By Paul Mwijagye
Whereas many people thought Zambia was simply lucky to slither past Uganda in the Africa Cup of Nations qualification match at Nambole, those who follow African football know it was a result of a well-laid strategy and years of hard work.
Kalusha Bwalya, who is now the president of the Zambian Football Association, coached Zambia at the 2006 African Cup of Nations. Following their elimination in the first round, Bwalya resigned. In 2008, he opted for the Zambian FA presidency.
In 2012, Kalusha’s dream of holding the coveted AFCON trophy was realised when the Zambia national football team upset the star-studded Ivory Coast.
Apart from Zambia’s example, the world and European champions — the Spanish football team have had to make changes in management.
The sleek Spanish football team we see today was not assembled overnight.
However, different people contributed to this. Their current coach, Vecente del Bosque, only took on the reigns in 2008. He took over from Luis Aragonés — who had led Spain to European success in the 2008 European Championship.
Del Bosque went on to lead the national team to win their first-ever World Cup in 2010, and then to retain their European Championship in 2012.
Zambia and Spain both have organized leagues, which supply players to the national team, and not two leagues as is the case with Uganda.
What about Ugandan football?
Ugandan football has come from far. We last qualified for the African Cup of Nations in 1978. Since then, we have been waiting and only coming close to qualification.
Since the Lawrence Mulindwa led FUFA took over in 2005, they have done a commendable job.
The current Uganda Cranes team is inarguably one of the best we have had in our history. However, with proper systems, it can be improved, especially the striking line. FUFA has also managed to build a technical centre in Njeru and improved the conditions of players.
Despite some reasonable success, there have been many shortcomings. And if these challenges are not addressed, some of us might never see Uganda qualify for the African elite tournament, leave alone the World Cup. The immense soccer talent in Uganda has been undermined by administrative chaos.
Dennis Obua also had his contribution, but left acrimoniously. The problem we have is that football managers in Uganda think they are doing us a fever by running our football. You hear statements like: “I have invested in my personal fortune in football.” This is an insult to football fans who dig deep into their pockets to watch the Cranes play at home and sometimes away.
We need managers who are accountable to the nation and not philanthropists. Someone can still contribute money even when they are not in management, and indeed, many Ugandans have done that.
We also need managers who can create systems through which money to run football activities can be generated, and this is possible.
If someone keeps on investing their money, how sustainable is this in the long run?
That aside, there has been mismanagement of funds in most administrations. To begin with, there are gate collections. At most games, the money collected is in millions of shillings. Like in the Kenya game where Uganda only needed a goal, over sh1b was collected.
Then there are TV rights, where a TV station that wants to broadcast the game pays a fee. Beside that money, FIFA gives FUFA $250,000 (about sh600m) annually for soccer development.
Some of this money is supposed to go towards the development of women’s soccer, but where is the women’s league in Uganda?
Also, $10,000 (about sh24m) is supposed to go to the top flight league, but it has never been remitted. Then bring in contributions from the likes of Michael Ezra (wherever he might be now) and you have enough money to run soccer.
So we should not hear of anybody telling us they have invested their fortune in Uganda Cranes. Ex-internationals also need to get more involved in running soccer instead of living it to lawyers and teachers. Most of the most successful countries have ex-internationals running the game. Why not Uganda?
We also need to be cautious if we are to have change of guards. Change does not mean throwing out everyone, but creating space for others, who have divergent views and styles of running football.