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Why Ugandan footballers have failed to set foot in top Euro leagues


By ALI LUBEGA

Ugandan football fans have undying loyalty to soccer clubs across the world, even though leading teams like Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool, Real Madrid, Barcelona, AC Milan and Bayern Munich have no single Ugandan footballer in their ranks. How would this loyalty be if Arsenal, for example, signed Express’s Yayo Lutimba? 


While you may blame the Arsenals of this world for ignoring Ugandan players, you have to similarly ask yourself why local stars have failed to make it to the Premier League, Spanish La Liga, Italian Seria A, and may be to put the bar lower, the Belgian League. Yet hundreds of West African players continue to appear in all major leagues of Europe and South America.
 
The only Ugandan to have risen to a team in the big five European leagues remains Majid Musisi who played for French club Rennes, rubbing shoulders with Lothar Herbert Matthäus in the Intertoto Cup and playing alongside a young Sylvain Claude Wiltor. Musisi later went to Turkish clubs Dardanelspor and Bursaspor.
 
After Musisi, only Ibrahim Sekagya of Red Bull Salzburg in Austria’s Bundelsliga and David Obua who until June 1 featured for Scottish Premier side Hearts have come close to playing in the leading European leagues.
 
Other Ugandans who have made it to Europe include Nestroy Kizito, Eugine  Sepuya, Tony Maweje, Andy Mwesigwa, Noah Kasule, among others. These have not gone beyond mediocre teams like FK Vojvodna in Serbia, F.C Cuckarick (Serbia), IBV Vestmaneyer in Iceland and Armenia’s Banants.
 
To trace the root cause of the problem, you have to go back to the 1980s and 90s and find out how the leading clubs in the country – Express, Villa and KCC – failed to help players become professional. It is said that former Villa supremo Patrick Kawoya denied so many players the chance to go professional because he thought by selling the best players, his team would weaken. The same happened at Express and KCC where managers held onto local players and failed to think beyond local glory.
 
In 1999 Villa blocked Hakim Magumba’s opportunity to join Ghana’s Hearts of Oak, which he would probably have used as a launch pad to head to decent European destinations like some star players have done. DRC striker Shaban Nonda, for instance, played for Vitalo in Burundi, Rayon Sport in Rwanda, and Orlando Pirates in South Africa before joining a club in Belgium from where he connected to Rennes in France. 

As for the few players who managed to join the paid ranks in Europe, indiscipline and illiteracy proved a major hurdle – they were released before they even finished a season. This is true of Phillip Sozi who left Serbia’s FK Srem because management thought he was more interested in selling phones, and Hassan Mubiru whose failure to communicate in English made it hard for him to sign for a club in Turkey and another in Belgium.
 
Mike Serumaga, an exceptionally talented player, had his contract cancelled by Swedish club Helsingborgs because he had sustained a career-threatening injury as he trained with local club KB Lions while on holiday in Kampala, which contravened professional rules.
 
One may argue that Ugandan soccer stars are not talented enough to shine in Europe. But these players even hardly make it to Egyptian and South African leagues. Geoffrey Masa who played for Egyptian Iteselat FC (before proceeding to Cyprus) was the only Ugandan in North Africa while Vietnam-based Brian Omwony, once Uganda’s hottest prospect played in South Africa with Supersport United.

Whereas South Africa appeared an easier destination for players, only David Obua seems to have penetrated the country with Timothy Batabaire, Posnet Omwony and Geofrey Serunkuma, who have moved from one club to another with little success. A few good players have gone to Rwanda and Tanzania to try their luck, which not only diminishes their profiles but also sinks them into oblivion.
 
The lack of player agents also suggests local players are poorly-marketed while the absence of strong club foundations has not helped to develop talents in schools.

The biggest obstacle, however, remains the lack of a competitive local league that would produce the talents required for top world leagues, as well as poor administration by the local football federations that have failed to develop our league due to politicking.

Comments   

 
0 #1 Joeram 2015-10-11 22:42
For me too i'm a young ugandan footballer bt i need an agent_+25670215 7001,+256778210 154
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0 #2 Joeram 2015-10-11 22:45
I play for edgars youth programme U-17 and First Division
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