First and foremost, allow me express my pride in being a Ugandan in the past couple of weeks, thanks to the sporting excellence based on preparations displayed at world cup & continental platforms by our SHE CRANES and Uganda Cranes respectively.
This was however followed by huge discrepancies in tokens of appreciation from the first couple but in individual capacities as Head of State and First Lady.
Without a doubt, the continued level of success of the Uganda Cranes is not one to be taken for granted, but rather hailed not just as the most popular sport that is finally starting to put together notable results at continental level –bearing fruits to what seems like a well constituted sports structure.
On the other hand and most credibly, the over and above beyond expectation results churned out by the SHE CRANES with their recent 7th place finish at the Netball World cup in Liverpool, England put into perspective, only 6 countries out of 195 are statistically better than us at netball globally.
It is certainly something to be utterly proud of especially following the challenges faced by netball in this country; such as inadequate funding, dilapidated facilities and administrative shortfalls.
As the dust settles after token of appreciation discrepancy between the Uganda Cranes and She Cranes, the gist of this write up will seek to try entreat key stakeholders in the sports industry to broaden their perspectives; not simply duel on the recent allocation of tokens of appreciation in cash but rather look to have parties explore more legacy building options of reward.
Following an unclear bonus distribution model by government to reward returning sports teams and personalities, the most notable and significant in legacy would have been the athletics center promised after Stephen Kiprotich dash to Gold at the 2012 London Olympics marathon which till to date lies very far from completion.
Considering the sorry state of the netball facilities, a worthy whisper to the ear of the key decision makers in sports would rather be in line with trying to secure land or get the government to explore building a state of the art indoor or netball facility that can last a lifetime.
This would really have the success of the SHE CRANES of the 2019 World Cup etched in history leading to construction of a sublime netball arena.
Other worthy whispers by lucky federations that have the ear of notable decision makers would be the exploration of tax holidays or exemptions on sports equipment, putting to bed ownership raw of Lugogo Sports Stadium, adoption of a clear futuristic sports policy, acquisition of land through the Uganda Land Commission for development of worthy sports complexes and perhaps a cry for organizational change.
The marriage of the Ministry of Education together with Sports is and will always be one of education largely suffocating sports as indicated in the numbers of the recently presented national budget for 2019/2020 where the ministry was allocated 3.28 trillion shillings –with 26 billion allocated to sports which divorce even the ‘Pope’ would quickly approve.
Much as education & sports are inter linked, having them under the same ministry needs no astrology engineering masters degree to figure out that this cant end as the David & Goliath story.
These changes may not happen in our lifetimes and might require light years to take effect but I would think the start of the debate on these pertinent sport and national matters is long overdue.
A great start of debate would be for key sports stakeholders addressing their minds on a comprehensive national sports policy for federations’ self sustainability in terms of preparations, operations & income generation rather than continue an inconsistent model of one off tokens of appreciation to athletes till the next time they return on their knees for next hand out.
Sport is a multibillion dollar business all over the world that not only provides commercial investment opportunities but also an employment channel for numerous individuals which shouldn’t only be measured by medals attained at international events but rather significant impact to athletes.
Case in point: South Africa only attained four gold medals at the 2012 London Olympic games after investing in a massive High Performance Centre in Pretoria for athlete training and a worse outcome for Nigeria that failed to attain a single medal at the same games even with the high grade facilities in the West African sporting power house.
However and more importantly is the number of athletes these centers accommodate that are heavily employed in the sports industry and are earning enormous sums of money they return and reinvest positively affecting the balance of payments of their nations.
Closer to home, the recently completed sporting architectural wonders of the Kigali Arena and Gahanga cricket stadium have fast become the best indoor and crickets grounds in East and Central Africa and are expected to not only provide grounds for participation but importantly give a worthy employment opportunity for numerous Rwandese.
With a narrative change from sport being a pass time activity to becoming a more seriously taken commercial and economic value addition avenue, sport doesn’t only have the power to bring people together as the great Mandela stated but further avail an actual solution to the rampant youths unemployment in this country.
The write is the former Cricket Cranes captain & Ntare Lions League President!