Last week, the powers that be at Fufa launched the second edition of the Drum tournament, a competition whose relevance continues to baffle. In an already crowded football calendar, I believe I’m talking on behalf of the football fraternity when I question the real aim of such a tournament when what is preached is not what is practiced.
Fufa insist the tournament aims to promote competition of the game at grassroots level by having players represent regions where they hail from. However, its structure and organisation point to something totally different. And it is on that aspect alone that the tournament passes off as a misconceived concept. Other allegations that it is another money-spending spree or a scheme to siphon funds are also not farfetched. And it is quite easy to see why! Firstly, the tournament lacks the regional identity it was intended to promote. For instance, I know for sure that in the inaugural edition last year, players such as Abel Eturude and Vitalis Tabu played in Karamoja yet they hail from the West Nile. And there were many such incidents. Whereas that’s something that can easily be rectified, it is completely uncalled for to have top-flight players in a tournament that in intended to promote grassroots football. In fact, the Drum tournament should only feature talented players that have no opportunity to play club football; I mean the downtrodden youth out there – many of whom are illiterate – who cannot even qualify to play in the Copa Coca-Cola schools tournament.
And these should be youth who not only hail from their respective region but are also based there. Forget this nonsensical gesture of ferrying Kampala-based players to Gulu just because they are Acholi. I know many who cannot even speak the language.
The true Drum
The true reflection of the tournament should have 16 clustered zones in the country representing the ethnic groupings. Fans have to associate with their teams; not the other way round of imposing teams on fans. It is this simple trick that makes Masaza Cup stand out and we all know how it has gone a long way to unearth many players that wouldn’t have got the exposure under the current football setup.
So, I believe this tournament is supposed to be squarely for raw, untested talents; the kind like Magid Musisi who didn’t go through any football set-up until he joined Pepsi FC from where Villa poached him. I believe there are many other such players who have the talent to make it to the top but their chances are being taken by established players in the Uganda Premier League (UPL), Big League or even regional teams.
It should also adopt the Copa Coca-Cola format where players play only two editions to create a gap for new talent to flourish. We need to see players graduate from Drum and not use it as an experimental competition. Meanwhile, this should not be limited to players alone; even coaches in the tournament should be from their respective regions. You can’t have a Wasswa Bbosa or Charles Ayiekoh, who are already coaching a catalogue of teams in various competitions, again coaching these Drum teams. When will the others rise up to the occasion? This ‘grass-rooting’ of the game can even be extended to match officials where upcoming referees are given chance to showcase their skills.
The assumption that the tournament takes the game to the grassroots should not be underestimated. It should be seen to benefit from the various grants given to Fufa for the development of the game and not merely holding a competition. It would be meaningless to have a Drum tournament that leaves no lasting impact on the participating teams. I know for sure all teams are reassembling to compete after putting everything aside at the conclusion of the previous tournament.
This is wrong; the Drum should help the development of the game in rural areas, especially through refurbishing of stadiums. Why play Drum games at established stadiums like Bugembe and not Naminage Kamuli District, Organisers should borrow a leaf from Masaza Cup and play in rural pitches. That’s the true meaning of taking the game to the people. Taking the matches deep in the rural areas should also help them get to feel the perks of football grants trickling down like jerseys, balls and boots. Oftentimes these are privileges that stop at regional level and rarely reach the right beneficiaries. It is also a chance to have district football associations active in monitoring football activities.
Amidst all this, Fufa should only play an oversight role by simply facilitating the process; not hijacking it. Only then can the Drum tournament be of significance to the development of the game.
If out of 400 players of UPL less than 2% are called for AFCON, What’s the audit of last year’s Drum tournament regarding impact on the game? It is of no use to end the tournament today and have everyone involved fold up their work, only to reorganise when another edition is on the cards like it is now.
The author is Nyamityobora FC president