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A love story with Ugandan Football, What does your club mean to you?

By Kiberu Sharif

One of the earliest moments of my life I can remember was a time when my father took me to watch a KCC FC game at Nakivubo stadium when I was 6 years old.

I do not remember the exact opponents nor the final score of the game, but I would love to think that my love for football and Ugandan football, in particular, was rooted in me on that day.

Close to 20 years later, It is that same love that led me to Phillip Omondi Stadium stands, under the very excruciating heat, using nothing but my hands to shield off the seemingly irate sunshine and heat.

Surrounded by hordes of zealous fans dancing and singing their support for the game as the now-named KCCA FC humbled the Caterpillars of Onduparaka in a 4-0 demolition.

What we all shared in common that moment was an inherent love for football. Our differences in tribe, colour, political affiliations were all annihilated by the brawny bond of the game. At that moment we were brothers and we could have died for each other.

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The sound of the fated final whistle hit me like a thousand spears in my heart, it was the end. We all had to leave and get back to our pathetic states of humanity imprisoned in grim bits of pain, disappointments and despair.

I stuck around for some time with my friends with whom I had come with, I could not help but feel a cold rush of loneliness through my body despite their proxy companionship.

I am quite certain that everyone in attendance that day felt that the clubs should do more to provide for their fans a home and culture that supersedes the thrills of a match day.

Football clubs in this country should formally recognize their social obligations to their supporters and fans by organizing them into communities where they can put aside their troubles and revel in their love affair to the beautiful game.

The clubs should be intentional in increasing their influence on their supporters into social coteries by adopting it as one of their core business purposes; honestly examining how well they are meeting that aim, and strive continually to improve their relationships.

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When the great Samuel Wamala (RIP) decided to form KCCA FC in 1963, he wished to create a social glue for the emerging working class community in the city at that time.

What started as an evening get together of a group of engineers in the sewer department in Kampala City Council, culminating in a first league championship title in 1976 and is now the second most successful club in Uganda Football.

The case for social cocooning in football does not need further campaigning for and traces of it can be seen all around the world. In Uganda, the need for such an organization is known and desired, but the implementation has been largely inefficient. 

On February 22nd 2019, KCCA FC launched the fans club executive committee that was aimed at organizing and mobilizing the fans of the club. However, just a few months later, the credentials of this committee suffered an embarrassing case when the staged champions’ trophy parade became a laughing stock as it was marred with internal controversies and very meagre crowds.

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Other clubs like Busoga United, Tooro FC, Mbarara FC and Wakiso Giants, have tried to use nomenclature to inspire a feeling of belonging between its supporters.

This trend is picking up in many regions as Mbale Heroes and Kigezi Homeboys, all in this season’s Big League have all just recently re-branded to names that they believe will inspire stronger bonds with their people.

It is clear that the clubs recognize the importance of building strong relationships with their fans, but their strategies so far seem to luck a missing piece in the puzzle. What they are looking for are fans, but what they really need are members. 

The earlier Ugandan football clubs realize this, the better and more profitable their establishments will be. Fans are a bubble that will only like your social media posts when it suits them, attend a match or two in scanted intervals. And when the club gets relegated or faces a rough patch, the bubble inevitably bursts.

But the members will create a lifelong relationship and attachment to the club; for better and for worse, they will be there. And just like my father instilled in me the love for KCCA FC at a tender age, the love story will long be passed over to future generations.

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