One of the reasons the league delayed to kick off this year was because of a delay in making a decision on the number of national team players per club.
The proposal from the Games Committee wanted each club to be allowed to have only four national team players in their playing XI on matchday but can have as many players in their squad. With the latter, UCA would be shooting itself in the foot because the idea is to give the national team players more playing time.
The proposal looked like an attack on Aziz Damani that has nine national team players, not purely on available resources but by virtue of being the best club in the country for the last three years. Challengers and KICC are the other clubs with national team players but not as many as those in Damani.
The premise of the Games Committee was to allow for competition throughout the first division but it was at the expense of player welfare.
This is not the first time such an idea of limiting national team players had been put forward. In 2011 when money started influencing player transfers, the Games Committee then also decided to limit the number of players as well. The implementation was difficult but teams complied with it and eventually things evened themselves out.
Now things are different. Times have changed and priorities for players are far different. Most of the players in the league are semi-professionals and depend on cricket to take care of their education and livelihood. The players offer their services to clubs who in turn have to look after their immediate needs.
The proposal, though good, has come way too late. In a country where the cost of living is through the roof, it’s impossible for players to play for nothing, especially the top players. The flow of money in the league meant that teams with the deepest pockets would attract the best players which in turn meant that players were better remunerated.
However, this rat race left out most of the local indigenous clubs that didn’t have the resources to compete with the Asian sides. Clubs such as KICC were spending in the excess of 150M a season compared to Wanderers who were running on a budget of 20M.
Some people would feel that “omwavu” is fighting the “omugagga” in the boardroom to ensure that the playing field is level for all. In my opinion, this is the wrong approach for it would kill interest in the game from a commercial angle and also chase away people willing to invest in the game. Club owners spend these amounts of money to win trophies therefore their motivation is winning and if this is taken away, they will gladly take their money elsewhere.
The challenge for the other clubs such as Wanderers is to organise themselves and leverage on their community roots to grow and develop their fan base that will sustain the club. Clubs have to learn that the currently available players have different priorities, far from loyalty.
While players those days were loyal to clubs and played for virtually nothing, the current club is only loyal to you according to how much you pay them. Therefore, rather than fight teams like Damani or Challengers who invest close to 500M a season in the game, we would rather learn from them and improve our other clubs.
The game needs a lot of local investment to grow and what Damani and the others are doing is just a drop in the ocean.
Right now “omwavu wakuffa” resonates well with the other clubs after UCA decided to put on hold the implementation of the proposal until next year if the situation allows.