Call it the effect of football wrangling and the concentration on the Cranes 2014 Chan campaign, a handful of people have followed Uganda’s ambassadors Kampala Junior Team (KJT) at the Gothia Cup in Sweden and Tivoli Cup in Denmark.
On a good note, the boys won both the U-16 and U-18 categories but it’s the issue of fielding over age players that caught my attention.
KCC FC goalie Jamal Salim and midfielder Gaddafi Kiwanuka were members of the U-18 triumphant team albeit without knowledge of their Lugogo employers.
It’s surprising that Jamal Salim, a player who has plied his trade in the top-flight division since 2011 can still feature for an U-18 side. In addition, the custodian completed high school in 2010. Ironically implying that he was at most aged 15 years then.
Besides Salim and Kiwanuka, Ssali Edris Tamale – a third year student at Nkumba University also went with the team and featured for the side. He changed his identity by changing his name from ‘Tamale’ to ‘Yamale’ in the new passport he acquired. Another age cheat in this squad is Eriasa Sserwadda a graduate from Nkumba University. Perhaps these are geniuses who deserve mention in the Guinness World Book of records for joining and completing university in Uganda’s education system while below 18.
Like the norm has always been with Ugandan soccer administrators conniving with players to forge new birth dates and names as they acquire passports, Salim changed his name to Omar Magoola.
And his contribution was immense as he saved two penalties in the finals and scored the winner; probably because he was more experienced than his younger opponents.
This partly explains why Ugandan teams always perform excellently in these competitions but the players fade a few years yet in reality, they are expected to shine as they get older.
The issue of age cheating has become a habit in Ugandan football with the administrators in the federation also giving a helping hand in order to achieve quick success without considering the future.
In 2010, Uganda was robbed of her 2-0 victory over Zambia in the U-17 Africa Championship thanks to fielding an over aged player in Ivan Ntege; Cranes and KCC FC midfielder.
Jamal is not the first Ugandan football player to change names in order to facilitate age cheating; Gift Ali became Abubaker Gigi, Cranes midfielder Geoffrey Kizito decided to use his nickname ‘Baba’ in the passport while it’s reported that defender cum midfielder Denis Guma changed his name to Iguma purposely to facilitate ‘age cutting’.
Whenever the issue of age cheating is raised against Ugandan players, a few people raise eyebrows and question the patriotism of the writer. Others even go on to give an excuse of other age cheating nations.
For instance when Uganda was eliminated from the U-17, FUFA technical director Asuman Lubowa asked; “Do you have a son on the team? How sure are you that the Zambians are truly Under-17?”
In an interview with the Observer in 2010, former footballer and pundit Tom Ddamulira had a different view.
“Two wrongs can’t make a right and our concern is Uganda. I think we need to realize that what we are doing is taking us nowhere. We aren’t helping players develop if at 22, they play as 16 year-olds. Psychologically, you retard them.”
FACT: Only boys born earliest on 01/01/1995 The Gothia Cup U-18 were eligible to feature in the tournament.