By Alex Bossa
Last weekend CAF held an executive committee meeting and the committee committed itself on good governance, development of infrastructure and professionalization of refereeing in Africa but the question is how does the federation score against the above highlighted and what lessons can the federation learn?
Soccer governance in Uganda has gone into a period of transition right from the federation’s inception in 1924.
From having a national team being comfortable to play barefooted via the donning of Inter Milan Replica Jersey at the start of the new Millennium to having brand ambassadors, football administration in Uganda has fairly and steadily progressed.
At the start of the new millennium, the game had started to witness it’s decline with stadiums beginning to be empty coupled with lack of national team representatives at various categories and levels except for the Uganda Cranes and on a few occasions the U-23 (kobs).
The turn of the 2010s has seen the numbers increase to over 8 affiliated associations and the 2 consecutive AFCON appearances (2017 & 2019) were not by default but rather the governance structures set up by the Federation that has been heavily criticized for poor administration and gross mismanagement of resources.
Credit to Dr. Lawrance Mulindwa and his successor Eng. Moses Magogo and the entire team that have seen the game being transformed right from the grassroots to the top. The federation’s governance reforms have been made in areas such as player negotiations and the contracting system where players and coaches have professional representatives. The move has earned many football players ambassadorial roles for various brands and have resolved contractual issues that have long been affecting local clubs.
The introduction of the Fufa junior league to supplement on the annual schools post primary football competitions was a master class of its own as it’s fruits were seen in the recent success of the U 20 national team in Mauritania where they came out runners up to Ghana in the 2021 AFCON championship earlier this year.
The Confederation of African Football’s acceptance of the Motsepe foundation to donate to a tune of $10 million to support the CAF-FIFA Pan-African schools football championships has come at a right time where COVID pandemic has affected a number of schools activities in Uganda not sparing the annual post primary schools’ competitions.
The Pan African Schools football tournament is set to be the first of it’s kind in the world and it’s stages of qualification best suit the already existing post primary football competitions.
The tournament which is scheduled to kick off in 2022 will involve national qualifications for both boys’ and girls’ teams where the two finalists in each category will qualify for the zonal tournament that will determine the final qualifications.
However, for the nation that has seen most of the Championships go to schools from the central region, resource allocation lies the biggest undoing. Schools in the central region of Uganda have been the biggest beneficiaries of infrastructural development to the disadvantage of the up-country teams.
By 2019 when the last school’s soccer competitions were held, only 5 teams had won the competition outside schools from Kampala and Wakiso since the formation in 1986. Most of the blame has been attributed to the lack of infrastructure in the country.
It is yet to be determined on how the federation of Uganda Football Association and the East African Schools Championship Federation will utilize this opportunity to benefit from the $1m donation from the CAF president’s foundation.
Apart from the Motsepe foundation donation and the pilot projects in DRC and Benin to support schools, FIFA and CAF went ahead to set aside $1 billion as part of infrastructural development in Africa. This fund is meant to help member countries to improve on the standard of their stadiums as most of the African countries have stadiums which are below the acceptable standards set by FIFA.
Former English club Arsenal FC Manager Arsene Wenger’s presentation in Kigali on FIFA’s proposal to finance the necessary improvements in infrastructure was greeted by many Ugandans with joy like a dying person who sees a rescue team at a far distance.
At least there is hope that across the Mediterranean, there are people out there who feel sorry for the depletion of soccer grounds on the continent. Namboole has long been a scapegoat but recent developments have shown how hopelessly we have relied on one stadium. The completion of Nakivubo is more frustrating like the wait for the second coming of Jesus Christ.
The question is, how will the federation distribute that amount once it gets it’s share of the 1billion? Will it be constructing a new stadium or renovating the already existing? And finally, what happened to the old stadiums like the Kakindu, Mbale Municipal, Kakyeka among others.
As Rwandan President Paul Kagame Stressed at the opening ceremony of the conference, “We have to adopt a mindset of doing things differently, thinking about the mission we have, the mission that goes beyond us as individuals but serves the purpose of those who love football”.
Since the best footballers are the spectators, it would be advisable for FUFA to consider refurbishing these ghost stadiums to the standard required by FIFA. This is a more practical and easier task compared to constructing a new stadium more likely in the center which boosts more than 5 stadiums.
Although CAF’s preference is to construct a new stadium, the federation should try to figure out a way of convincing the CAF committee on channeling the money to stadium renovation so that the entire country benefits. In case of a decline from the federation, throw in plan B of getting a 3rd party to construct and agree on a grace period to recover their investments.
Before we even think of how the infrastructural resources will be distributed, FUFA should first address the level of refereeing across all levels in Uganda’s football Pyramid. The level of professionalism by the men in black has long eroded league fixtures
The recent poor officiating decisions made in the big-league game between hosts Kataka FC and Arua Hill at the Mbale Municipal Stadium that led to pitch invasion by fans brought back fresh memories of the league encounter between Police and Vipers where goalkeeper Derick Ochan saw red after being wrongfully judged to have handled the ball outside the box.
The federation should take the opportunity and Utilize CAF’s training program for an elite body of referees within CAF aimed at improving the level of officiating. The USD 1million annual FIFA funded program is aimed at contracting referees who will be paid, monitored and trained by FIFA/CAF technical and physical instructors.
Accountability should be at the forefront with the CAF General Secretary Mr.Veron Mosengo – Omba coming out to inform the executive committee about the interim Audit Report which found out on a number of irregularities and noncompliance with governance, auditing and ethical procedures with in the organization’s procurement process.