By Jjagwe Robert
Sometime early this year I told my people of Table Tennis that there has never been a better time to be playing sports like now. They thought I was just talking unfounded things but it turns out that I was indeed right. There are so many good things happening now in sports and whereas we must primarily thank God for this, we also have to thank Mr. Bosco Onyik’s NCS board for putting in place a great leadership team headed by our brother Dr. Ogwel Bernard. And again like I said earlier, having a PhD has made Dr. Ogwel the General Secretary whose brains we have been yearning for in sports. On top of his brilliance, he has brought the listening attitude to NCS. There was indeed never anything much more we needed at NCS than an ear willing to listen and implement good ideas.
The parliament of Uganda passed an increased Sports Budget from 17.4 billion to 26.6 billion Shillings. This is a first of its kind. The money is still small but the increments over the past 2 years are very impressive and most welcome. The real problem in sports has been the failure to see the importance of commercialising Ugandan sports. Most people have been in just consumption of Tax payers’ money. They had never thought about the negative impact of this. No government can give you a lot of money when all you do is just consume it without making anything substantial for the country. And this is worse when you are just spending the money outside the country. This is also called capital flight and it can be a serious cause of poverty. Simply put, no business can survive when it spends more than it makes. It was a very huge mistake for people not to look at sports as a business.
However, thanks to Dr. Ogwel and his wonderful team at NCS, this picture is now changing. Our doctor has already seen this point and I am not even sure whether he saw it before or after some of us went nuts talking about it all over the place. But this doesn’t matter. What is most important is that under the guidance of our Minister, Hon. Charles Bakkabulindi, the doctor organised the first ever Sports leaders forum where a very important partnership of NCS with Sports Federations was borne. This partnership is going to be the key to turning the Sports Sector around. And now let me explain this very clearly so that it is well understood.
Our country is run by politicians who come to power by majority votes. This is why they will always respect and listen to any large group of people who are united for a common cause. The reason why FUFA went to government and convinced it to give them a lot of money is because many people are properly united behind football either as spectators, players, sponsors, leaders, etc. Soccer is the only sport which can garner over 2 million Ugandans sited to watch its National team games either at the football pitch e.g. in Namboole or behind their Television sets. No government can therefore ignore this sport with such numbers. When Sports leaders come together, they also create the aspect of numbers which the government listens to because then the majority will or desire sets in.
When the sports federations come together and NCS also joins the party, then we get a totally different and much more powerful weapon at our disposal. You see NCS is the government arm mandated to regulate sports activities in the country. So it is like government joining with the federations to push for a better sports sector for the entire country. In other words, the government itself has seen it wise and critical to involve the sports federations that actually run the games on the ground. This move must be applauded with all the energy in the sports sector. When we go with NCS to bargain for better funding for sports, then we have the following weapons on board: our mother body (NCS), we the leaders that actually run these games on the ground plus the much needed aspect of numbers that signify a majority opinion.
I am imagining a meeting where we are interfacing with, say, Parliament but behind Hon. Bakkabulindi or Dr. Ogwel are all the 48 Sports federations united as one behind the presentation being made to the Honourable MPs. Trust me, this is a meeting whose communication Parliament will listen to and implement. This has been a missing link and again I have to give Kudos to the minister and NCS for plugging this gap. We are witnessing history being made here and we are so proud to be part of the group making this history. Our players and coaches will surely be the winners in this. They have suffered enough but now we have united behind NCS to help them take down the Sports poverty monster.
I want to request our players and coaches to also get behind us now and we defeat this monster. With our Minister Hon. Janet Museveni, who is a staunchly God fearing person, the Lord’s blessings are also with us. This Monster will be brought down. I want to tell the players and coaches that this partnership to defeat the monstrous devil called Sports Poverty will be defeated and now there are many sports leaders who will never sleep until this beast is totally destroyed. Our athletes have suffered enough. How can they win medals for us and poverty still haunts them? We have seen the gap and we are going to make Sports more commercialised. Our partnership with our ministers and NCS to help our sports people will work because it also has God’s blessing. We cannot have the God fearing First Lady at the front of our battle lines and we fail to defeat poverty in our Sports Sector. This can’t and it won’t happen.
The Writer is the President of the Uganda Table Tennis Association (UTTA)