Football talent is overrated.

We have this assumption that Ugandan footballers are talented, we have the best football talent in East Africa.

According to the Cambridge dictionary, talent is defined as a natural ability to be good at something, especially without being taught.

There’s a very high chance that human beings misuse the word talent because, apart from reflex actions like blinking and breathing, almost every other action has to be learned or taught.

It’s animals that might be well suited to the word talent: Does a cheetah practice to have a high speed? Do ducks practice how to swim? Do dogs ever practice how to swim?

Football requires a range of skills categorized as releasing the ball, travelling with the ball and, gathering the ball.

According to the Cambridge dictionary, a skill is an ability to do an activity or job well, especially because you have practiced it.

When you see Lionel Messi dribbling, Christiano Ronaldo jumping to head a ball, Manuel Neuer making a save, Nemanja Vidic tackling an opponent, David Beckham passing the ball and many other professional footballers performing skills.

Those are football skills that has been learnt through DELIBERATE practice.

Before the 90’s it was possible to become excellent at football without a football academy. Youngsters played a lot of street football which made them skilled footballers.

There’s a high possibility that a Ugandan footballer in the 70’s could have played in Europe without a lot of difficulty because of the similarity in the way players learnt football skills across all continents.

However, all this changed with the introduction of football academies in Europe. The rest of the world followed the trend and, even some parts of Africa like Ivory Coast embraced the idea of football academies.

Football practice moved from the street to deliberate practice and nurturing football ability, something that we haven’t yet started in Uganda.

With all due respect to whoever operates a football academy in Uganda, they are day care centres in disguise.

Football ability (read talent) can make a difference in under age football.
At U-12 age category, it’s very easy to see a footballer that stands out of the crowd to be deemed as talented.

Research in England shows that between 13-16 years of age, there’s a 76% drop out rate from football. For them it could be due to many factors but what about in Uganda?

We don’t have figures to base on research but its likely that the lack of professional football, an amateur mindset towards football and the lack of domestic football role models leads to parents preferring ONLY formal education over any form of football practice.

There’s also a high possibility that most football drop out rates are due to the extra work that starts at 13 years of age in football training.

From that moment, if players have started puberty then speed, endurance and strength training is introduced.

The football dropout rate increases to 96% after 18 years of age perhaps due to the demands of football performance which is more than just talent.

Football statistics have also shown that in modern football, the average time spent on the ball is less than 2 minutes for each player.

Footballers spend most of the time on the pitch doing other activities that require a combination of speed, strength and endurance that are greatly affected by coordination.

They also require mental strength like the 5C’s of football which greatly help in decision making.

Being skilled is extremely important but it’s just a tiny fraction of the foundation required to be a professional footballer.

Being a skilled footballer (read talent) on it’s own is not enough to play professional football.

The lack of competent football skills coaches, managers capable of nurturing talent and genuine football academies means that expecting to have talented Ugandan footballers has a lot to do with mediocrity hence the comparison with other East African countries.

For us to keep thinking that talent is a big deal, indeed football talent is overrated in Uganda.

Thank you for reading.

Human resource solutions for Ugandan football.

If you have watched the television series The Profit, Marcus Lemonis the TV billionaire has a slogan; People, Process and Product.

Those three P’s are the key indicators that he uses to analyze before deciding to invest in any business.

People are the most important asset to any organization.

The quality of the human resource is essential for efficient operation and necessary to obtain money which is the most sought-after resource for any football organization.

Football in Uganda has got a very huge human resources management challenge.

It’s one of the reasons why investing money in Ugandan football is equivalent to water draining in a sink.

The majority of football start-ups in Uganda close or change ownership within three years because the people managing most football investments can’t make football a profitable venture.

We lack the competence, passion, and creativity that are very huge factors in problem-solving, taking risks, goal orientation and commitment to take football to a professional level.

If Ugandan football is to progress and become professional then quality human resource management has to become a strategic priority.

How do we expect football clubs to understand their operating environment, have strategic plans, manage human resources, manage finances, manage marketing and have well-organized events yet we have a handful of competent individuals?

It would be easy for us to believe that the lack of competence is a general problem within Uganda but that is not true considering that the majority of the corporate companies have competent individuals.

They might not be owned by Ugandans but the majority of employees are Ugandans.

It would also be easy to suggest that football should start attracting competent individuals from the corporate sector but that is not financially sustainable at the moment.

Ugandan football’s biggest challenge in human resources management comes from the way we recruit and motivate individuals.

We call out to the general public then train and certify individuals who qualify to do football work based on their qualifications.

For a football administration and management course, whoever can afford will pay to study then on completion of the course they qualify to be employed as a football club official.

On being employed, they are paid a salary and expected to deliver results because we are still stuck in the era of believing that salary is a motivating factor.

That is how we end up having incompetent individuals serving football in Uganda.

The corporate companies that are worlds apart from football use a different method to recruit especially at entry-level.

They have designed a methodology in which they can tell who would be a competent employee if they were to be trained.

They conduct interviews to test the individual’s skills before training them to start working and training continues throughout your career.

They have very many methods used to motivate an individual.

They believe and practice the saying that, “you would rather train employees and they leave than not train employees and they stay.”

Is it possible for Ugandan football organizations to observe individuals that would be competent administrators then train them football management and administration?

When they are employed, is it possible to motivate them to be retained at the organization or within football?

It is possible to train them extra skills like service, first aid, communication, public speaking, etiquette, time management, conflict resolution, financial management, presentation, and emotional intelligence?

If we can answer yes to that then we shall have competent administrators that are committed to solving problems and serving football.

Actions that keep Ugandan football amateur.

Amateur football is the act of engaging in football to pass time usually without the expectation of remuneration.

Professional football is a full-time activity in football, working towards remuneration being more than what has been invested.

Football in Uganda was introduced by the British colonialists as a hobby.

It was viewed as a leisure activity that players, coaches, referees, administrators, and other football stakeholders could get involved in at the end of the day when they had finished up with work.

The year is 2020, football is still generally amateur in Uganda.

There are steps that are being taken by the Federation of Uganda Football Associations (FUFA) to develop football into a profession but we still have decisions and actions that keep Ugandan football amateur.

In March 2020, Uganda’s domestic national team camped for training in the same period that coincided with the Uganda Premier League (UPL) matchday 25.

Some clubs had players reporting on match day to represent their clubs.

That incident on its own raises questions that prove our level of amateurism.

How did club coaches prepare their teams for matchday 25?

Did the national team coach share the players’ training workload with affected club coaches?

Could the national team training be delayed by a week or have UPL matchday 25 postponed?

We also have many incidents of coaches handling more than one team at the same time.

These include the national team coaches handling the domestic team and the majorly based foreign team considering that in March 2020 they were going to be in camp at the same time.

From May 2015 to February 2020, I worked as a full-time football coach but failed to see how it’s possible to coach more than one team at the same time.

The amount of work required to plan and prepare a training session, conduct and supervise a training session, to evaluate, and give feedback after the session is very demanding.

Professional football coaches work with bigger teams of support coaches but still require breaks (now known as sabbaticals) in between moving from one job to another because they need to recharge from the exhaustive task.

If any coach is handling more than one team at the same time, then it’s clear that they aren’t doing 30% of the work that should be done.

In the example of UPL and our national team coaches, these are the known professional football entities in Uganda but professionalism is on paper and not yet practiced at 100%.

If football in Uganda is to develop into professional then we need to accept that we are still amateur.

Arriving at the acceptance stage is what will enable us to start planning on how to become professional.

Unfortunately, 99% of the internal football stakeholders in Uganda either haven’t arrived at the acceptance stage and/or deny that football is still amateur.

We seem to be comfortable with football staying in its current stage.

Professional football would transform Uganda’s economy by reducing the rate of unemployment, greatly increase on the amount of taxes collected from football, football is a huge factor in increasing the number of tourists, and professional football requires knowledge that would improve the education capacity of the Ugandans involved in football.

For that to happen, we need to document the decisions and actions that are still keeping us amateur then plan on how to become professional.

FUFA should amend football regulations.

On 13th February 2020, the Federation of International Football Association (FIFA) communicated an amendment of regulations on the status and transfer of players to ensure that solidarity mechanism payments be applied at a national level.

When I read the amendment, it gave me mixed emotions.

I was very happy that domestic transfers will help to generate funds to grassroots football but also very disappointed and frustrated that the Federation of Uganda Football Associations (FUFA) had never realized the potential of solidarity mechanism.

2020 marks four years since I wrote about the solidarity mechanism and how it could be used to generate revenue for football clubs in Uganda.

FUFA did amend article 30.3 regulations on the status and transfer of players but there was hardly any impact, close to wasted time.

The above amendment gives FUFA more work yet they should be simplifying it by ensuring that clubs start and end the entire process.

All that FUFA needs is to supervise the process.

My other disappointment comes from us not wanting to lead, we always want to follow.

We don’t want to challenge the process.

We lack football administrators with genuine passion and creativity that would have an instant impact on the development of football in Uganda.

Can you imagine the impact and legacy if FUFA had started a quality domestic solidarity mechanism and be used as a case study by FIFA? 

FUFA needs to amend football regulations that reflect its mission to develop, promote and protect football for all.

For that to happen, it requires having employees that are well motivated to think full time on how to develop, promote and protect football for all.

At the start of the 2019-20 season Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) amended competition regulations so that a player can represent two different clubs playing in the same competition.

That amendment helped generate more revenue in the January 2020 transfer window and for UEFA competitions to retain good players.

Erling Braut Haaland joined BvB Dortmund from RB Salzburg after they met his release clause for a reported £17 million.

Before the amendment, Haaland might have joined Dortmund but the UEFA Champions’ League would have lost a player of his quality which affects TV revenue.

Haaland could have decided to stay at RB Salzburg to play in the knock out rounds of the Europa League which would have meant that Salzburg misses out on earning £17 million.

The same can be said of Bruno Fernandes joining Manchester United from Benfica for £47 million, Minamino to Liverpool from RB Salzburg for £7 million and many other transfers.

UEFA’s action is an example of how a well thought out amendment on football regulations can have an impact on the development of football.

Now that FIFA has sorted out the domestic version of solidarity mechanism, FUFA needs to comb through the rest of its regulations because amending most of them would have an instant impact on the development, promotion, and protection of football in Uganda.

FUFA can’t solve Uganda’s football problems on its own.

Whenever there’s a football problem in Uganda, the Federation of Uganda Football Associations (FUFA) is expected to solve it.

Poor officiation, clubs not paying salaries, poor football facilities, players failing trials, unprofessional coaches, women’s football issues, unregulated agents, chaotic schools’ football, unethical administrators, football not being able to make front-page headlines, clubs not performing at the continental level, etc.

Think of any problem within Ugandan football, and FUFA will be the first culprit.

Some problems are comical like; clubs not having sponsors, age cheating in underage football, and transporting clubs.

As the body that’s in charge of football in Uganda, FUFA should take responsibility for the blame but they can’t solve all problems.

Using an example of corruption, the Ugandan government is responsible and should take the blame but can’t solve that problem on its own.

It requires sensitizing the public that acts like bribing police, bribing your way to getting a job, cheating in exams, expecting to be paid extra for performing a service for which you are already paid, falsifying receipts, etc. are all acts of corruption.

That way, the public will know that corruption starts with me.

It’s a problem that can go away if we change behaviour from our homes and the quality of upbringing.  

FUFA is a group of football associations. They are the members that makeup FUFA.

Uganda Football Referees’ Association, Uganda Football Coaches’ Association, Uganda Women’s Football Association, Uganda Football Players’ Association, etc. are some of the FUFA member associations.

An image showing some of FUFA’s member associations

FUFA needs to come up with a syllabus for developing the capacity of administrators to improve governance with FUFA member associations.

Come up with guidelines on who qualifies to be eligible for football administration courses.

Formulate a thorough member association licensing guide, delegate tasks that directly affect member associations, a balance scorecard, and an appraisal system for member associations.

From that process, it’s possible to ask questions like; What does each FUFA member association do to solve problems that are linked to them?

On 12th February 2020, the FUFA Competitions Disciplinary Panel (CPD) ruled that KCCA FC fans committed acts of hooliganism in a UPL match against URA FC after the Sam Ssimbwa (URA FC head coach) celebrated in front of them.

Interestingly, Sam Ssimbwa didn’t get any punishment, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he is among the majority blaming FUFA for any problem.

Unknown to CPD, three football problems were “swept under the carpet” yet these will haunt FUFA in the long run.

The URA FC vs KCCA FC fans violence can be solved by making the Uganda Football Coaches’ Association answerable as to why they have licensed a coach that behaves that way, make the Uganda Football Referees’ Association answerable as to why the referee did not book the coach, make UPL, URA FC and KCCA FC answerable for the way fans behaved in that match.

There should be repercussions for each football problem, ensure that it’s documented and make sure the responsible member association is doing something about the found problems.

The repercussions should always trickle down to the coach, fan, referee, administrator, and player to always be answerable and start taking responsibility for any football problem.

How long will it take for FUFA member associations to solve problems and to ensure they don’t happen again?

How long would it take to solve the majority of Uganda’s football problems?