DAVID ISABIRYE: Current state of Uganda’s sports infrastructure needs a complete overhaul

Perez
Nakivubo Stadium stands demolished

The Entebbe Katabi Gombolola playground rests on a 50 hectare Kitubulu Forest Reserve piece of land.

The all sandy ground is not only situated besides the famous Lake Victoria water body, but also found a stone throw away from the busy Entebbe – Kampala Highway right opposite the headquarters of Katabi Gombolola Town Council.

The ground has existed for more than 20 years and ‘baby seated’ outspoken players in the country active and retired.

Katabi Gombolola ground is just one of the hundreds of examples for Uganda’s sub-standard sports facilities.

Dry patched playgrounds decimated by portions of ‘small grass’ define many a typical Ugandan sports field.

© Kawowo Sports | DAVID ISABIRYE
Saidon Bogere of Masavu prepares to cross the ball at Katabi Gombolola playground in Entebbe

From West Nile across over to Busia, Nakapiripirit downwards Kisoro via Kabale, many sports facilities are in a messy state in Uganda.

The rampant land bonanza, rapid population growth and high rate of commercialization has witnessed blood shed when less sports caring people embedded under the disguise of ‘investors’ always fight for every existing open space to erect sky scrappers and posh living houses.

The blame game could partially be shifted to the environmental activists who at most times have done little to save the green hectares of open spaces.

Well documented tales of how golf course land is being apportioned for commercial use are endless in this country, once described ‘Pearl of Africa’ by former British Governor of the Equatorial Province, Sir Winston Churchill in the 1890’s.

A basketball court in the heart of Hoima Municipality

Government and filthy rich personalities have also done little to join hands in the struggle of construction and preservation of sports amenities.

Maintenance of the existing sports facilities has also been a missing link as many fields have been thrown to the dogs.

In Nelson Mandela National stadium (Namboole), Uganda has one huge amenity with most sporting disciplines (volleyball, track and field, basketball, handball, netball, tennis as well as many indoor sports) catered for.

Since Namboole was officially handed over to the Uganda Government in 1998, careless maintenance has witnessed decay of the once treasured stadium.

In fact, most facilities have been under-utilized at Namboole since inception because of high charges levied on individual sportsmen, organized sporting groups and federations alike.

DAVID ISABIRYE
Action at the Masaka recreational stadium involving the Uganda Cranes and the Buganda team during the ‘Na-Mutima’ tours

In Kampala alone, only Mutesa II Wankulukuku stadium and the Phillip Omondi Lugogo astro turf stand out. Wakiso District has the St Mary’s Stadium – Kitende, Champions Stadium – Mwererwe and Kavumba Recreational Stadium.

The rest are school fields owned by secondary and university institutions such as Makerere, Kibuli, Kawempe Muslim, Buddo, and the like.

There is an urgent call for more government involvement in setting up other facilities across the country in the name of regional stadia.

Questions are being asked about what really went wrong at the once treasured Pece Stadium in Gulu, Kakyeeka in Mbarara, Lira, Boma grounds in Hoima and Masindi, Luwero, Masaka, Mbale Municipal stadium, Tororo Stadium, Kabale, Kamuli, Bugembe in Jinja and many other facilities circulated around town.

With belief that Nakivubo Stadium in the heart of Kampala City will be upgraded to a modern stadium going by plans unveiled by young billionaire Hamis ‘Ham’ Kiggundu, there is hope that Uganda will acquire its second all-seater stadium after Namboole by the close of 2018.

© Kawowo Sports | JOHN BATANUDDE
Lawrence Mulindwa slopes down the steps of St. Mary’s Stadium. He has personally engineered the work at the facility

Recently, there was excitement when Lawrence Mulindwa injected personal resources to upgrade St Mary’s training ground to now a modern 20,000 seater stadium with well-furnished locker rooms, parking yard, fans stands, media center and training ground.

Individuals like Mulindwa are a rare breed in this country, personalities who sacrifice finances that would be used elsewhere for sports infrastructural development.

House of Walker, Kampala
A golfer chips to the 9th pin towards the Club House at the serene Lake Victoria Serena Golf facility

The same script can be penned down in the lavish Serena Lake Victoria Golf Spa facility found in Kigo, off Entebbe road near Lweza.

The country needs many of those facilities owned by Government and individuals alike.

More up to standard racing tracks and circuit parks should be put in put with plans to up grade the existing ones at Busiika, Nsiimbe Estate and Garuga for the development of motocross and rallying.

© Kawowo Sports | JOHN BATANUDDE
Olivia Van Pee at Garuga race track. More of these parks need to be put in place

The Lugogo Indoor Arena aside, Uganda also needs more state of art indoor facilities in Kampala and the countryside.

Games as Chess, Darts, Badminton, Volleyball, Table Tennis, Hockey, Squash, Boxing, Basketball, Handball, Pool, Ludo and the alike require respectable homes.

© Kawowo Sports | AISHA NAKATO
Power’s Isaac Afidra makes a pass during the play offs against KIU Titans at Lugogo. Uganda needs more facilities like the Lugogo Indoor Arena

By and large, the current state of sports infrastructure in Uganda has been wanting for years.

This is the reason, it remains a big concern for the populous and a big stumbling block for affluent sports development in the country.