Tuesday, October 17, 2017


Last week the Rugby Cranes qualified for the 2018 Seven-a-side World Cup, winning all their matches against teams from Tunisia, Morrocco, Ghana, Zambia in a dominant display that was able to overcome a hiccup against Zimbabwe at Legends Rugby club in Naguru.

A few meters away at the Lugogo Indoor Stadium City Oilers defended their title as FIBA Zone V Club Champions to book a place in the African Club Championships in December.

While the Uganda Cranes fell short of keeping their hopes alive for a first ever berth in the Soccer World Cup in Russia next year by drawing against Ghana, they showed enough presence to keep the promise that it’s only a matter of time before they appear on the world’s greatest sporting stage.

"In recent years our sportsmen have been enjoying a rich vein of form. Arguably we are on the cusp of regaining our past reputation as a sporting nation....

For a country to be a sporting nation to ingredients must be in place – a deep pool of talent and the organisation to channel that talent into glory.

Our country’s rich ethnic mix ensures that we have a deep talent pool, we don’t have to import our talent. The playgrounds of schools and neighbourhoods are bursting with talent.

A nationwide public school system and network of public sporting facilities was the foundation on which the early successes of the 1960s and 1970s were built. However these fell into disrepair starting in the Idi Amin era and have continued downhill ever since.

This meant that the early promise of pioneers like boxers Eridadi Mukwanga, Leo Rwabogo and John Mugabi and hurdler John Akii Bua, saw no follow through with no younger athletes coming in the wake of their pioneering steps.

It is possible that just like Kenya, whose middle distance athletes burst on the scene around the same time, that now we might have been a power houses in one discipline or another.

Almost four decades after the glory days we are seeing a resurgence in sports that in some way is hard to reconcile with the facts on the ground.

Our public schools no longer serve as a pool for sporting talent and sporting facilities from Arua to Soroti from Gulu to Kabale have fallen into such disrepair as to be almost irredeemable or worse still have been disposed of to the highest bidder and only remain as blurry memories in the minds of old men and women.

In addition sports has not enjoyed a big budget from the state in the last four decades as more pressing priorities of infrastructure reconstruction and the resuscitation of social services took precedence over supporting the “luxury” of sport.

What is happening now that is different is that we have come to the realisation, like the rest of the world, that sport has great value as a vehicle for commercial interests.

So our sports men have dusted up the remnants of our sporting infrastructure, brought them up to a reasonable standard and started practicing again. Some benefactors have supported these budding sportsmen, not always in a very structured way and the results are beginning to show.

Which bring us to the second condition for sporting success – organisation.

"Given the above scenario it is clear that recent success has come inspite of many shortfalls that still remain in the sports ecosystem. To sustain or build on this success our sports administration have to become more organised. As it is now our sports are run by volunteers at best and self-seekers at worst who on one hand are in the job for the “love” of the sport or looking to make some quick killings – per diems and sport equipment grants they can then flog on the open market for a few shillings...

This organisational capacity is important. We have it backwards when we think that we are disorganised for lack of money, while actually we lack money because we are disorganised.

It comes as no surprise then that our best funded sporting associations or events are the more organised ones, but even in those the funding taps would have opened even more had they been even more organised.

A winning sportsman cannot be created in isolation of his surroundings that’s why the countries of the Eastern bloc are floundering today  despite their history of great sports achievement.

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