They have won more accolades for Uganda than the Uganda Cranes at world stage, they have held our flag high and have achieved what many would consider as an ultimate dream of any sportsman from the developing world which is to hit the mark at international level. They are world champions for many years having won both European and world youth trophies but they are nowhere to be seen on the international football scene.
For most of their past successes, most of the players are a shadow of their former selves and a considerable number have taken an early retirement from the game which provided a platform for their meteoric rise to stardom. Uganda’s perennial failure at the international stage which has seen the nation fail to qualify for World Cup and African nations cup has been attributed to a number of ailments but most prominently our failure to groom talents.
Yet in the Gothia and Tivoli World champions, Uganda has been blessed with talents to replace the heroes of the nation’s golden age. Our failure to proceed from regional successes (cecafa in this case) to continental gallantry can’t be explained by a lack of talent but by the absence of a strong professional player development structure to maximally exploit.
After their successful tours we lined up the streets of Kampala to welcome the heroes and touted the youngsters as the next Omondis and Oumas of Ugandan football. It is pain hardy to remind Ugandans of how many times the KKL for example has won, the Tivoli, Gothia and Norway Cups. The participation of Ugandan teams in the Dana, Norway, Tivoli and Gothia among other international tournaments has left an indelible mark on the minds of many Ugandan inspiring hope that the over 33 year-old jinx would be broken only to be disappointed by a poor player follow-up system.
Our players have participated in the most prestigious world tournaments not only rubbing shoulders with the current crop of European players but also challenging them for the most coveted tittles under their different categories and beating them to success. But where did we go wrong? Farouq Kalinzi “Ndiefi” was instrumental in ensuring Uganda’s successes at both the Gothia and Tivoli cups. The former young hero believes they would be far by now if they had accessed opportunities in Europe. We were better than both teams, individuals from the team were even selected to feature for European clubs but our team leaders declined such opportunities.
According to many of the young players i talked to, it was a standard policy of the delegations to deny them the opportunity on grounds that they had a better future coming back to Uganda and rejoining school. Such a decision was founded on a belief that the players would be groomed well for the opportunities at the “right time”. I see no right time than today and I challenge anyone to prove this thinking. It was a case of wasted opportunities which many players blame on sabotage.
Some boys perhaps aware that they will never persuade their managers to make opportunities for them decided to make an exit from the camp with the support of an accomplice to force their way through European football structure only to be apprehended by police. Such was the classic case of Daniel Serunkuuma and Fahd Ssekandi. While Serunkuuma could proudly don the Victors SC kit, it is unrewarding for a world championship top goals scorer having scored more goals than Nicholas Bendtner at the Championships a couple of years ago.
One of the boys has set up a stall in Owino market and has had an early retirement citing frustration. A few of them who play in the local league like SC.VILLA goalie Benjamin Ochan do it for a passion and because they can’t do a thing outside football, many had left school to participate in this tournaments with the hope that they will become professional players. We are assured of a spectacular display of flair in the boring Ugandan league thanks to their failure to make it to professional football. How comes that the boys who whipped some of Europe’s best teams with a 5-0 average a few years ago have no presence in international football? Is anyone concerned about this? If there’s no one, am concerned!!