By Kenneth Muwanga
Sports is one of Uganda’s best selling brands to the world, especially in the last decade. Previously, the country was basically making news because of disasters and political upheavals. News about Uganda would rotate around wars and epidemics such as HIV/AIDS and Ebola.
But sportsmen and sportswomen like Dorcus Inzikuru, Moses Kipsiro, Jacob Kiplimo, and Steven Kiprotich who won gold during the London Olympics 2012, have promoted the country, yet most of our sports facilities are still dilapidated.
Close look at stadiums Uganda has produced iconic sportsmen such as Philip Omondi, Magidu Musisi, Isa Ssekatawa, David Obua and Denis Onyango, among others.
The challenge, however, is that they all made their name through scraggy pitches and stadiums that have not been refurbished since time immemorial. For example, Kakyeeka Staduim in Mbarara has failed on many occasions to pass minimum FUFA licensing standards. Pece Stadium in Gulu is in shambles although regional teams use it.
Nakivubo Stadium is in ruins for years since its redevelopment started. Wankulukuku has failed to even have basics of a stadium. Mbale Municipal Stadium was a den of thugs. Jinja-based Bugembe Stadium is one of those with capacity to have facilities because of its size/land, but can’t host a Uganda Premier League game!
What should be done It is time regional stadiums are revived with help of private investors who have proved that building better sports facilities takes a willing soul like Dr Lawrence Mulindwa who has single-handedly built the magnificent St Mary’s Stadium. Currently, Namboole Stadium is the only pitch that can be used for international matches.
This is such a shame for the years Uganda has participated in international games both at Olympics and World events that we don’t even have indoor arenas that can hold a world-standard game. Uganda is in a panic to refurbish Mandela National Stadium (Namboole) to match the world standards of stadium facilities.
In terms of promoting a country’s brand, Rwanda paid billions of money to English club Arsenal to have ‘Visit Rwanda’ inscribed on their club kit. This makes me believe if we have sports facilities that can produce great athletes and sports personalities, such billions would be saved. For Uganda, however, performance at the world stage has increasingly promoted the brand for free.
As government has come into partnerships with other European countries for the refurbishment of roads and other infrastructure, the sports industry needs the same to redecorate regional stadiums with partnerships to help grow more talent.
Even with no major stadium in Arua, the talent is amazingly growing; same to Sebei and other regions. If necessary efforts are made towards the right direction, much more young talent will emerge.