By Baron Kironde
On May 4, 2021, FUFA announced the nullification of the 2020/2021 FUFA (FJL) season, due to inconvenient circumstances brought about by the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The decision was reached at during the 24th FUFA Executive Meeting chaired by FUFA president Moses Magogo on April 30, 2021.
Relatively in March, the CAF Emergency Committee met in Rabat and decided to cancel the 2021 edition of the Total U17 Africa Cup of Nations citing the resurgence of COVID-19 cases, increased restrictions on international travel and uncertainty about the evolution of the pamdemic.
Like around the world, such is the uncertainty surrounding youth football in Uganda at the moment. No competitive football for proactive teenagers for over a year now.
KCCA Soccer Academy left back, Ibrahim Juma who captained the U17 national team to qialification for the 2021 AFCON U17 admits that the current situation is a hard pill to swallow, but it is reality that has struck, and life has to move on anyway.
“Not playing the league (FJL) has really affected me. I always want to be on the pitch playing competitive football,” Juma expressed, noting that it’s good for his body and mind to train daily for a specific task ahead.
Luckily enough for Juma, he plays at one of those very few organised Ugandan clubs with a laudable youth team set up where his club can keep track of his activities, unlike other clubs that don’t have ‘the luxury’ to effectively facilitate youth football.
A considerable number of Juma’s mates have now only been reduced to playing ‘village football’ in a totally disorganized setting (local off hand tournaments).
Hamza Lutalo, the U-17 national team head coach admits that it’s much easier to keep an eye on the boys while they regularly play in the league.
“The Juniors League is not only a great platform for these youngsters to exhibit their talent, but it is also a significant way of keeping the boys together,” Lutalo said.
Newly elected UYFA chairman, Roberts Kiwanuka who is also the Director, Rays of Grace Academy has come on board with an ambitious vision to tap deeper into talents by instituting academy leagues for both boys and girls.
Kiwanuka’s long term plan can be provisional at the moment, as his intention is to help improve youth football and talent development, but realistically, to set any rational football league in motion takes ample time.
Bashir Mutyaba, the FUFA Youth Football development manager also commends Kiwanuka’s intentions, but is quick to add that the federation shall only communicate about the same at an opportune time.
With so many ideas and suggestions, only the FUFA EXCOM’s resolution authoritatively stands unless otherwise.
Good news however, is that FUFA, after receiving requests from SUPL clubs has allowed the teams to utilize players of their junior teams for the senior outfits as was the case with the previous seasons.
After consultations and careful considerations, FUFA decided that the SUPL clubs are henceforth allowed to use up to four (4) FJL players in a single match.
However, only the FJL players in possession of their 2019/2020 players’ licenses will be legible.
Special cases like the newly promoted clubs for the season 2020/2021. i.e. Kitara FC, MYDA FC and UPDF FC will be given opportunity to register their FJL teams but within the provisions of the Regulations on the Status and transfer of players.
According to FUFA, the Competitions Department shall take full responsibility of issuing Provisional Players’ Licenses in all such cases.
FUFA still insists that no player shall be registered or licensed without the parent’s/guardian’s consent.
Over the last 6 years, the Federation of Uganda Football Associations (FUFA) has generally registered tremendous success in Youth football after rebuilding the technical department now called FUFA Football Development Department.
To facilitate the ambitious cause, the FUFA U17 Juniors League (FJL) was formed in 2015.
Allan Okello and Mustafa Kizza, both currently plying their trade abroad are a big manifestation of the project.
So many other FJL stars are still shining bright in the StarTimes Uganda Premier League (UPL).
Steven Mukwala, Frank Tumwesigye and Karim Watambala are just but a few players who have developed into UPL senior team starters from the FJL.
Among others include; Salim Abdallah, Isma Mugulusi, Lawrence, Tezikya, Sadat Anaku, Julius Poloto and Paul Willa.
Crediting the same project, Uganda Hippos (U20) for the first competed in the AFCON U20 tournament in Mauritania, and came back home with silverware.
FJL products including team captain Garvin Kizito, tournament top scorer Derrick Kakooza, midfielders Bobosi Byaruhanga and Steven Sserwadda plus effective defenders Musa Ramathan, Ssemakula and Aziz Kayondo were key in ensuring that Uganda enjoys a sensational debut tournament in Mauritania, going as far as the finals.
The significance of the whole project can not therefore be downplayed, given the fact that twenty (20) out of the 25-man Uganda U20 Squad in Mauritania were products of the FUFA U17 Juniors League.
Notably, the Juniors League aided with Club licensing, promoted regular training for young players and development at such a high standard league for young players.
The FJL also facilitated an extensive scouting program, an aspect that aided player development and growth by channeling the selected players to both the UPL and the 2nd division clubs.