The latest innovation from the federation, is so far the best football initiative they have taken in the last six years
For decades, the term ‘grassroots’ football has been used to mean Coca-Cola Post Primary football championships, former Kampala Kids League, national regional football competition, lower division leagues football, Uganda Cup and everything else that prep-supposes community-based football.
FUFA as expected, are in charge of most of these competitions while a few have been conceptualised and managed privately.
The question has always been the extent to which the national league and national teams have benefited from these competitions.
While it is possible to single out a few players in the national teams; including underage teams, who have progressed through some of the competitions above, it is impossible to trace the system that got them where they are today. More accidental than incidental.
I am not one to lavish praises generously and my due credit is normally given on conviction that the recipient has earned it.
It will, therefore, surprise many that FUFA president, Moses Magogo’s announcement earlier this week got my full attention.
The FUFA Primary Schools Championships; the latest innovation from the federation, is so far the best football initiative they have taken in the last six years.
How ‘grassroots’ has always excluded primary school football has always baffled me. It’s why also, I have never really bought into this ‘academy’ football thing – for the lack of continuity, which, for purposes of this column, I will refer to as a conveyor belt.
Why it has taken this long for FUFA to come up with this laudable initiative, I will never know but better late than never.
Said Magogo; “We have to go back to the grassroots if we are to develop the game. We take responsibility to create the category of U-15 so that we can track these players. The top clubs in Europe can only recruit players at the age of 17 to take them to the academies and prepare them for the bigger stage.”
He sounded like a man focused on correcting administrative omissions of the past with a genuine intention of establishing the extended technical football structure that everyone talks about but few really know about.
As a breeding ground for a national U-15 league, which then becomes the feeder for national U-17, the logic fits in.
As a strategic plan, one can then talk of our aim at the 2021 Africa U-17 Nations Cup.
Of greater importance is the need to set up a permanent human resource structure that will be responsible for the implementation.
The coaches and scouts are a given; that is how the players will be selected. What concerns me, is what remains uncertain.
How is the link between FUFA and the primary schools' organisational structure? Most primary schools over the last two decades have given up sports infrastructure – read football – in preference to academic eloquence.
This has over time affected the ambitions of talented pupils who would have dreamt of a football career and are now being pumped with grades.
How do the parents fit in the picture? Should FUFA rely on the schools to push the pupils to excel at their football talent or parents to encourage their children to exploit their talent on the pitch alongside studies?
Should the National Council of Sports, through their parent ministry come up with a supportive policy that will galvanize schools to redesign their programmes?
The task for FUFA to align the ministry, schools and parents to buy into the vision of tapping football talent through schools will be bigger than organising the primary schools' championships.
The co-operation between FUFA and partners in grassroots football development has not always been stable in the past.
Working on relationships could be the first place to start for FUFA to drive this latest initiative.
Finally, after the selection is done following the national championships involving eight regions, how will FUFA ensure that the selected players will actually stay on and avail themselves for national service?
The answers to questions like these and more will help FUFA to harness the vision that they have now set in motion.
For now, all I can say is, it is a good move.