It is indeed sad to see the decline of sports in our country, but the worsened feeling comes when you realize that even the government has ignored this department.
I am impressed by Abbey Kibirige Semuwemba’s knowledge about sports in Uganda and I believe that sports is very close to his heart, as it is to so many disappointed Ugandans and the friends of Uganda.I came close to the National Council of Sports in the mid 60s when as a young boxer, I was selected to perform on the Uganda Television. My elder brother was then in the national boxing squad, he was the reason I chose to learn boxing. By then Mr. Thomas Kawere was the National Coach, assisted by Mr. Peter Grace Sseruwagi. Mr. Sunderani was the General Secretary of the National Council of Sports.
During the 60s, I admired the way the sportsmen and women were regarded, with such an admiration that inspired many to join sports. The administration at the NCS was at its best.
During the 70s when the military took power, the decline of sports began, as corruption became a habit with some NCS officials. Mr. Sunderani resigned and left the country. Although the new President Idi Amin took special interest in sports, he was not able to stop the corruption. The Football Department of the NCS raised the most funds, together with the government support, the NCS was able to finance all participations in the National and International games, including the residential training for the sportsmen and women. Ofcourse, President Idi Amin had much love for sports, so that he could be consulted in case the NCS lacked funds. I remember when the NCS failed to pay for our trip to the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) in 1974, President Idi Amin offered his Presidential Jet that took us there for the 25th Anniversary of the republic.
Briefly, I can say that corruption, greed, selfishness and lack of national pride has led to poor administration that has deprived our country of the joy of sports. Not only has this caused treamendous decline in sports, it has also caused our Sports Stars to retreat with extreme poverty and many have died and burried in regretful situations.
The discussion about why many boxers end up poor attracted my attention,but decided to wait and see the reaction of the forumists. I have noticed that the comments were about the situation of the boxers, as meets the eye and not what actually causes such a decline. Some Uganda have cited lack of formal education being the cause. Be it as it may, there are other causes that are not mentioned.
Firstly, we all agree that football (soccer) is the No.1 sport in the World and therefore the sport is closely watched and efficiently administered. The World bodies that run the sport are in no way as neglected as those that run Boxing. The footballers’ contracts are closely studied by the Lawyers that represent the players and those that represent the clubs. However, even the wisdom of a player helps him to sign a worthy contract, that’s where formal education benefits the player.
Professional Boxing is run like a club of ”Maffia” with very little attention or none at all from the World govening bodies. In some cases the kindness of the would-be managers do negotiate the contracts for their boxers and those are the few boxers that retire with a smile. In some situations in which a boxer is forced to flee his country due to fear for his life, like Ayub Kalule (former World Champion) or Mustafa Wasajja (former World No.1) a boxer is forced to sign a contract without much consideration. In the end when the time comes to retire, does the mistake of signing the contract without choice affect the boxer. When Ayub Kalule announced his retirement after settling in Kenya, the Danish tax authority told him that he owed the state several millions Kroner in taxation. At the time of boxing, his manager had assured him that all was fine. At the ”Hour of need”, his manager was unavailable in his defence. Ayub Kalule resumed boxing, simply to pay the tax money he owed Denmark. For having lived about a decade in Denmark, he was allowed to fight fot the European tittle which he won. During the tittle defence in London, Ayub Kalule was beaten and his manager had to allow him to retire. All his earnings went to pay the money he owed Denmark. Embarrassed, poor and heartbroken, he sold his house in Kenya and returned to Uganda. I donot wish to describe every situation as it would require much courage to do so. Believe me, none messes with the mighty Boxing Promoters. You mess with one, you’ve messed with them all! In this regard the saying of the wise, ”Cowards live longer”, comes into my mind.
The character of booze and women, as mentioned by some Ugandans, is caused by keeping bad company and lack of guidance. Whatever the disappointments in boxing as a career, the boxers opt to keep silent, as their complaints may either fall on ”deaf ears” or land them into serious trouble.
My concern at this juncture is the promotion of sports in Uganda. It is one of the activities that bring the people together and proud without any feeling of any difference that they may have. You can feel the sense of brotherhood that has no boundary.
With these words, I hope that the government of Uganda will consider the revival of active sports as a matter of urgency.
Byaruhanga .J. Rubin.
UAH forumist in Netherlands