Pondering why yesterday’s soccer players were better

Our judgment of footballers is always peer-biased and that this is precisely why older generations tend to rank Pele higher than Maradona. Similarly, today’s fans would not even see the point in such a dated Pele-Maradona debate as it seems pretty straight forward that Lionel Messi can only be matched by Cristiano Ronaldo.
And when you think about it, the ammunition with which one fights such a subjective battle is to be drawn not from some grainy documentary but real time experiences. And so it was, that in a recent debate with a group of football people, the lines that divided opinion when it came to Ugandan footballers, past and present could almost be traced along age differences.
I belong to the generation that swears by ball playing centre backs like John Latigo William Nkemba and Paul Hasule (RIP), Robert Mukiibi and of thinking midfielders like Moses Ndawula, Jamil Kyambadde, Steven Bogere and Fred Tamale. I saw Magid Musisi, who in his prime, was a text book on striking and Joachim Matovu for whom it was all in a day’s work and who made you want to cry at the simplicity with which he excelled.
That is not to say the era didn’t have its share of raw brutes whose actions on the pitch was actually criminal.
I am actually persuaded to believe the ridiculous wizardry of men like Godfrey Kateregga was the inevitable outcome of a life spent evading men, who really wanted to pop his knees and break his legs. You had to be good to survive back then. And if I am beginning to sound biased, it is probably because I am, but these men knew what they were doing.
It could be acute nostalgia or subjective analysis but in my time in the game, nothing today compares.
In fact, if we are to label any generation golden, that would be it.
Today, when I look at our current crop of players, I see talent in glimpses and patches. But I also see a lot of lads going through the motions. Yes, a magician pops up from time to time but none of them makes you want to go back and watch them again and again. They make it seem like the local game is just a routine stop-over on their way to that football graveyard that has become of the Vietnams’ semi-professional leagues.
Could it be then that poor attitudes explain the current lack of spark? There are many examples of boys today whose egos are inflated by one good performance. But none of these would match Geoffrey Kateregga for ego, let alone skill. If Kateregga bewitched us for a decade, Mike Sserumagga is struggling to put together a 10-straight game act – that is my point and overall context.
Maybe the environment these days churns out disinterested parties unable to hold their attention for more than a few games? Maybe the apathy in our current crop is a product of playing to empty galleries and watching too much television? Come to think about it, must be hard to maintain concentration in an environment that stopped caring. Whatever the case I would appreciate some insight into why we stopped making them like Fred Tamale.

banturakim@gmail.com

SOURCE: Daily Monitor

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