There’s a saying in football that all decisions made have to be central to the players. Football players are very important stakeholders in football.
Before I get misunderstood, that doesn’t mean other stakeholders like; referees, administrators, media, fans, and coaches don’t have an important role to play in football. They are very important, without them, the game can’t go on.
For any football decision to be made, the priority should be footballers then other football stakeholders will benefit from that decision.
Example; When FIFA introduces a water break during matches, players are the priority in that decision but other stakeholders benefit.
Match officials will get an opportunity to cool off, take water and perhaps have a simple chat about the progress of the game.
Football players being key and central in all decisions seems to be the way things should be done but not in Uganda.
HOW ARE FOOTBALL PLAYERS SACRIFICED IN UGANDAN FOOTBALL?
The majority of footballers in Ugandan football have their health sacrificed due to limited resting arising from the number of matches they get involved in.
Uganda Premier League (UPL), Uganda Cup, Super 8, ODILO and The Drum football tournament are some of the tournaments.
At the end of the 2018-19 season, there was a high number of players that were involved in league/cup matches on a Friday then played in The Drum football tournament matches on a Sunday.
That means a player was involved in two matches in a space of three days but when you work out the number of hours, playing at 4 pm on Friday then 4 pm on Sunday means they played two matches in a space of 48 hours.
When other factors like weather conditions, poor playing facilities, poor nutrition, the distance between match venues, the poor physical condition of players, etc. all come in then it’s a recipe for player burn out or poor health conditions after retirement.
Just when you thought it couldn’t get worse. ODILO national championships, a U-14 football tournament organized by FUFA will have teams playing three matches in a space of 4 days.
How many Ugandan footballers have rested since the 2018-19 season ended? Many players were involved in The Drum football tournament, COSAFA, CECAFA, CHAN qualifiers and then Super 8 in the offseason.
With CAF Champions’ league and UPL all coming up, fingers crossed they won’t be limping by January 2020 if Uganda Cranes qualifies for CHAN 2020.
Football players indeed need to get involved in many tournaments and matches to gain experience but for that to happen, other conditions like the quality of playing infrastructure, quality nutrition, quality of travel between matches, good fitness levels, etc. have to be met.
This being Uganda we went for the copy and paste version of exposing footballers to many matches in a short time without considering other factors.
Does that explain why 95% of footballers that play within Uganda lack consistency?
The majority of footballers in Ugandan football have their income sacrificed because clubs don’t honor contracts.
Most players go unpaid for an entire second round of the league then end up being released at the end of the season.
This’ usually done by clubs that are struggling to perform on the pitch because they know players will leave after not being paid then save money to contract new players.
WHAT CAN BE DONE TO IMPROVE?
Federation of Uganda Football Associations (FUFA) and UPL as the organizers of major tournaments in Uganda football need to identify individuals with technical knowledge of football then have them trained on how to handle fixtures and start involving them in decisions to do with fixtures.
It’s true that other factors like pitch availability affect fixtures but having an input of someone with technical knowledge of football would greatly help to avoid unhealthy fixture congestion and overlapping football seasons.
Uganda Football Players’ Association needs to adopt a corporate governance module to enable it to attract and have all football players as members.
This will help them achieve self-sustainability to open up funding for educating players. All footballers in Uganda may be ignorant about the dangers of playing many matches in unfavorable recovery conditions.
Ironically, FUFA preaches and practices corporate governance but the majority of its members are struggling to implement it. FUFA should empower members by conducting training sessions to improve governance.
FUFA’s club licensing regulations should be enforced. Under financial criteria, clubs are supposed to have cleared all debts to zero balance.
With better supervision, it’s possible to identify clubs that haven’t paid players and other service providers.
FUFA can amend competition regulations to include that clubs defaulting on payments be deducted points and it extreme cases they can be relegated or denied a license to compete in some tournaments.
Football organizers in Uganda need to start considering players as key stakeholders in decisions. For that to happen, players will need to be educated. With knowledge comes power.
Disclaimers: The writer has nothing against any football tournament in Uganda.