Why has this six month competition won the hearts of multitudes?
The just concluded Masaza Cup has provoked some serious questions about spectator mobilisation.
Amongst these is whether this 18 county competition is now Uganda’s most popular sports event.
This question is answered in the affirmative if Saturday’s final between Ssingo and Buddu is anything to go by. The 42,000 seater stadium filled to capacity. In fact hundreds of fans had to be sent away.
Comparisons between this soccer competition and what were hitherto thought to be the country’s biggest soccer competitions quickly come to mind.
Amongst these are national team competitions like the Africa Cup of Nations and World Cup.
Uganda’s national football team-the Cranes represents a much bigger constituency but it has been quite a while since they filled Namboole.
Even much smaller than the Masaza is FUFA’s biggest club competition - the Star Times Uganda Premier League.
So why has this six month competition won the hearts of multitudes?
It has a lot to do with the region on which the competition is anchored. It is founded and managed by Buganda kingdom.
Buganda is not only Uganda’s biggest kingdom but the Baganda also have a huge sense of belonging. Of course you shouldn’t also forget Buganda’s immense love for its king.
Anything to do with the region is always seriously embraced. Passionate county sports involvement in the process leads to serious rivalry which in turn translates into huge numbers.
But perhaps what makes the competition even more appealing is the fact that unlike the Bika, which is restrictive to clans, the Masaza is more open.
All tribes resident in Buganda are welcome. Players are also allowed to switch teams. Some big transfer fees have been registered. No wonder some players prefer the Masaza to the premier league.
Sponsors like Airtel have in the process also cashed in on the numbers. Politicians have equally not been left behind. What better platform for recognition?
Then of course Masaza’s other winning card is the entry fee.
While FUFA’s entry fees of sh150,000 and 40,000 for the pavilion and sh15,000 for the general stands are seen as prohibitive, the Masaza offer more friendly charges.
The very important VIPs are charged sh50,000, while the rest of the pavilion pays sh20,000. The rest of the people in the stands pay sh10,000. What better way to market the competition?
With such charges the fans feel respected contrary to their relationship with FUFA with whom they feel alienated.
This should serve as a lesson for FUFA more so ahead of our crucial November 16 Nations Cup qualifier against stubborn Cape Verde.
Now that FUFA activities are almost fully funded by government isn’t it time the federation also gave something back to Ugandans?
What better way than this being in form of friendlier entry fees?
As for the Masaza Cup organisers it is thumbs up. Other sports administrators have lots to learn from you.