By Alex Bossa
“Museveni to honor Onyango” was the headline for most sports bulletins. This was backed by the speaker of parliament who suggested that the 70 capped goalkeeper who had just announced his retirement from football be honored by the Parliament of Uganda.
This was a nice gesture to the majority of sports lovers in the country but the real threat lies behind honoring an individual in a sport which is highly regarded as a team sport.
Over time we have seen the likes of Dorcus Inzikulu, Stephen Kiprotich, Joshua Cheptegei meet the President in person only after winning gold in individual sports disciplines whereas in the past the president has hosted national teams that have been successful while representing the country.
Onyango’s retirement from international football came in a period where FUFA’s management of football affairs was under heavy criticism and one would think the president’s meeting was a way to cool down the situation which had already been messed up by the FUFA president Eng. Moses Magogo.
His careless comments against the CHAN team had landed the federation in hot soup in a period where the federation is heading into the general elections. The acts of brutality against ex international Sulaiman Mutyaba in Mengo had worsened the situation and the climax of it being the retirement of 3 seasonal experienced Cranes players.
The hidden agenda behind their untimely retirement of senior players from national duty is yet to be established but observers related it with the confusion and disrespect to the people who had ‘poured their bodies’ (gave their all) for the national team. They believed that they should be honored but not criticized.
On realizing the mess, FUFA pressed the panic button and in so doing they have so far blundered on 2 occasions.
First it was the disclosure of how much each player walks away after representing the country and secondly the recognition of Onyango alone in a sport where many have sacrificed for the country but their services have gone unnoticed.
When the list came out of how much each player was walking away with, FUFA did not come out clearly to explain the criteria used to allocate how much each player had to earn. Is it by seniority, number of balls kicked or loyalty to the team? Yes, Onyango being the highest earner can be argued that he was the team’s captain but what about the rest of the team? Why were the figures not uniform?
The question of FUFA being a professional organization also comes into question. Why did they release players’ earnings to the public and yet such information concerning personal earnings is private? If they were doing it right, why didn’t the federation go ahead to display what each member on the executive was earning as take home?
By the time Onyango’s released audio went viral, player power had started to generate momentum. His call for the federation to look into issues that were affecting the players rather than brutal them was a final nail in the coffin. The FUFA ship was heading to the bottom of the sea.
His words had touched many players both upcoming and already established players. The player solidarity was escalating and by the time Salim Jamal tweeted his dissatisfaction, Sulaiman Mutyaba had got what he wanted. FUFA had fallen into his trap.
What Mutyaba and Onyango wanted was not to meet the president for a hand shake but wanted transparency in football.
Onyango may have won the CAF Champions League, African best player based on the continent and helped Uganda to two AFCON championships, but what about the likes of Geofrey Walusimbi aka Jjaja Walu who played in both tournaments and is the only player to make more than 100 caps for the national team?
Throw in Farouk Miya, his goal against Comoros in 2016 ensured that the Cranes would take part in the African Cup of Nations for the first time in 38 years. Did he get an individual presidential hand shake? What happened to the ball which Geofrey Massa hit and burst the net against Congo on 16th June 2012, was it auctioned or is it somewhere in the FUFA gallery? Did Massa get a presidential hand shake for the goal?. Such events have gone unnoticed because there was no need to pull attention at the time.
The 1966 world cup winning squad had big names like Bobby Charlton, Gordon Banks and Bobby Moore but the knighthood was not meant for individual brilliance but rather for the entire England team.
Honoring Onyango is not bad but the motive behind this is far beyond sporting grounds given the fact that it came in a period where players had voiced out their dissatisfaction on how national team matters are handled.
Of course, FUFA is not government and government is not FUFA but ever since football administrators started engaging themselves in active politics, anything is possible as it is said “the nearer the bone, the sweeter the meat”.
Critics would say that FUFA is fighting against time to bring the footballers to their side since the elections are in their corridors. Yes, the footballers are only represented by the players’ representatives who can be compromised but if given room, a players’ revolt can lead to a change in football administration especially if senior and ex international players join forces.
Going forward, instead of the federation sending executive committee members to various media stations to explain themselves with sweet melodies, they should embark on rectifying the errors that have for long eroded the game. Individual appraisals are good but once teamwork is called for; they tend to demotivate the rest. No one will give in his best if at the back of his mind he knows that at the end of the day they will earn less than the rest.