By Norman Katende and James Bakama
International kit manufacturers PUMA have reportedly terminated their contract as the official suppliers of a sports kit to Uganda.
Reason: Most of the kit offered to the country ahead of major events, have not been used for their intended purpose. Selfish officials usually take the bulk of the kit for personal use.
Uganda Athletics Federation, which has for 12 years had a strong relationship with Puma, was the first to feel the pinch.
Ugandan runners were awakened to the harsh reality at the just concluded World Cross Country Championship in Poland.
Team Uganda had to use the last batch of the Puma kit that was saved from the 2012 London Olympics.
“It is going to hit us hard. These kits cost a fortune. Puma have also been helping us financially,” said the federation secretary general Beatrice Ayikoru when asked why Team Uganda had used Olympic kits.
It was not yet clear whether athletes like Moses Kipsiro and Benjamin Kiplagat, who have individual contracts with Puma will be affected.
The New Vision is yet to see an official communication from Puma, though there are reports that Uganda’s refusal to accredit a Puma official for the London Olympics might also not have gone down well with the kit company.
But that aside, a lot has been going on in regard to abuse of the kit particularly by officials.
At the 2008 Games in Beijing, it took the intervention of PUMA officials for Ugandan runners to get their kit. A top official had apparently refused to release it.
He later gave the sportsmen only a small fraction of what they were supposed to get to the disappointment of the suppliers.
At the 2010 New Delhi Commonwealth Games, it was worse as officials grabbed most of the kit leaving many of their athletes to compete without the official wear.
It was even worse at the 2011 All Africa Games in Maputo, as PUMA released Uganda’s sportswear but it was never accessed by the team.
Last year, PUMA paid Uganda Olympic Committee over sh35m as bonus for Kiprotich’s gold medal at the Games.
Puma has also been contributing some money for athletics, including air tickets to international events for over 10 years.
“Administrators just need to check themselves. We are now going back to zero instead of building on what we had,” said Ayikoru.
PUMA has been giving Uganda a full competition and leisure kit for both athletes and officials at major games.
The deal is estimated to have been close to sh2m per athlete per event.