Let me say this before I change my mind. I think some Ugandans football pundits are either arrogant or they are completely ignorant about football.
I am saying this after reading some of the reviews of the Uganda Crane’s performance against Senegal.
I was in the stadium and as with many fans we hoped Uganda would get the win, we didn’t. We settled for a draw and many fans will agree with me that the Cranes were second best.
In fact we were lucky that Senegal wasn’t more ambitious. They’d have killed us. Instead they tried to defend their one goal and as time was running out, we got the penalty and the equalizer.
Shortly after the game as we waited for the exit gate to clear up, I was involved in the first of many exchanges with sports reporters and fans.
They all seemed to have come to a sudden conclusion that Uganda didn’t play well because one player, Martin Mutumba flopped. I wonder when did football become an individual sport?
Its true the boy didn’t have a good game but why I say these reporters and fans are being unreasonable or arrogant or ignorant or all the above is this: This was Mutumba’s second outing in the Cranes jersey, the first was away against Angola and many of the fans calling for his dismissal from the camp didn’t watch that game.
Now, if you aren’t arrogant or ignorant, tell me how you can judge a player after a game that ended in 1-1 draw.
And how can you watch a player for 90 minutes and you write a headline that Mutumba is a charlatan and should sack himself from the Cranes?
I didn’t watch the game against Angola so I have seen Mutumba play only once, against a far superior Senegal side full of professionals plying their trade in the top leagues in Europe.
And whereas I agree that he didn’t have a good outing, I say it is outrageous to classify him as a total flop. It’s even more outrageous to pick on him as an individual because the whole team wasn’t very effective.
The best analysis of the game came from Coach Bobby Williamson: ‘They (Senegal) are the best team I have seen in a long time, including Egypt…they have pace, strength, height and good movement…they made it very difficult for us to play but I am very proud of the players, they never gave in, kept on working hard and we managed to get a point.’
That’s our coach, the guy I say is our miracle worker considering the pool of players he has to select from and the league they play in. It’s like the reporters and fans I spoke to were watching a different game from Bobby’s who chose to keep Mutumba on for 90 minutes.
Bobby also said the media had hyped Mutumba and placed him under enormous pressure. And I think he is spot on.
Some fans even dared compare Mutumba to David Obua. I find that petty and childish, both haven’t won anything for the Cranes at continental level and Obua is now retired from the team. Mutumba has just joined the team.
To me Obua and former captain Ibrah Sekagya are legends of Uganda football, but they are now retired and we must work with the new crop of payers we currently have and try to achieve what Obua and Sekagya failed to achieve.
I know Ugandans are accustomed to beating teams at Namboole and the reporters like all other fans get frustrated when we fail to win.
But I expect reporters to be more knowledgeable than the average fan. When you face a team as good as Senegal you must prepare for anything, including the possibility of losing the game and on Saturday, we came to within minutes of losing.
That’s why when we got a penalty and Godfrey Walusimbi smashed it in, the whole stadium cheered like we’d won.
I think some reporters expected Senegal to come around and fold their arms and get battered.
Ours is a team in development, an unfinished product, we are nowhere near the quality of the team that failed to make AFCON last year against Kenya but the good thing with football is that you always get another chance and this is another opportunity for Uganda but if these fans and reporters were in the team, they’d throw away the chance.
Comparing Mutumba to the legendary Philip Omondi is a terrible joke. We haven’t produced another Omondi in almost half a century, Mutumba has only played two games for Uganda. One must praise Mutumba for showing exemplary willingness to play for the national team.
Abusing the players who put their legs in harms way to bring glory to the country isn’t helpful at all.
But that’s the quality of the average football fan in Uganda.
We have in Ugandan pundits or fans who will reel off the entire Polish squad at the Euro 2012 tournament but who can’t name three players in the Cranes team that started against Senegal on Saturday.
We have soccer fans who watch an entire English Premiership season in video halls but who have never stepped into any local stadium to watch a local league game!
We have some fans who walk into the stadium and immediately start complaining that the playing surface doesn’t look as neat as Anfield and when there is a goal scored, look around for a TV screen and grumble because there is no TV screen for a replay.
I call it the hollowness of soccer fanaticism in Uganda!
They are so in love with Chelsea and they show this affection for the English club by buying pirated club shirts from downtown shops. How is Chelsea their team supposed to benefit if they buy pirated shirts?
If you told these fans to buy original club jerseys they’d go into hiding at the cost.
The Ugandan soccer fan will scream themselves hoarse and declare ‘Arsenal Till I Die’ and will stick with the team despite seven seasons minus a trophy but will be quick to denounce their national team The Cranes if it draws against Senegal or Kenya.
Hollow is the best way to describe football fans in Uganda. Because in reality what we have in Uganda aren’t soccer fans, they are just onlookers not supporters.
Believe me sitting in a dingy pub in Kampala donning a pirated jersey and screaming Manchester United, doesn’t make you a true fan!
I’ll tell you what a real fan of a football club does:
He will buy merchandise from the official club shop. A true fan will buy tickets and go to the games in person to cheer the team as it plays.
A true fan will travel to support his team and will not stay at home to watch on TV. If he does stay at home he will subscribe to the club TV channel.
A true fan will do all this because he knows the club needs his support, not just the screaming and shouting in the stadium but also the monetary contributions.
A true fan knows that the club needs that money to be competitive to hire the best coaches and even better players. A true fan will not overly complain when they lose or draw a game, he will not abuse individual players after a bad game, he will put trust in the club coach and respect his decisions.
A Ugandan football fan on the contrary thinks buying pirated shirts writing his name at the back and sitting all night in a bar dousing himself with booze while watching Everton on TV makes him a diehard fan of Everton Football Club!
Hollowness! The club in Europe doesn’t even know he exists because it doesn’t get any benefits from his existence. And the fan in Uganda doesn’t get any gratification because he knows he hasn’t contributed anything to the club.
Am only glad that some fans have realized the hollowness of this entire TV football craze and are starting to turn their attention to the local sides.
Anyway the Uganda Cranes have another game coming up this weekend against Congo Brazzaville and we should be firmly focused as the 12th player as one dedicated player put it on twitter. This one will be worse than the one against Senegal. We are trailing 3-1 from the first leg, Bobby will field his best eleven men and the fans must turn up and be the twelfth man in the stands.
Lets not put pressure on any individuals in the team. And let us trust that the players who are selected to start on the field and on the bench want to win more than anyone else in this country of 34 million. Lets not question their commitment and denigrate their effort.
But let us also know that Congo won’t come here to lose, and that they will try to defend their lead and while we go out to chase the 2-0 win that will lead us closer to heaven, lets not forget that this is football and that we might get beaten or we might draw. But lets all go to Namboole on Saturday and cheer the boys and not boo them.