The first 22 days of the Startimes Uganda Premier League have proved among other things that indeed young footballers are the way to go and perhaps should be trusted more by their coaches.
Over the years, Ugandan coaches have been obsessed with this thing called ‘experience’ with the same players hoping from club to club at times giving the impression that mother land had stopped producing footballers.
Without mentioning names, there are players who have played for every top club in the league. Not that they all did not deserve to be at those clubs but the question is weren’t there young players who could fit in the same positions? well may be, may be not.
Or is it just a case of sticking to the norm, that has seen people cling to jobs in other fields all in the name of being more experienced than the tens of thousands of young un employed university graduates.
I will stick to sport. Unlike most other professionals where people can work till their 70s, age is not a luxury for footballers. The ordinary outfield footballer begins to ware out at 30-32 years, yet at the same age, a professional in a different field is just at beginning of his/her career.
It is therefore a disservice to the players, the game and the country for coaches to sideline players aged 18-24 because of their ‘lack of experience’. Experience in football can only be got on the pitch, and not the bench or out of the squad.
A few coaches in the top flight have started trusting these youngsters over the more experienced and more times than not, they have delivered.
Those who have been around Ugandan football for some time will attest that KCCA FC manager Mike Mutebi is one such manager who has always given young players a chance.
Julius Poloto, Allan Okello, Mustafa Kizza, Lawrence Bukenya, Peter Magambo, Herbert Achai, Filbert Obenchan, Stephen Sserwada, (the list in endless), are examples of the the young players who have been key in one of the most successful stories Ugandan football has had.
Of course these have been balanced with some experience around them but take nothing away from their contribution to KCCA FC’s local and continental success in recent years.
Take Okello, Poloto and Kizza for example, all born after 1999, these kids have gone on to influence games for the 12 time league winners in the Ugandan league and in CAF Competitions.
Poloto scored the goal that won the garbage collectors their 10th Uganda cup title last season against Vipers, and it was assisted by Okello.
Okello himself scored a beauty against Al Ahly in the CAF champions league last season, on top of a few assists earlier on the continent and in the league.
For Mustafa Kizza, the left wing back made the highest number of assists last season in all competitions, 18, and is already topping the chats this season with 10.
In an exclusive interview with Nile post, these players all highlighted how their coaches’ trust has been key in their development.
“Its because of the coach’s confidence in us that we play in the UPL, we could disappoint when we played bad but kept encouraging us thus improving, Many players were promoted with us but are not where we are,” now said Allan Okello.
“Not all coaches believe in young players but Mike Mutebi did, we we promoted from the u17, trained and groomed well and that’s why we are playing now, “ added Poloto.
Mutebi also revealed what it takes to identify and develop young players.
“ Scouting players need time, its better to get players at a young age so you can groom them and tell them what to do as they develop, coaches have to create an environment that makes a player think this is their profession.” He said.
Other coaches have also shown some trust to young players. Vipers for example have one of the best revelations in the league, left back Aziz Kayondo who on his debut assisted the first goal in their 3-0 thumping of Bright stars at the St. Mary’s stadium. The assist was too another young star Stephen Mukwala who was netting his first league goal for the Venoms.
Kayondo also provided for Dan Sserunkuma against Express FC in their recent 2-0 victory.
The Kitende based side has also brought young stars like Ibrahim Tembo, and Geoffrey Wasswa among others who have all impressed when given a chance.
Sports Club Villa has also brought players like Charles Lwanga from their junior side and the young forward has paid for his coaches’ trust with three crucial goals already for the record league winners, plus defender Derrick Ndahiro who has been one of their better players this season.
I can go on an on with the number of young players who have emerged as starters for their clubs this season, and the conclusion that if one is good enough they are old enough wouldn’t be a far fetched one.