I understand Andrew Magunda’s concern in his letter in ‘Vision’s Saturday Soccer magazine of December 16th in which he decries the popularity of the world’s big football leagues over local African ones and Uganda’s in particular. Also, while I agree with him that it is quite embarrassing for us to appear to pay allegiance to football leagues that are not our own, I personally see football leagues as purely a source of entertainment rather than national duty. Where one chooses to find one’s entertainment is that individual’s prerogative.
Football fans, like any other Ugandans and consumers, work very hard for their money and, as a result, they want it to work for them too. They want to get the most out of each shilling they get. Football leagues therefore have nothing to do with patriotism or the lack of it. They are just one of many sources of entertainment (commodities) on a liberal and global stage (market). If you are a poor performer (poor product), you will always find a thin audience before you. It is as simple as that.
The popularity of the big European football leagues in Uganda is more of a blessing than the curse many people see. They have opened our eyes to the better quality in all aspects of the game that our leagues can have but curiously do not. They have raised our expectations and the evidence is in the actions of Save Our Soccer, which I believe would not have had the will they showed but for the big European leagues. Their popularity among Ugandan fans is a silent cry to the all the leaders of football in their various capacities for something much better than what we have been subjected to.
Furthermore, the huge following for foreign leagues that cuts across demography in Uganda is a suggestion that there is a big market for football here. Those leagues have actually done a lot marketing the game of football in Uganda. There are certainly more football fans as a percentage of the country’s population than there were in the much glorified days of the past. Football has been added to the subjects talked about in female students’ hostels, something that never happened in the past. Local football has its work cut out for it to position itself to attract everyone’s attention. There is everything to win and nothing to lose since most of the fans have left it anyway. The days when fans were fed on anything limited by the mediocre abilities of the personalities in the game are long gone. Ugandan fans will not be taken for granted anymore. Loyalty is not an obligation on the part of the fans and a right on the part of a club or league. It must be earned.
Maybe what we should be debating now is; which is the horse and which is the cart. Should we first the fans’ attention on the local game and then wait for the quality to come later or quality first and then the fans? What are they; fans or philanthropists?