By Swalley Kenyi
When FIFA dropped four Ugandan center officials for the 2014 season, a number of rookies thought this could have been their opportunity to break on the international stage.
Apart from Denis Batte, who had been the only survivor on the FIFA list, there were four places for centre referees to be filled as replacements for Brian Nsubuga, Ronnie Kalema, Ali Kalyango and Fred Mufta to complete the five slots accorded to Uganda.
Likewise, in the assistants’ category, there were two extra slots available to make the seven slots that FIFA offered Uganda.
However, FUFA surprisingly chose to fill just two extra slots of the centre officials and just five of the assistants’ slots at the expense of a group of officials that felt qualified enough for the big stage.
Alex Munabi and Mashood Ssali were the only new entrants in the centre referees category.
Although the pair has undergone FIFA fitness tests since 2009 and passed, there are questions on what criteria was used to consider the two ahead of the likes of David Oula, Frank Jjingo and Ali Kadalu, who are far more senior than the two and had passed previous tests.
FUFA referees’ committee secretary Yusuf Kamulegeya on Monday pointed that the federation had decided to preserve the vacant slots for those that have failed.
“Because Kalyango retired after failing the fitness test, it was a consensus in FUFA that Kalema and Nsubuga be given another chance to bounce back next year and that is why we have retained two slots for them,” Kamulegeya reasoned.
Is it a lack of opportunities or poor form?
When CAF appointed Mark Ssonko as the only Ugandan official among assistant referees for the Africa Nations Championship in South Africa next month, FUFA President Moses Magogo attributed the limitations to drop in form of Ugandan officials.
“When Mohammed Segonga retired, he created a gap that has never been filled. Unfortunately our referees have instead deteriorated in their form making it difficult for us to defend our status and earn appointments,” Magogo said earlier.
Ssonko, Lee Okello, Musa Balikowa, Samuel Kayondo and Hussein Bugembe are Uganda’s five assistant referees on the FIFA list. There are two slots that were left vacant.