Boxing has and still remains to be the highest medal collecting sport for Uganda at the Olympic Games to a tune of 4 medals out the 7 that we have gathered as a country since the inception of the Olympic Games.
Boxing last won an Olympic medal in 1980 by Boxer John Beast Mugabi and subsequently Boxing last won a bout or a fight at the Olympics in 2004 by Boxer Rukundo.
In all the other appearances at the Olympics till this year we have not had much to show and below are the key reasons why!
1. LEADERSHIP/ GOVERNANCE:
Boxing leadership in Uganda over the years has greatly contributed to the poor performance to these games, a term of office in boxing is 4 years but for over 30 years ago we have never witnessed a peaceful transition of leadership in boxing after the term of office is done, most times we are soaked in political bickering, courts of law proceedings, etc and this in away affects the would be good programs that could advance the sport. We need to stabilise the administration and governance of the federation, we need to have peaceful campaigns, transitions and allow those in offices to assume leadership with less diversity of political bickering during their term of office. Most of these political bickerings have to some extent been engineered by some individuals at UOC and NCS all because they have peculiar interests in how obedient is the person heading the sport, if for some reason you seem controlly to what has been anticipated or programed then the superiors will embark on a calendastine war to eject you out of leadership. This must stop!
A federation survives on funds from the following sources marjory; individual investments by the Excom leaders, gate collections, members affiliation fees participation fees, sponsorships, well-wishers, sell of properties, international federation support programs and Government Grants etc. Other than the Government grants the rest of the sources of funding to a federation can only apply if a federation is already in action, or in progress. By being in action I mean that the federation already has a functioning secretariat and functioning calendar games then the other sources of funding will apply. But in absence of the functioning secretariat and calendar programs then a federation is like a sick person who required an in put of blood to gain stability. 99 percent of our federations in uganda are like patients in ICU awaiting a blood input for them to gain stability. This blood in put is the stable and sure source of funding which is the government of uganda. The most unfortunate truth is that the distribution of this stable resource has been unfair to all federations in uganda save for football which enjoys 70 percent of this source and the remaining 30 percent is shared to 50 federations and the administration of NCS. So my point is that boxing has been getting peanuts off the only stable source of funds and hence it has become a challenge to functionalise the programs of boxing to a point where other sources of funding would apply. What needs to be done here is to fast track the formation of a clear funding guidelines that we can use to have government funds equitably distributed across federations.
3. TRAINING GROUNDS:
Its foolhardy to assume that we can go participate in games and win when we have not trained properly. Boxing in uganda today doesn’t not have a permanent training facility at a national level. During the past years there used to be a training boxing gym in lugogo and it housed all our national team training programmes Monday to Monday, 7 days a week. This is nolonger the case! The still surviving seemingly a training gym at Lugogo is under private management and boxers can only access it for 2 hours maximum 3 days a week and this happens only 1 month to the scheduled international games beyond that we can never access that facility because it was privatised. So boxers at National team level hardly train together since everyone is on their own and even our national coaches find difficult in monitoring these boxers. We need to immediately have our leaders in sport address this issue of the National training grounds for boxing!
4. TALENT IDENTIFICATION AND NURTURING:
Boxers or athletes are 90 percent identified through grass roots sports programs and schools competitions, its very unfortunate that despite our numerous pleas or calls to have boxing reinstated in schools, the ministry of education and sports continues to give us a deaf ear and a blind eye to the same. Boxing continues to be marginalised when it comes to its presence in schools competitions hence we fail to tap talents at that youthful age. So the only left option is to tap talent from ghetto kids, school drop outs etc but unfortunately also this gets hindered due to the fact that as a federation we are unable to organise regular calendar games through which we would tap talents and the reason we fail to organise all these talent identification is the lack of adequate funding. So most times we will have a tournament or two and thats it we have a national team and subsequently poor results. So we need the government to prioritise funding in the sports sector and most especially boxing so that we are able to organise regular talent identification and nurturing programs and also most importantly the ministry of education and sports must quickly allow boxing to be re introduced in schools as it is for all other sports in uganda.
5. EXPOSURE COMPETITIONS.
Once teams have been identified and trained , its is equally important that those teams participate in exposure competitions like friendly games, continental games, AIBA organised games, world championships etc this kind of exposure prepares them for the final competitions .. unfortunately here in uganda we only train boxers locally and straight take them to participate in common wealth games, and Olympics. We don’t think that EXPOSURE games are important. Beyond the usual importance of exposure games which is fitness and competitiveness, it is through these exposure games that boxers earn rankings. For example if it wasn’t for the 1 or 2 competitions where we fielded out boxers thats ms. Nanziri Catherine Semujju David they wouldn’t have collected the points that enabled them qualify on points to the Olympics. So its important that our teams are given a chance to participate in a number of friendly or exposure competitions and training camps before we present them for the major games.
6.WORKING RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN SPORTS INSTITUTIONS, UBF, UOC & NCS:
This is very key! We have a situation in uganda where UOC & NCS tend to want to patronise, to micromanage federations to the extent of them wanting or deciding to deal with service providers for the federations, wanting to even decide which technical people to be used by federations etc, this is an issue of role conflict. We must return to the basics UOC and NCS must limit themselves to dealing with recognised federations only and allow the leaderships in the various federations deal with their matters there in. For example during preparation for the Olympics 2020 one would hardly tell who was responsible of the boxing national team, there was extreme role conflict between UOC, NCS and UBF. I strongly advise that UOC and NCS should only deal with federations and by doing so we empower federations to that extent, let all service providers, athletes, coaches, journalists etc know that the federations are strong and can manage their affairs. This business of UOC & NCS seemingly competing for space of who is working and who is not is nit necessary, UOC & NCS must disseminate information & funds through the federation, period, not to the beneficiaries.
7. WELFARE OF THE ATHLETES & COACHES:
Unlike football national players who are paid monthly stipends , our boxers and national coaches are not paid monthly. What this simply means is that they will not focus on the boxing craft, they will have to juggle between training programmes and also looking for survival elsewhere, this kills concentration and subsequently poor results. We need to renumerate these guys to enable them pay attention to boxing as a craft.
8. BOXING EQUIPMENT AND GEARS:
This is and still continues to haunt the sport of boxing, lack of training and competition equipment. We up to now have one boxing ring that we understand was purchased by the late president of Uganda Iddi Amin Dada. The ring is too old and too outfashioned, that’s all we have in this century. The lack of all other training equipments really hinders our efforts in preparing the boxers ahead of all these games
9. CAPACITY BUILDING FOR OFFICIALS:
Boxing is that kind of a sport that will have marjory less educated people due to the fact that the sport has been sidelined in schools for so long, so people who emerge into leadership as coaches, administrators etc have that challenge of how they look at things, the understanding is also abit on the low, the ambition the drive, the know how etc, so many things that would lead to the progression of the sport are hindered due to the fact that we have been denied access to recruiting educated persons in boxing at an early age. It’s just that we are lucky now to have a new crop of leaders in boxing and we are starting to change the narrative. But there is serious need to boost and improve on the technical and administrative capabilities of our people in boxing.
To me I think if these issues are immediately addressed then we will be able to see boxing come back to the ranks!
The writer (Moses Muhangi) is the President of Uganda Boxing Federation (UBF).