The younger generation is now exposed and many are investing and planning while they are still relevant to the national team
I once met Obadiah Semakula alias ‘musanvu wa ggwanga’ walking the streets in slippers with a torn shirt before months later, sighting him on a scooter doing the rounds around Kisenyi. My heart sunk.
For almost a year, I would drive through Old Kampala on the way to work and each morning would meet Umar Ssenoga in rugged clothes hurriedly walking towards Agha Khan primary school.
There are several other famous ex-internationals I have bumped into at different times and left me with teary eyes.
These notwithstanding, there are also others I have seen inadvertently and left me with a smile.
The likes of Fred Tamale, Fred Mukasa ‘speed merchant,’ Transford Nsereko, Godfrey Mugisha, Paul Ssali, Tom Lwanga, Joakim Matovu, Derrick Muyanja, Robert Aloro, William Nkemba. There are many others.
These have meaningful lives with either a career, job or business to run. It’s hard to even remember them as former football superstars.
The group that made straight choices of dedicating the rest of their lives serving football either as coaches, trainers, instructors, referees, administrators, academy developers, agents, media practitioners is well documented – Mujib Kasule, Mike Mutebi, Sam Ssimbwa, Jackson Mayanja, Hassan Mubiru, Andy Mwesigwa, Livingstone Mbabazi, Abdallah Mubiru, Moses Basena, Wasswa Bbosa, Kefa Kisala, George Ssemwogerere, Alex Isabirye, Baker Mbowa is all well documented. Football till death.
The move therefore by some notable personalities to spearhead an initiative to draw public attention to the plight of our ex-international footballers with the intention of mobilising donations to start up a SACCO for them must be laudable.
The news last week that about sh7m was raised to open the kitty for others to follow suit under the leadership of Lord Mayor Elias Lukwago with Dr Lawrence Mulindwa in tow was welcome.
If this dream is shared by the entire ex-international community, it will come to fruition. A wonderful project like this, however, could easily be derailed and suffer a stillbirth if there’s no formal administrative structure to run it.
The framework would begin with an association whose membership is clear and to which members subscribe every year.
Since ex-internationals stretch generations as far back as the 1950s, it helps if members are clear on the scope of inclusion. Is it from the Jimmy Kirunda to the Jackson Mayanja era, or from Ibrahim Sekajja to as recent as Brian Majwega era?
Would ex-internationals who didn’t make 10 caps, for example, enjoy the same opportunities as those who made 40 caps and more?
The members might want to put a constitution in place which works as a handbook for all in order to eliminate possibilities of discrimination, bias or subjectivity.
For example, is this an initiative targeting only those ex-internationals who have failed to make a living for themselves and are now living on handouts?
If the answer is yes, the immediate problem would be branding these as ‘failed’ footballers.
There are several ex-internationals who have been outrightly careless with their lives and careers even though they got opportunities while they were still active and on top of their game.
Some of these even tested the luxuries of professional football but threw away their chances. Why should the public pay for their wastefulness? Who owes them a living? Others, however, never really got a chance to make money to prepare for life after fame.
They treated football as a job and we all know that Ugandan football is a poorly paying job.
At the time, there were no career guides or proper football managers who would help to prepare footballers for life after.
This group, for me, has been victims of the amateur status of our football for several decades. To succeed, Lord Mayor’s initiative must have a plan and a clear objective.
The younger generation is now exposed and many are investing and planning while they are still relevant to the national team.
If the ex-internationals are grateful to those who birthed the vision, the best way to show it is by going a step further and constitute themselves into a proper association.