Ugandan sports writers have an odd inclination.
They present their stories with that finality tone; you’d think the world is ending.
Take a look at the coverage of Uganda’s 2-0 loss to Liberia.
‘Cranes In A Death Trap’ screamed the back page of New Vision. ‘Hearts In The Mouth’ said the Red Pepper. The Daily Monitor splashed: ‘Mission Impossible’.
I know the pain of defeat and the desire by editors and sports writers to capture the mood and out do each other.
But seriously, the Cranes World Cup campaign was never going to be determined in Monrovia or this past weekend.
I therefore think its pure sensationalism and fatalistic to describe that defeat as having put the whole campaign in a death trap and made it mission impossible.
This was the third game; the Cranes have three other games coming up. This is a marathon, we’ve done half the race, no one is dead and no one has run away with it yet.
You can win in Liberia but lose at Namboole, what difference does it make? Its three points lost.
Before this game, Liberia was bottom of the table and were branded ‘minnows’ by Ugandan’s expert media, they win one game and are second on the table and suddenly they are favorites and Uganda are in a death trap, and its now mission impossible, and our hearts are supposed to be in our mouths?
Am sorry to say this about my friends but this is childish, this is amateurish.
If these sports writers and editors played for Uganda we’d win the title for the most hopeless team in the whole world.
So what is the problem with Uganda?
This is the most difficult question to attempt. But I think our problem lies partly with the advent of TV football and the near dearth of real football in this country.
Suddenly, we have sports pundits who got their proficiency from watching on TV, a few seasons of the English Premier League, the Champions League, the Spanish League mainly games involving Barcelona and Real Madrid and a few games of other games from leagues in Italy and Germany.
We have experts at football management with their only experience being cheering a European team on TV in a bar.
We have senior sports writers whose aptitude is rewriting stories written by journalists in London and Milan and Paris, stories that are posted freely online.
We have sporting gurus whose sole connection to the game is buying a pirated soccer jersey of a team in Europe and who have memorized the entire squad of Barcelona including the academy players but who cannot tell you the captain of KCCA Football club.
The problem with Uganda, I think, is that we lack experience in football, real football, not TV football.
We lack that knowledge that comes with years of engaging with football clubs every day with games played every week where teams win, lose and draw and make their way up or down the table on a regular basis.
Many Ugandans don’t follow football off their TV screens, the few that do, follow the national team and very few have done this over a generation.
As a result of our lack of involvement in football outside the bar, we don’t know what to do when there is a football match.
Every game involving the national team is a final of sorts. Fans expect the team to win because it’s basically the only game they watch in a stadium and not on TV.
We don’t know how to lose, we don’t know how to draw, and we don’t even know how to win and how to celebrate.
One win and we are the best team in the world and fans make banners that read; ‘Bring on Spain’. One loss and we are the worst team in the whole wide world.
And just like fans, reporters, writers and editors aren’t any better. They too find themselves in the same boat. Trying to inform the public without them having any better knowledge.
We don’t know what makes a great team, a bad team and a modest team.
If we were engaged in football every week, at club level, we would be better reporters, better editors and most importantly, better fans.
As a result of engaging in football only on TV, we don’t even know how to cheer and how to jeer.
We have no footballing culture in Uganda and we have made the grave mistake to think that we can develop our footballing culture from watching TV and reading about clubs in foreign countries.
We think we can watch a few games on TV and read a few reports off the Internet and learn and replicate in Uganda centuries of footballing history like in places like Liverpool.
When we see on TV fans starting a chant we think its beautiful and we think we can do the same here. But we don’t know that there is someone in the stadium who starts the chant and there are those who pick it up and those who sustain it.
We have seen some sections of fans at Namboole attempting the Poznan.
After the World Cup in South Africa, we saw hundreds of fans coming to the stadium with Vuvuzelas but not even using them for the entire game.
And in the newspapers, we see reporters trying to copy the style of writing they see in reports filed by their London colleagues, the same sensationalist and mostly cynical headlines that are minus any context in our setting.
Mission Impossible? After three games with three more games to play? Death trap? When you have two home games coming up? Three points or one win separating the top team and the bottom team? And you say ‘What Next?’ like its all over?
Tell that to a seasoned football fan in a serious footballing country and they will laugh at you because they’ll know you are a novice.
Of course the team has issues to sort out, very many issues and not a lot of time but you cannot say this is the end.
So, it’s okay to copy but much of what we copy from TV, from foreign media is neither applicable nor sustainable here and most importantly its not helpful to our fledgling sport.
It’s better to develop our own football culture but we cannot develop it without developing our own football first and to develop our football means not watching too much TV football and getting more involved with our local clubs.