A number of Ugandan footballers today define close to what life as a successful player means. Flashy cars, the latest phone pieces and leading football footwear brands take centre stage, a very different setting from what transpired in the early ’80s and ’90s.
Even though players back then played in front of capacity crowds, it took a professional stint to earn a decent living.
And because many didn’t go pro, they’ve been forced to live a deplorable life, but what went wrong?
Nationals team’s coordinator and former player Paul Mukatabala, says times have changed from when the cost of living was down with players surviving on fans’ handouts.
“Pay in the ’80s and ’90s was little (between 50-150,000) and players played for passion, also the cost of living was low, unlike today,” Mukatabala told Football256.
The SC Villa great of the 90s further explained what should be done to help the struggling ex-players.
“The fantasy that FUFA must look after ex-players isn’t feasible because there many of them, instead, former players with abilities, must study coaching and administration, that way they will be assimilated into coaching and administration at clubs.”
“I also think FUFA should make it mandatory for all schools that play in school competitions to employ qualified coaches with priority given to former players and maybe the government can also help with funding an ex-player savings scheme,” he added.
The recent case of former Cranes captain Jimmy Kirunda who passed away on Tuesday this week paints a grim picture.
Kirunda who captained the Cranes at three Africa Cup fo Nations including the 1978 AFCON final, also served as personal assistant to former FUFA president Lawrence Mulindwa but was shockingly replaced in 2015 after Moses Magogo assumed office.
A change that affected him according to his former personal doctor Dr Ntege Ssengendo; “He had obvious financial challenges.”
“One time we tried reaching out to FUFA and KCCA FC for some help but none helped, a debt of UGX 1.7m had to be cleared by his nephews Patrick and Gibbie Kalule in July 2018,” Ntege told the Daily Monitor.
While Vipers Sports Club shareholder Haruna Kyobe blames it all on former club honchos who selfishly used players for self-gain.
“Truth is, club officials used those players for their own benefits thus having nothing to show for apart from those who had a chance going abroad,” he stated.
Andrew Fimbo Mukasa, Obadiah Ssemakula, Issa Ssekatawa are just some of the stand out cases that show the plight of ex-players who need urgent attention.
The squabbles amongst the former players also haven’t helped the situation with no particular body in place where they can subscribe to.
Meanwhile, URA FC goalkeeping coach Stephen Billy Kiggundu stresses the divisions amongst former players haven’t helped.
“I no longer follow them because they have over three factions and FUFA deals with that of Ntege Patrick, Kalungi Edward, Fred Tamale and Paul Mukatabala,” Kiggundu revealed.
With more players hanging up their boots each passing day, it remains to be seen how the conundrum will be solved.