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What If Alumni Leagues are the Future of Ugandan Sport?


Daniel Kakuru

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A story is told of a woman who happened upon a naked co-wife while the latter was bathing. These women were sharing a husband but had not done enough to mask their disdain for each other. It is widely conceived that he loved both of them equally, but also made sure to cheat on them with a third wheel – for a fireplace had to have three stones in the African setting, else it would not support a pot.

‘I am jealous of you,’ said the woman. ‘But the honest truth is, now that I see your nakedness, I must admit that you’re way more gifted than I will ever be. I understand why my husband adores you.’

Well, that was many, many years ago when women were still sober enough to accept that they are sub-human. There was no shisha for them to smoke like chimneys and fill their lungs with soot and nameless cancers. There were alcoholic beverages, but only the men had a right to touch them. The role of a woman was to obey her king; she didn’t need a brain – her husband already had one.

Do you want to feel bad about yourself? Just go to Twitter (I still refuse to call it X) and check out the content under the #Road2Kigali hashtag. The Old Boys of Ntare School have challenged the whole country and all of us should raise our hands up and accept that they have done this thing better than us. Not that they were competing with anyone in the first place, but man, they have taken this to the next level and it will take a miracle for anyone to catch up with them.

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Ten years and 14 seasons later, the grand finale of the oldest alumni league (Ntare Lions’ League) is being held in Kigali Rwanda. A cocktail of events is rumbling on across the boarder, including an alumni dinner under the auspices of NSOBA (Ntare School Old Boys’ Association) hosted by the patron, President Paul Kagame who also happens to be a former student of Ntare School.

I am sorry if you went to a school in Central Uganda, in Buganda, or wherever it was; you lot can’t relate when such things are being discussed. While the people who attended boys-only schools in the west miss them and wish they could go back and relive the good old days, you couldn’t wait to leave your Kitende. It always felt like you were studying in a school at the bottom of hell. You were being caned on a Monday morning, soiling your snow-white Yamato shirts, and speaking English not because you loved or knew how to, but because it was compulsory that you should. You were forced to wear those ugly neckties which strangled you during hot afternoon lessons.

Failure to comply probably meant a two-week suspension at the end of which you returned with your angry parents and had to brave an even more thorough round of thrashing delivered by any available teachers.

So when you found out via social media that the old boys of Ntare School were decamping from the country and having their grand finale in Kigali, the natural thing happened: you felt jealous. You posted garbage and castigated them and prayed that the Rwandan government close the Gatuna Border post as they did in the past, so those happy souls can be locked out there. You went around claiming that all the corrupt crooks are outside the country. You people with your witchcraft!

But we can understand your pain. We just don’t feel it. Most of your schools have no alumni associations. The moment you got over your exams, you glitzed out and tolerated nobody who attempted to associate you with them schools. And as if that is not bad enough, some of those schools of yours ceased to exist. There is now a large poultry farm in the place where your classrooms used to be because the proprietor suffered a cardiac arrest six years ago, died and his children have since shared his property amongst themselves

We always tell people to take their kids to traditional schools but they have too much cotton stashed in their ears to listen. Much as there is an illusion that most of the traditional schools (especially the boys’ schools in Western Uganda) have been knocked off their perch, there is something about these schools that cannot be washed away by the sprouting of private schools in and around Central Uganda. There is more to a school than just performance in UNEB examinations. Again, you cannot relate to what I am talking about if you went to these mixed schools where students read and cram everything from pamphlets as they look forward to examinations. There is something about schools like Chaapa, Ntare, Kitunga, Siniya, Mwiiri, Butiki, et al. and it cannot be explained to those who are looking in from the outside. You have to live the experience in order to understand it fully. There’s something about the way those boys form sanguine bonds that stand firm even when tested by time. This explains why it’s relatively easy for them to mobilize themselves under one umbrella, run an alumni association and pool resource together for an amateur league where they spend their Sundays.

In a country where the national league is largely irrelevant, it is likely that these amateur leagues organized by alumni associations will take centre stage. We live in a country where a vast majority of sports lovers do not know what is going on in the Uganda Premier League. Hardly anybody can name five Ugandan football clubs. Nobody knows who the last two winners are. We don’t know how many clubs are participating. We don’t know the format of play, what is at stake, when the league starts, closes or takes breaks. We really are disconnected and it’s not for lack of effort. Possibly because we feel like outsiders even when it’s the national team – the Uganda Cranes – playing. I swear, it never feels like those guys are out there representing us. Maybe we are the problem. Or it’s just a leadership problem. We easily point fingers at Hon. Moses Magogo and his bleached husband (see what I did there? Wisdom will kill me.) because that’s a convenient scapegoat, but maybe the poor lad is just a symptom of the problem. It feels like a rugged relationship where one partner has lost interest and the other has to throw money at the problem to paper over the cracks. That’s how we force ourselves on what should be the national team of football and always end up disappointed each time.

But in our amateur leagues, we are the players. We are our bosses. We are the ones pulling the shots. Our leaders have blood in their veins and we know it. We can always strangle them and hold them accountable whenever something doesn’t add up. It always feels like one big party that never stops. Week after week. Everyone knows everyone. It’s old friends with old memories, trying to create newer memories that will never die. With time, each of those leagues will be a cult. Maybe they already are. Because I can hardly wait for the next matchday.

There will be little or no space at all for Ugandan sports lovers who attended nameless schools which have no alumni associations and no amateur leagues. They can only get out of this entanglement by pretending to love the Uganda Premier League or, more likely, European football will have to come to their rescue as it always has.

About the author: Daniel Kakuru is a worthless MugOfPorridge. His articles have appeared sporadically in print and online. He drinks, smokes and hopes to die by suicide.

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