VIOLENCE AND BRIBERY IN UGANDAN FOOTBALL: A malaise that can only end with change of Attitude – from us, the administrators!

A fun during a game throws stones
A fan holding stones during the Uganda Cup Game between SC Villa at Wankulukuku 

Dear football family,

Allow me to offer a different route to solving this and many other issues we face. We need an attitude change from us the football administrators. Like it or not, we here, on this football forum set the agenda on how football is run, perceived and played in the country – our attitudes will most definitely be a huge determinant in how the people we employ, use and entertain behave. We need a paradigm shift in our attitudes and behavior. Yes, I said it. US, the administrators need to change, before we can change others.  I realize that I will be banging my head against the proverbial wall by my suggestion and the easier thing would be to follow the overused mantra of misconception – “that is the Ugandan football way” but what options do people like us, who want to go away from that mantra have? Oh how I hate that statement and thinking.. we need to get out of that particular jail cell, Ugandan football is not about bribery and violence anymore. Yes it used to be, and IT IS at this particular moment but it doesn’t have to be. So other than writhe around in agony and despair, I will speak about it, in the hope that one person will listen and change.

The first stage in solving a problem is Acceptance. We need to accept that we have these problems in the game. I laugh every time something grotesque happens in Ugandan football and the immediate reaction is for the people involved to blame all and sundry, but themselves! So after a few rounds of the blame game, a bit of lip service to appease the aggrieved is done and the rest is swept under the carpet. Another day, another problem, and the cycle is repeated. Of course we will have these problems recurring and we will keep wondering why our game that we love so much, to the extent that we keep spending our hard earned meager resources on it, keeps bringing us misery and bickering, ALL THE TIME. It’s because we have not attempted to solve these problems, heck we haven’t even accepted there is a problem. So I would like us to accept we have a problem. That problem is that we love taking shortcuts. This leads to us bribing whoever we can, resort to several acts to gain an unfair advantage over our opponents and so on. Our attitude is what is killing the game. We always say “Let football win” but when do we really let it win? If you win unfairly, how has football won? If you incite fans to fight, resort to violence yourself, resort to underhand methods to gain an advantage, how has football won? Our fans go into the stadium with already pre-conceived notions of unfairness from referees, officials, etc.. when they resort to violence, mostly instigated by our actions or lack of, how has football won?

How do we tackle this? We change our attitudes. To everything. Lets be open minded about new ways of handling the processes. The process of preparation, the process of getting results etc. like I said earlier, its starts with us. Whenever you bribe an official, word gets out. When you do it for long, it becomes the norm, so everybody expects you will do it even on the days when you haven’t. Even when the ref makes a genuine error in judgment, it will be perceived as an unfair call, so what will the fans do? They will be disgruntled, and in absence of a strict behavioral code they HAVE to adhere to, will resort to their primal instincts – hurl abuse, obscenities, violence or just walk away from the stadium altogether. So our change in attitude is the key to everything. How do we run football? How much do you really want to win? At what cost? If the winning is bringing agony and fights to the very people you want to win for, who then are you really winning for? Do you have the best intentions and practices at heart? Do you really derive pleasure from winning, when you know that all you did was win unfairly? Where does the satisfaction come from?  It doesn’t stop at the field only, even us in offices, how do we handle our issues on a daily basis? We do love the shortcuts, but we need to take a long, hard, honest look at ourselves. I will give you guys an example that you know very well – PROLINE FC.

I know that Proline FC has been in existence for the whole of 2 minutes and we have a total of 15 fans, but indulge me. A few seasons back, we had a problems with fans. Mind you, they are Ugandan and had been supporting football before so they had all the traits of a Ugandan fan. They started supporting us like all fans do – hurling abuse to opponents, trying to resort to violence whenever they perceived an injustice etc.. if you remember, there was even an incidence where the fight got ugly and Villa fans burnt their drums in Nakivubo. We called the fans leadership immediately and laid down a couple of rules for a Proline FC fan, a creed they had to go by and strictly adhere to. We made it known to them, in no uncertain terms that the club will not stand for it and that we actually didn’t need fans of that caliber. We didn’t stop at that, we trained their leaders continuously and they constituted among themselves several units, most significant of which was the disciplinary unit. But we also vowed to them that we will be as well behaved and do things the right way, even if it meant being ridiculed and failing from time to time. It took an attitude change from us the management and agreeing among ourselves that what we really wanted was not glory from shortcuts but from the long, arduous journey of doing right. We haven’t had a lot of trouble since then, and you guys can vouch for us. Our 15 fans try their best to be well behaved. Before you think this is chest thumping, take it into consideration that we have just been relegated, so there is no real reason and am in no mood for it. Before you think that it is sour graping or whatever, take it into consideration that we have been relegated before and came back, so we know this is just another valley to negotiate, not the end of the world. I guess what am trying to say is that what i write is from the bottom of my heart.

In Proline, all the players and staff know that you can get away with almost anything but there are some no-go areas like bribery, violence, witchcraft, homosexuality to mention some, these are grounds of immediate dismissal. May be some indiscretions may fall through the cracks but I assure you, once we know of them, we deal with them immediately and summarily. We hold ourselves to a minimal level of standard. We do get our fair share of problems, but because of the IRREDUCIBLE MINIMUMS we set ourselves, nothing is too hard to handle. You guys have dealt with us, you know. We are not afraid to admit that there is a problem, or that we erred and try to put it right.

Am therefore calling on all of us to adopt a strict code of conduct for ourselves, improve our behavior and attitude, then and only then, will we be able to call out the rest of the football sector. Let us adopt a few irreducible minimums that we strictly adhere to. Then we can have our beloved symposiums, workshops, and meetings to teach others in the game what we want. It will come from us, the individual first, then the group.

As club administrators, we can’t keep doing what we are currently doing and expect different results. However much money we spend, we will keep getting the same type of unruly entitled fan, the same type of annoying, dishonest, ungrateful players, the same kind of referees we always complain about, the same kind of sponsorships, the same kind of publicity, the same kind press and the same kind of output on the field. In fact, it’s no wonder that our players continue to struggle when they get the chance to be part of straight working environments. You have to pity them. How do you come from the Ugandan football system and make it in Europe? South Africa? Those that have done need to be really respected, because they are the exception, not the norm.

William Bakabulindi, CEO Proline FC


Published by bakshikhan

Bakshi Asuman has worked with youth projects since 2007 that focused on mentoring and working with young people with training experience of over 7 years in Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights and Behavior Change Communication for youth led and youth serving organizations. He is a Master Trainer in Evidence & Right based SRHR and HIV prevention Intervention for youth Behavior change, characteristics of effective interventions, measure effects on outcome level, stigma and discrimination and Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights for young people are used and Meaningful Youth Participation.

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