Futsal should learn from Ugandan football problems.

Futsal is an official form of football, 5 players per team on a small-sized pitch preferably indoors playing for 20 minutes each half.

Being an indoor game, many goals, less contact, fewer injuries, and unlimited rolling substitutions are some of the reasons it’s growing at a very high rate worldwide. Uganda hasn’t been left out of that growth.

The Futsal Super League (FSL) has been going on, with two official seasons under the organization of the Futsal Association of Uganda (FAU), the 2019-20 FSL season kicks off on Monday 28th October 2019 at the Lugogo Indoor Stadium.

During the 2019 Federation of Uganda Football Associations (FUFA) Annual Ordinary Assembly, FAU was admitted as a full member of FUFA recognized with the responsibility to manage and organize futsal in Uganda. That kind of authority comes with a lot of responsibilities.

FUFA was formed in 1924, five years away from making 100 years.

In that period, almost all of FUFA’s 34 members don’t have a corporate governance structure in place yet ironically FUFA practices fairly good corporate governance, at least for Ugandan standards.

Almost 100 years later, football in Uganda is not yet professional.

The Uganda Premier League (UPL) and the FUFA Big League (FBL) are supposed to be professional but that is on paper because we are too lenient to enforce the implementation of standards required to be professional.

Almost 100 years later, there’s no football club or FUFA member that is self-sustainable because we have failed to do simple things like understanding football administration and how football business works.

Almost 100 years later, we are going to celebrate a football centenary in which no football club owns a stadium (Kcca FC shouldn’t consider that thing as a stadium).

Almost 100 years later, we still have league matches that rarely kick off on time, still have physical inspections for licensed players, can’t have match attendance records, very weak competition regulations, lack meaningful match statistics for performance analysis, lack a match day countdown and generally lack creativity to solve basic problems.

Anyway, there must be something to celebrate about Ugandan football but not over 100 years. If it were me, that centenary would have a muted celebration then start all over again.

Almost 100 years later, the Futsal Association of Uganda is joining as a full member of FUFA that should learn from all FUFA members to avoid the problems that have been on repeat for the past 95 years.

120 out of 100 Ugandans believe that funding from government or sponsors is the only solution to solve football problems. They also believe that football owes them something and have a sense of entitlement on what FUFA should do for them.

Between August to October 2019, I was very unfortunate (pun intended) to be in charge of FSL’s 2019-20 club licensing.

In that period, I realized that a futsal club owner expects FAU or FUFA to have sponsors but that particular club owner can’t have 12 passport size photos (in soft copy) available in five working days.

In that scenario, it’s evident the majority of football stakeholders lack basic knowledge of how football operates, how they would benefit if the game was professional and how they can be supported to become successful.

The general lack of knowledge on how football would become professional makes them have a very negative attitude towards football leaders or member associations.

Indeed, Political Economic Social and Technology (P.E.S.T) factors have a huge influence on any institution. However, the P in FUFA members’ way too loud, very evident and negative for the development of football in Uganda.

If FUFA members had an AGM and that’s the time they were the most active in a year, that’s a very loud P.

WHAT SHOULD FAU DO?

Irrespective of the challenges FAU has at the moment, they should do the simple things that don’t require a lot of resources.

Involve all stakeholders, empower through training, make them understand what it means to be professional, set and enforce standards, have a strategic plan, demand quality, record all incidents to help with information on how to recover from mistakes, keep/manage time, be active throughout the year, be organized, make social media your second home, plan and research.

With all that in place, it will become easier to have genuinely professional football.

FAU’s huge responsibility is to do the simple things well.

Simplicity is genius!

In the line of fire.

During the 2015-16 FUFA Juniors’ League (FJL), I was coaching Maroons Junior Team when we lost 8-0 (in the line of fire) both home and away to KCCA Junior Team.

To make matters worse, the KCCA Junior team was using the Maroons pitch for its home matches but losing those two matches was the least of my concerns.

In both matches, I used separate goalkeepers because I needed both goalkeepers to gain experience, they definitely got more experience than I had hoped for because on top of conceding eight goals, it came with an addition of being ridiculed by their own peers which is part of football learning.

That KCCA Junior team has since gone on to have players join the senior team, Paul Willa, Kizza Mustafa, Allan Okello, Peter Magambo, Herbert Achai, Ronald Kikonyogo e.t.c. As for the two Maroons JT goalkeepers, Solomon Okello and Brian Ozelle are currently (writing of this blog) in Jinja for the 2019 copa coca-cola tournament representing Amus College and Nakaseke International respectively.

Hold on to label them as failures because they are not even close to failing.

Conceding eight goals would be very hard to take especially in Uganda where we want to win junior tournaments at all costs, where we treat losing as the definition of failure but it shouldn’t be the case in underage football which should be used as a development platform for the players.

When I checked the statistics recorded after the match, Solomon Okello had made 21 saves. In the reverse fixture, Brian Ozelle made 17 saves which clearly indicates they were in the line of fire.

The opposition goalkeeper made one save in both matches. For young goalkeepers, having to deal with a ball from the opponent is one of the activities that accelerate their development. The more activities, the higher the chances of developing earlier.

In professional football, it’s very hard for young players to break through to the senior team especially the top teams in Europe.

This comes from top teams being under pressure to perform well instantly, they rely on experienced signings and in most cases, the best players stay longer. Do a quick survey on teams like FC Barcelona, Real Madrid, Juventus, Man City, Liverpool, Bayern Munich e.t.c.

When was the last time an academy graduate made it as a regular player? How often do academy graduates make it to play in the senior team of top teams?

HOW IS THE DEVELOPMENT OF YOUNG PLAYERS PROGRESSED?
Young players are usually sent out on loan to gain experience by getting first-team football. It usually starts by assessing the level at which the players can compete then send them out on loan however, the process to send them out on loan is not impulse.

Clubs break down how the player will develop. If it’s a defender, they will send them to a club where they expect the player to face the pressure of defending so that they can get involved in a lot of defensive work to gain experience.

The same thing will happen with a goalkeeper and other positions. They will also work out the ambitions of the club.

Do they need the player to gain experience in dealing with relegation?

Do they need a player to gain experience in dealing with promotion?

All this’ done to develop the player to prepare them for the parent club or to increase their value because not all young players will make it to play for senior team but they will bring in revenue for the club.

BACK TO UGANDA
In January 2019, I played in the Futsal Uganda Cup for Thunders FC. We had a 14-year-old Humphrey Oyirwoth as our goalkeeper.

After elimination, I started thinking of a club that could use him in the 2019-20 FJL to gain experience and develop into a better goalkeeper.

I thought of taking him to KCCA FC Junior team but while having a conversation with his older brother something crossed my mind, should Humphrey go to a team that completely dominates opponents?

Does a goalkeeper develop without being worked in a football match?

If he ever makes it past junior age bracket, will KCCA FC have a player development plan for him to go out on loan and acquire experience?

I didn’t think it would develop him.

I decided to look for a club that will be FJL underdogs because Humphrey needs to be placed in the line of fire. I need him playing against KCCA JT, Vipers JT, Onduparaka JT, and the other good teams.

The added advantage is that unlike the 2015-16 FJL season, these days FJL has three rounds which would mean Humphrey playing against KCCA JT three times. Wow!!!

The challenge I have with finding an FJL team for Humphrey is that I don’t know any team or coach in Uganda that would place developing a player ahead of matchday results in underage football.

I would have used him at Maroons JT but I was dismissed as Maroons JT coach after a 10-0 (you read that right ten-zero) loss to Onduparaka JT in February 2018.

I am still not bothered about that result but If you know any coach in Uganda that would place a player’s development ahead of a match day result in FJL, please let me know because I am bothered about Humphrey’s development.

Disclaimer: The writer has nothing against coaches or administrators in Ugandan football that place winning above anything else.