Mbarara Soccer Academy players

In 2010, Salim Twaha Blanden bore the idea of starting a community based project, one that would create solution for the youth in Mbarara district and generally in Western Uganda.

He baptized the project as Mbarara Sports Academy (MSA), intended to use sports and create solutions for the most pressing challenges faced by children and young people in that region.

MSA’s mission and visions were clearly well spelt out towards improvement of the youth’s well-being.

Empowered youth who are able to make informed choices in life.” the vision reads in bold.

And the mission statement henceforth spelt out;

Reaching out to all the youth with messages relevant to their well-being in social, educational, health and economic well-being using sports as a vehicle

Mbarara Sports Academy Mission
Some of the players in a limbering session at Kakyeka Stadium
Salim Blanden and former South African captain Lucas Radebe

Given that firm background, Mbarara Sports Academy lured on board key partners to foster its dreams of helping the youth attain basic football skills, get education and employment among others.

MSA therefore partnered with Harson Hill Inc, Mbarara Modern School and an association; Coaches Across Continents since 2014.

Over the years, the academy participated in a number of tournaments and given birth to exciting talents both players as well as coaches.

In 2012, MSA won the first edition of the Airtel Rising Stars (ARS) U-17 western region qualifiers.

The same year, they won the Orange U17 tourney, were promoted to the FUFA Regional league in 2013 and currently play in the FUFA fourth division league.

Along the way, they have also been playing in the Stanbic Uganda Cup losing to KCCA and Ndejje University in 2016 and 2017 respectively.

Salim with some of the coaches at Mbarara Sports Academy in a talk session

Academy graduates:

Mbarara Sports Academy has witnessed a number of players who have risen up the ranks from scratch.

Forward Vincent Kyaligonza, now based in Croatia, Denis Komaketch (Sweden), Kondok Torz (Poland), Nathaniel Atamba (USA), John Odut (Dubai), among others are some of those players in the diaspora.

Nathaniel Atamba (left) with player manager Ian Ssendi during his official unveiling ceremony at FC Minneapolis in the US

Local based legion:

Domestically, there are a number of players plying their trade in the respective leagues within the country.

The Mbarara City duo of Brian Ahebwa and Siraje Musindo, Vipers goalkeeper Bashir Ssekagya are some of those in the top tier league.

In the second division (FUFA Big League), there are the likes of Ivan Ahimbisibwe, Clinton Kamugisha, Andrew Asiimwe and several others.

L-R: Salim Blanden, Brian Ahebwa and former CEO Mbarara City
Siraje Musindo and Salim Blanden at Kakyeka Stadium

Who is Salim?

Salim Twaha Blanden is a CAF “C” licenced coach who attained the badge in 2017.

He was the first community Impact Coach of Uganda by Coaches Across Continents-2013, he has a FIFA U-13 certificate, FIFA Youth 2019, FUFA Management and Administration certification (2016), Sports Management and Administration Certificate – Uganda Olympic Committee 2019, among others.

He is the head of coaches at Mbarara Sports Academy since 2010 to-date.

Previously coached Sentah College School ( 2011-2013), Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST) 2013-2016, Mbarara City Football Club and Mbarara City Junior Team in 2018 and now the current coach of Bugamba Football Club.

Salim Twaha Blanden during a FUFA Course
Ivan Ahimibisbwe and Brian Ahevwa are both graduates of Mbarara Sports Academy

Pitfalls:

Like all sports organizations, Mbarara Sports Academy has had a number of challenges that have rendered them the ability to run at 100 percent.

These fall under the dockets of inadequate funding and weak rules governing academy players.

Academies are not protected when it comes to their players joining big clubs. This could be the main reason why academies do not develop because the so called ‘big teams’ do not give anything in return when signing the young players. As FUFA professionalizes all the football in Uganda, i think they need to professionalize most aspects in youth development.” Salim cries out aloud.

With a firm base created, the future of youth sports, particularly football in Mbarara and Western Uganda as a whole is rest assured.

L-R: FUFA Communications Director Ahmed Hussein, Edgar Watson (FUFA CEO) and Salim Blanden

David Isabirye is a senior staff writer for Kawowo Sports where he covers most of the major events.

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