Today, Kampala is very colourful. Lately it’s only this colourful on events like these. It’s two days before Uganda ‘celebrates’ it’s 49 years after independence but those years seem to mean nothing much this friday as Uganda plays Kenya tomorrow October 8. This game means so much for Ugandans. It has been 33 years we have have waited to make a come back to the African Nations Cup.
The world and many in Uganda may be used to seeing the name of late President Iddi Amin next to words like monster, killer or beast but for many Ugandans he was a great man. His reasonable actions in other fields might be overshadowed by his rogue side but Ugandans know it was a year before he was ousted that Uganda last competed in the continental tornament where it only lost to Ghana on the final. And his leadership and backing of sports had something to do with that historic appearance.
The past year has been tough for us, the economic crisis and our government that loves to spend have not helped. We bought ourselves fighter jets at millions of dollars, our currency can’t stop weakening against others and our inflation stands at 28.3 % this month. We have had strikes by different professions, teachers, taxi drivers e.t.c. Many are struggling to put a meal on the table and keep their children in school or even enjoy a beer (our president advised us to drink milk instead.)
The Uganda Cranes, our national team seems to be the only thing holding us together, the little light that we are seeking in our darkness. Uganda has has 10 points and Kenya is at 7. Uganda must get win to avoid any calculations based on the other group game between Angola (9 point) and Guinea Bissau.
Uganda last lost to Kenya at home in 1991 so the Kenyans have their own 10 year jinx they will be looking to break. But the 33 year jinx means much more. Football has remained the only place for Ugandans to show their patriotism and love for their country. According to tweets i have read many would wish not even see the face of their politicians at this game. The ordinary people feel the staduim is the only place they can unite and defeat someone. It’s the hopelessness that has engulfed us in the midst of failing systems whether education or health care, unwanted public expenditure and unending promotions of the corrupt and the wicked of the regime.
In one of the qualifying games, the now Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi, whose name is painted all over different corruption scandals was the chief guest. He dared to flash his party sign and his aides had to shield him from flying water bottles from the Cranes fans. A few days ago he visited the Cranes camp and so did the first son Col. Muhoozi Kainerugaba. Both donates some thousands of dollars. First the money is largely seen as our own tax payers money and then if this government genuinely invested in sports (am dreaming ) they wouldn’t need to come out at last minute to pledge. Truth is national sport survives because of few good hearts and the very supportive fans.
Football and the Cranes games in particular are almost the only remaining things that Ugandans can put their hearts to and spend their money on. It’s the day you see Uganda flags in numbers you wont find at any event not even the 49th Independence anniversary. Ugandan leaders have largely been so meaningless to ordinary people that seeing corrupt leaders – much as they have a right to be there- come to claim they are behind the country’s pride makes many mad.
The Nelson Mandela National Stadium is simply the only place we come to forget -for just day- about you looters of our country! Ugandans come to forget what is happening to Uganda. And it’s the only place you see genuine nationalism therefore breaking the 33 year jinx is about history, pride and Namboole is the place to be ourselves!