10 Years of the Observer Sport

To some, it was a big gamble when The Observer hit the streets for the first time 10 years ago.

Weekly Observer, as it was known then, was seen as just another newspaper hitting the stands. But in no time, Weekly Observer established itself as a standout in sport with its groundbreaking stories about the mafia-like dealings within local football body Fufa.

Robert Madoi, a laidback character renowned for his figurative language, was the man at the helm and his no-holds-barred approach got the sports desk rolling. Not surprisingly, we found ourselves in the bad books of several sports administrators due to our determination to expose the murky world of boardroom sports.

Over time, we have encountered several ups and downs but it goes without saying that we have grown in leaps and bounds.

Bunch of junkies:

The current team headed by the bearded David Lumu, a maverick fellow who uncharacteristically prefers to keep a low profile, is a blend of experience and raw ambition. John Vianney Nsimbe is a diminutive gentleman with old-school tendencies but few can claim to have more experience when it comes to Ugandan football.

In fact, I don’t know of a better follower of Ugandan players in the past decade and I greatly consult him about the current goings-on in Ugandan football. Moses Mugalu is an uncanny fella who has seen it all in Ugandan sports right from the nineties. He is the in-house specialist on boxing and motorsport.

Then there is the unpredictable Felix Eupal, a charming character with the height of a basketball player and build of a rugger. Yet going by his horrifying displays for The Observer football team, chances are high he would have been a successful potato grower.

Multi-award-winning Edward Echwalu is the in-house sports photographer and for a profession where you have to see to believe, few will disagree with me that he is among the best there is in the country. Elly Kyeyune is the latest addition but the petit figure is working his socks off to make a lasting impression.

Oops! I nearly forgot Charles Sebugwawo. The veteran writer, who serves as The Observer promotions officer, never hesitates to pop in once in a while. When this team of junkies is out in force on any given day, particularly a Saturday afternoon or Monday morning, the rest of the newsroom has got accustomed to looking on as they try to outdo one another in analyzing sports trends.

If it is not the Fufa versus USL saga, it is Arsene Wenger’s specialty in failure and sometimes the weird topics such as the better player between Pele and Diego Maradona. Indeed, the usual locker-room is a toned-down version of the real thing.

Lasting legacy:

That’s the inside world of The Observer sports desk. Yet on a personal level, the past 10 years have been truly remarkable for me. For starters, it took a great deal of persuasion from close friends and colleagues to start this column and I don’t regret a single moment the trials and tribulations I have gone through.

I always feel nostalgic when rekindling the old days of Ugandan sport as well as profiling the forgotten sporting legends. All said and done, nothing has caught my attention more than the sorry state of former athletes, many of whom are languishing in abject poverty only a few years after being hailed as national heroes.

That’s why I always strive to use this column to not only recognise the contribution but also to draw attention about their plight. Nafutali Gumba Musoke, the former Cranes skipper in the 1950s, quickly comes to mind.

I was shocked to find the former goalie and captain of The Cranes team that visited England in 1956, partly deaf and blind as he rotted away in his Mutundwe home.

Shortly afterwards, former Fufa boss Lawrence Mulindwa and a few well-wishers came to his rescue. Unfortunately, he passed on two years later. Musoke was just one of the many legends in a sorry state, just as former Cranes defender Rajab Sekalye, who continues to eke a living as a porter at Kalerwe market.

The desire to give readers has also taken me places previously I had no hope of going. A case in point is Gerald Kabeireho. After months of inquiries from several people about his whereabouts, I set about on the 340km journey deep in Bushenyi to track down the former Cranes and KCC defender.

I met a man totally disconnected from football but our day-long dialogue highlighted the feeling of abandonment many retired footballers feel. That’s why I also greatly emphasise caution to active athletes about the lonesome life after hanging up boots.

In essence, it is these individuals who drive my passion to write and in a country that lacks any official records, it is overwhelming when people use this column as a resourceful platform for factual sports data.

To the readers, I must say a big thank you for making The Observer your number one source of information and I pledge to improve on any shortcomings.

The author is operations director of The Observer Media Ltd.

Source : The Observer

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