The Uganda Cranes did us proud on Tuesday by lifting the CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup.
Unlike previous campaigns expectations were managed well with coach Bobby Williamson telling everybody who cared to listen how winning the tournament was not his top priority.
But clearly there was one message being relayed for public consumption and an all too different message being drummed into the players in the dressing room.
When the dust had settled Uganda won all but one of their matches – a draw against Zanzibar, and conceded a single goal all tournament long.
It was a welcome return to winning ways after last year’s heart rending campaigns for qualification to the Africa Cup of Nations and the World Cup where the Cranes again, managed to steal defeat from the jaws of victory.
Personally I never give the Cranes a chance, the fundamentals – preparation and management are often so poor to the point that betting on them would say more about my aspirations to philanthropy than to any trace of investment savvy I may possess.
Just as sport is a uselful analogy for life the Uganda Cranes are not an inaccurate representation of their home country’s economy and future prospects.
Sports talent abounds in this country if past and present sports heroes are anything to go by.
But as sport has become more commercialized sports training has become more sophisticated, incorporating physiology and psychology into very structured regimens. One might talk of Manchester United’s Ronaldo as a natural talent but the technical team at Old Trafford spends sleepless nights eking out more and more talent from the Portuguese star, to the point that physically and mentally Ronaldo is as different as night and day compared to the adolescent who walked into Manchester United barely five years ago.
Our inability to keep track with the advances in training continues to relegate us to our position of worse than mediocre, among soccer playing nations.
The Cranes’ home country is actually doing worse on the world stage. In all surveys on poverty, human development, competitiveness of the economy and corruption we are keeping company with the lowest of the low.
Again here in the 60s and early 70s Uganda’s potential was such that South Korea sent a delegation to study our own Uganda Development Corporation, which was seen as a model agency for government economic intervention.
Years of instability gutted our best institutions setting us back centuries in institutional capacity and technological adoption. The net result of which is that Uganda is still waiting for its agrarian revolution centuries after western Europe past that stage.
Back to the Cranes, the grass root footballing structures have so deteriorated that if there were a unique talent in northern, western or eastern Uganda he will be lost to some other profession or worse still to poverty, because the national football association has no mechanism to seek him out.
You have to give the government credit for Universal Primary Education, its shortcomings not withstanding. With a single stroke millions of children who world otherwise not have gone to school are now getting a chance to read and write.
The benefits of having a large educated public are that the transfer of skills and technologies can be done more efficiently.
However, because of our poor management skills, there is a danger UPE could lower the national average in terms of academic achievement and therefore not help in easing the transfer process much.
The long and short of it is that the management of both team and country are the biggest drawbacks to high achievement by team or country.
Speaking for both, we are not poor performers for lack of funding – as most people think, we are poor performers because of the inadequacy of our management. Once the management improves the money is guaranteed to roll in.
Like the Cranes, Uganda once in a while surprises us – CHOGM comes to mind, but a lack consistency in good results means we will not attain world class standards soon.
Both entities will continue to be bad bets as long their respective managements continue to blunder around and perpetuate their kleptocratic ways.
Published January 2009, New Vision