UHA empty promises marked another disappointing year

KAMPALA

Most stakeholders will take 2014 as the year Uganda Hockey Association (UHA) promised a lot but delivered very little.
UHA promised to organize veterans and primary schools’ tournaments to build hockey from the grassroots while also keeping other stakeholders relevant but they failed.
Embarrassingly, the association could not utilise an opportunity given to them by Kinetic Management Group (KMG) to market the sport. KMG, a sports marketing and promotion agency, organised a five-aside football tournament at Lugogo Hockey Grounds every Friday night for eight weeks starting April.
In turn, UHA were supposed to ride on this popular activity to showcase hockey to the public by staging a few exhibition matches but this also failed miserably as non of the events on those eight Friday nights showed hockey was played at the astro-turf grounds.
Hockey continued to be one of the least marketed sports in the country and one that has struggled to bring sponsors on board to finance various activities. The burden of ensuring there is financial muscle to run activities has been shifted to the players.
Encroachers on the Lugogo pitch continued to prey as talk of fencing the hockey stadium hit a dead end. Even the floodlights given to UHA by KMG after the five-aside football tourney have since been tucked away in the store.
Poor quality clubs
The number of clubs playing hockey in the country have remained the same five for the men, three for the women.
Prisons and Deliverance Church were allowed all the time by the authorities to register for the league but they didn’t meet requirements especially the financial ones. Simba, however, managed to re-register after nearly two years of inaction.
Hosting the 26th edition of the Africa Cup of Club Championships (ACCC) at Lugogo in January was the arguably the biggest achievement for the local game. Despite doubts about Uganda’s preparedness, UHA pulled the strings and saw through the continental tournament that brought together six countries.
The performance of local teams, though, left a lot to be desired. Only Weatherhead women managed a semi-final finish. Wanainchi men started off well with a draw against Ghana’s Golden Sticks but capitulated in the last three pool games, losing to Sharkia (Egypt), Sikh Union (Kenya) and Yobe (Nigeria) and consequently finishing last in their pool.
Kampala Hockey Club (KHC) men and women had a performance to forget as they conceded a combined 62 goals. The KHC executive elected to dismiss coach Adhil Rhana from his duties and the chairman Ronald Kawalya has since taken over the coaching duties for the men’s side. Kawalya even travelled to Bulawayo, Zimbabwe for the 27th edition of the ACCC last month to enhance his skills. The KHC women’s side has struggled to settle in with one coach and the vindication is in their performances.
Moses Nsereko took the mantle in January for the ACCC but stopped midway the season.
A coaching crisis nearly tore the team apart but Jonathan Ssekalagala and Derrick Ringtho stepped in to steer the side to a few open tournament triumphs.
Back then, the players blamed lack of local competitions for their ACCC woes after the 2013 league was scrapped off the UHA calendar by the association due to internal conflicts.
But in April, when they were called up for national team training in preparation for the Nile Basin tournament, national team coach James Sserwada, still complained of player fitness. Coincidentally, the tournament never took place.
The biggest embarassment is that nearly a year after hosting, Uganda couldn’t send a team to the 27th edition of the ACCC in Zimbabwe last month. National league champions Weatherhead (women) and Wanainchi (men)ited lack of funds and unpreparedness for skipping the continental tournament.
Clearly, the state of hockey in the country is not getting better. The national league is less competitive and the fan base hasn’t grown remarkably either. Tournaments were hampered by failure of clubs to clear participation fees. The league committee ditched playing games for 40 minutes to the standard format of 70 minutes. For the women, such games became hard to manage and fitness issues still told.
Wanainchi and Weatherhead easily won the league. Only Wanainchi women tried to mount a challenge but their season suffered a major setback after they lost points to eventual champions Weatherhead A for failing to clear league participation fees.
The open tournaments were marred by absenteeism. League champions Wanainchi men only appeared in their own Wanainchi Open, opting out of the others due to lack of funds. Such was the financial bother on clubs.
Regional hope
The overall quality of Open competitions was wanting and players questioned whether there was value for money if games lasted 20 minutes and a whole tournament was played in less than two days.
Some clubs sought to seek a better challenge from all over the East African region. KHC men made a good account of themselves in the Maseno Open in Kenya, where they finished as semi-finalists, just a fortnight after ACCC. Simba, too, traveled to Nairobi for the Vaisakhi tournament but they lost all their two games in April.
In the Phoenix Hockey Championships in Tanga, KHC finished as runners -up after getting even with ACCC tormentors Kenya Police in the semi-finals.
Still this doesn’t show where these clubs lie in comparison with giant clubs from Egypt, South Africa and Ghana. Only taking another shot at ACCC would have helped local clubs find out.

2014 winners
SMACK OPEN
Men: KHC
Women: Weatherhead
Easter Tournament
Men: Wanainchi
Women: KHC
WEATHERHEAD OPEN
Men: KHC
Women: Weatherhead
WANAINCHI OPEN
Men: Simba
Women: Weatherhead
NAMAGUNGA OPEN
Men: Weatherhead
Women: KHC
INDEPENDENCE CUP
Men: KHC
Women: Weatherhead
PHOENIX CHAMPIONSHIPS
KHC were runners-up.

mmuziransa@ug.nationmedia.com

SOURCE: Daily Monitor

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