Tale of two sports arenas

By Robert Madoi

Two sports facilities have in the past few days been routinely portrayed in Ugandan mainstream media in varying circumstances.

The tale they have told has managed to break into granular detail a narrative of fall on the one hand and redemption the other.

First the fall. Two Fridays ago, Uganda made the most of home court advantage to score a remarkable triumph at the 2018 Fisu World University Netball Championship.

It was immediately obvious that players and fans alike headed to the venue where the championship was held with considerable misgivings. This was not without reason. They were clearly alive to the fragilities of a bricks and mortar facility erected not painstakingly as much as expeditiously.
That the Makerere Arena was deeply flawed to the point of crumbling into an eyesore isn’t in doubt. If anything, it looked like the arena had seen better days and yet it was hardly week old. Its absurdities were couched in government red tape that only made available a Shs4.5b construction purse at the 11th hour.

Appreciating that left on it own the facility would fall short of its intended purpose, bits of the Mak Arena were stripped post tournament. But far from becoming a distant ghost and beautiful memory banished, government officials say construction works will resume at the soonest before climaxing next January. The hope of course is that this doesn’t end up being empty rhetoric.

Makerere University could do with a quality multipurpose arena. Despite being steeped in great sporting history and tradition, the university has increasingly found itself playing catch up. What with Uganda Christian, Ndejje as well as Nkumba universities giving masterclasses in playing hoops and volleyball!

The Mak Arena could well turn out to be a leveller for Uganda’s oldest university of which your columnist is proud to be an alumnus.

The fact that Mak Arena’s fortunes rest on a cornerstone of conjecture brings to life the controversial debate about sports facilities in Uganda. While government red tape left us with an eyesore, an individual unfurled a football stadium that is soft on the eye. The individual being Lawrence Mulindwa.

The educationist has been all the rage after he added more than a fresh coat of paint to St. Mary’s Stadium in Kitende.

Uganda club football could do with some fresh faces

Last Sunday, this column stated in no uncertain terms that the appeal of the new Uganda Premier League season could not be captured in its buildup. The latest instalment of Uganda’s topflight football league kicked off with the opening matchday panning out across Friday and Saturday.

While it was deeply disturbing that the first round fixtures were only released days to kick-off, many observers — certainly your columnist — thought the powers that be pressed the right buttons by ending any semblance of cordiality when it came to licensing playgrounds.

Cranes coach Sebastien Desabre has spoken strongly about how his philosophy has faced strong headwinds because of poor playgrounds. The Frenchman opines that the burning desire of Ugandan clubs to go route one traces its roots to the poor playing surfaces that abound.

Another tangible that sits oddly against Desabre’s plans is failure of Ugandan topflight clubs to unearth fresh faces. Drunk with fear and dismay, most clubs always seem to think that players who have been there and done that can help them splutter into life. Take Maroons FC for instance.

The winners of league in 1968 and 1969 might have shined with renewed purpose after naming David Obua to their backroom staff, but their off-season acquisitions are hardly novel.

New Maroons coach, George ‘Best’ Nsimbe has been quick to turn to players like Brian Majwega and Herman Wasswa with whom everything seemed to go swimmingly when he won league titles with KCCA FC. The sheer horror of the situation is that Maroons are not alone. Many topflight Ugandan clubs pride themselves on an unremittingly absurd pattern of recycling players. Quite often it is a hackneyed case of garbage in, garbage out.

This rather sad state of affairs comes not as a shock but as a troubling inevitability. There is little warmth for blooding young talent even amongst clubs like Vipers and Onduparaka whose junior sides fare well in the Fufa Juniors League. KCCA FC — while not quite squeaky clean — has at least made a fist of blooding new talent.

Two of their youngsters — Julius Poloto and Allan Okello — were rewarded this past week with call-ups to the senior national football team that faces Lesotho in a 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying doubleheader next month. Whether this inspires other clubs to give new faces a run out, however, remains to be seen.

That redemption arrives not from the directing hand of government but an individual is a damning indictment on the former.

What we now know….

W e know that only 15 Ugandans were eligible to share the $50,000 kitty that was up for grabs before the curtain came down on the 13th edition of the Uganda Open Golf Championship.

We know that one Ugandan amateur golfer — Ronald Otile — made the cut. While the feat saw Otile’s legend grow that bit more, we know that he had no share of the money on account of being an amateur. We also know that the Open, played at the par 71 lakeside course in Entebbe, was brutal.
Not only were under par scores few and far between, huge names like Joshua Seale, a winner in 2016, failed to make it to the business end of the 72-hole event.



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