By Alex B. Atuhaire
KAMPALA – It was a moment of rage that should never have happened.
Deep down, Moses Magogo and his minders will mutely concede they crossed the line.
Before the gaze of national recorders and cameras, the Fufa President ripped into the players who represented Uganda at CHAN 2021 using the word ‘shitty’ to describe their poor performance at the biennial Caf competition for home-based players.
What Magogo was right; the players had indeed played ‘shitty football.’
But when occupying certain positions, you don’t have to say the right things. You have to say things rightly.
It was a PR gaffe for which the 45-year-old has been attacked by all and sundry on social media, his sea of critics, journalists and a host of current and former players.
This being a politicking year with the Fufa elections due in August, Magogo’s rivals were always going to do everything humanly possible to exploit the gaffe. And they duly did.
Except that the game of football mustn’t dwell too much on one statement by the Fufa President to erase eight years of unbridled gains for the game of football.
One public relations goof can’t shroud the reality of where the game was and where it is today, but also most importantly where it is headed.
In life the passage of time tends to erode achievements, and this is most common when one stays far too long in power.
Magogo has served two terms as President and is breaking no constitutional clause in pursuing a third term.
But it is not so much how long he has been Fufa President like how much he has accomplished since taking up the reigns in August 2013.
Back then when he was a surprise choice to replace the outgoing President of Fufa Lawrence Mulindwa, very, very few observers gave him a chance.
He was viewed as a novice with no money and clout, and according to some reports at the time the game stood a huge risk of going back to the era of Denis Obua when the game had lost direction and purpose.
Mulindwa had been a significant improvement from Obua his flaws too notwithstanding, but now Magogo had assumed shoes that appeared too large to fill.
Eight years later, Magogo has confounded critics to build a federation that is the envy of other sports bodies in the country.
Fufa has risen from an operational budget of $4b to $40b and continues to soar.
Mengo has a fully functional and robust secretariat with day-to-day activities that are not centred around an individual but a system.
From communications to marketing and branding, competitions to finance and audit, administrative to legal and all, Fufa today has put in place a corporate governance model that is very robust.
Those criticising Magogo conveniently choose to forget what it took to turn around a system that wasn’t there just eight years ago when he assumed office.
Back then, the Federation was housed in a derelict two-story structure which at the time seemed like a modern facility, which it wasn’t.
Today however, the Fufa offices have been expanded to accommodate the new demands and activities the dynamic game of football demands.
In acquiring the neighbouring land around the original Fufa House building, Magogo’s administration was shrewd in envisaging that a time would come when the old house would be an albatross for the game.
For a federation with more than 60 staff, a radio and various national teams and competitions, increasing office space at Mengo is a milestone for the ages.
To understand the magnitude of it, look through all other federations in the country and compare and contrast the office space facilities.
The lazy, tired stereotype will always be that Fufa receives too much money from government, but wasn’t the government of Uganda there in 2013?
Infact one could that Magogo’s biggest achievement has been to successfully convince President Yoweri Museveni that sports is a multi-billion industry globally and must consequently be given sufficient funding.
For long, we bemoaned how government was apathetic towards and cited that as the biggest challenge to the growth of sports in the country.
But Magogo’s shrewdness saw him pull strings to seek audience with Museveni over a period of time to convince him that sports is a massive sector that necessitated government funding it to fully tap into its potential.
The Fufa boss allied with politicians with Museveni’s favour such as the powerful and benevolent Honourable Anita Among to successfully convince the head of state that football was a big constituency that would do well with funding from the government.
With the President sold in, Fufa secured an annual shot-in-the-arm of Shs10b and the results since have been evidently positive.
Players today are earning handsome bonuses for the representation of Uganda at international level while Fufa is entering virtually each and every Caf competition be it under-age for both men and women or beach soccer.
Today Uganda are the regional powerhouse of every age category in the Cecafa region and as recently as February, the Hippos team reached the final of the Caf U-20 tournament.
Fufa has attracted numerous corporate bodies to enter into partnerships with the game and that number continues to grow. Today companies like Airtel, Stanbic, Plascon, Nile Breweries and NIC have committed good sums of money to help develop the game in the country.
Magogo’s entry into parliamentary politics this year has been viewed as an issue that could turn divisive given the demands of his political posting.
But to the contrary, football should be merry-making. For so long, the game and sports for that matter cried for a lack of adequate representation in the August House.
With Magogo there along with other sports-loving MPs like Among, Hamson Denis Obua the State Minister for Sports, Peter Ogwang, Patrick Isiagi, Julious Acon, Patrick Nsanja and Geofrey Kayemba Solo, the game football and sports will have a substantial voice.
But more than the aforementioned names, Magogo understands best what football demands both at an infrastructural and policy level. Lest we forget Magogo is a member of the Caf Executive Committee, the first Ugandan to occupy a position in the highest echelon of Caf.
The Fufa President is a human being who has made mistakes before. He was suspended by Fifa for his role in the resale of 2014 World Cup tickets. He entered a plea bargain with the world soccer governing body and was out of office for two months in 2019.
But when his accomplishments are put in context, especially with the candidates who have offered themselves for the upcoming election, it is a no-brainer that the son of Budiope East should steer Fufa through the next for years.
For the first time in history, Uganda has a Fufa President who has penetrated parliamentary, Caf and Fifa corridors.
A case can be made that football in Uganda today needs Magogo more than Magogo needs it.
He has earned his inevitable victory in August despite his flaws.