Mandela National Stadium, Namboole playing surface (Photo by John Batanudde). Credit: © Kawowo Sports | JOHN BATANUDDE

There has been a public outcry for a long time about the lack, poor maintenance or sale of football grounds land across the country in recent times.

The coronavirus pandemic has sent shockwaves around the world, leading to a public health emergency. Every part of the sporting value chain has been affected, from athletes, teams and leagues, the media that broadcast and cover games to the sports grounds that play host to the beautiful game.

The sports grounds in Uganda are empty. No football.

Mandela National Stadium, Namboole Credit: KAWOWO SPORTS

With the announcement of the resumption of the national football season in September coupled with the issuance of club licensing guidelines by the local football federation (FUFA) all attention should turn to the preparation of the football grounds.

There are over 200 football grounds across the country. These grounds play host to football matches at all levels from the top tier Premier league to the local village competitions.

So the football theatres that nurture the local talents and play host to the beautiful game are not short in supply.

During the COVID-19 pandemic and the off season, there has been increased attention to the greening and maintenance of the football grounds.

Entebbe Mayor Vincent De Paul Kayanja in the ceremonial ground breaking event at Banga-Nakiwogo in February 2020

Examples across the country include Kiryandongo Boma, Uganda Clays Kajjansi, Wampeewo, Entebbe Works, Nakisunga Ssaza, Entebbe Police, Mpigi Police, Kiwafu, Soroti, Banga Nakiwogo, MUBS Nakawa, Nkumba university, St. Mary’s Bar Omach, Gadaffi – Jinja, King George Tororo, Nyamitobora and many more.

It’s no secret among pitch management personnel that it isn’t easy to properly maintain a natural grass pitch.

Wampeewo ground grass planting exercise

The owners and managers of these grounds face a number of challenges which include weather, overuse, poor business models, ownership, lack of personnel, development and maintenance plans.

Specifically, the following pitch related problems are experienced construction, type of grasses used, underestimation of stadium environment (microenvironment), non-use of technology, resource and training.

The good news is that through careful planning and a systematic approach, these challenges are not insurmountable.

Ibrahim Orit (Third from left) after donating 10 bags of Cement to Soroti Stadium management

The first step in any successful natural grass pitch maintenance program is education.

To tackle the stated pitch related problems we need to understand the fundamental requirements of a good pitch i.e. pre-pitch design considerations, best international practice, consideration for local and microclimate, training, use of technologies, support and monitoring from the pitch maintenance team and teamwork.

As a sports ground manager don’t wait until the regular season rolls around to focus on pitch maintenance.

A tractor from Mbarara Municipality grading and leveling the land on Nyamityobora play ground in Kakooba, Mbarara

Now is the time to use the pre-season to get your football pitch into good condition before the football season begins.

Keep the field watered, mow the football field regularly, test the soil, check for pest problems, consider field renovation, aerate your field, use the right pitch maintenance equipment to protect against rain and harsh weather and remember there is no “off-season”.

Maintaining a football field is absolutely all year job that requires careful planning and constant attention. It’s the only way to properly preserve your investment.

The watering process at the Gadaffi play ground in Jinja

Jamil Ssewanyana

Jamil Ssewanyana is the manager of Mandela National Stadium, Namboole

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