hold accountable.

I have been a big critic of Lawrence Mulindwa; but as his predecessors and successor will attest, I hand out the same treatment to each one for it is nothing personal. Better to keep the powers that be on their toes than lavish them with exaggerated praise and get them into false comfort zones.

And so it is easy for me to give credit where it is due and hail Mulindwa for the huge financial handout that is to go towards Bumbuli getting an artificial leg and starting up a small business.

It is the kind of gesture for which he would never be begrudged, and for which any publicity would be fully justified and deserved.
Philanthropists will always have their motivation and so there is no risk of losing out on that front, but not every Bumbuli case will come to Mulindwa’s attention, and if they all did they would overwhelm him.

That has always been the reason for my several arguments here for institutionalisation, so that Mulindwa and his kind step in to help causes but are not burdened with the entire load.

There is an urgent need for a strong, foresighted Ex-Internationals’ Association and a Players’ Association, bodies to look beyond politicking and small-time squabbling. All-action bodies with the ability to lobby Fufa, Fifa and other players’ groups around the world for coaching courses, studies in football administration, sports science and the like so as to empower their members and prepare them for life after playing, rather than leave them as the charity cases they mostly are today.

Bodies to lobby Fufa, a potentially humongous employer, to assimilate them and involve them in the day-to-day running of the game; bodies to systematically drive other stakeholders in football, like corporate sponsors and the ever-expanding media, to take them on board as prerogative.

Just as an example, I am a former footballer (among other disciplines) who because of grave injuries and commitment to studies did not stick around long. Mine was a deliberate early move to do so, and so I have been a writer, editor, commentator, panelist and analyst on radio and television for ages.

I believe every media outlet should have a former footballer as one of the panelists as a bare minimum, in the same way I deem it a must for all corporate bodies involved to have one or more former footballers in their ranks, as anything from simple foot soldiers to big time consultants.

And like I have held before, we need to erect that Hall Of Fame as a project with more purpose and impact than just names on a wall. It is a ball game that the footballers (and other Ugandan sportsmen) should start to play now.

[email protected], @markssali on twitter


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