Uganda was ruled as a British protectorate by the beginning of 1894 with the colonial masters establishing administrative laws across the territory but on 9 October 1962, she gained her independence from the UK.
Among the activities that were lined-up during the inaugural Uganda independence day celebrations were sports competitions and the most notable the independence football tournament that was hosted between 29th September to 18th October 1962 that featured three visiting teams of Ghana, an ‘all-star’ representative team from the English Isthmian League and Kenya who were invited to replace Egypt.
The West Africans won the historical cup at the Nakivubo War Memorial Stadium.
Sport clearly has a special place in the history of this country but the sector continues to struggle for independence 58 years after the country was set free.
With just four days to the 58th independence anniversary, the Nakivubo War Memorial Stadium that hosted the first-ever independence tournament is literally no more. The historical stadium cannot host a single sport with fears that it might be gone for good as it was almost turned into a business complex.
The facility that harbors countless sports memories was constructed in 1921 by the colonialists as a native recreation ground, but since it was leased to city businessman Hamis Kiggundu in 2017 with the hope of having it upgraded to modern standards, there is little to keep the hope that Ugandan sport will return to its perennial home.
Nakivubo was a home of several national and international football activities, the home of the famous Kampala boxing club, National Insurance Cooperation netball club, and having a bodybuilding gym but the facility is now surrounded by shopping malls.
The national stadium, the Mandela National Stadium is struggling to meet FIFA and CAF standards and is under serious threat by encroachers.
According to Dr. Bernard Patrick Ogwel the General Secretary of the National council of sports, sport has not lost yet as the government is committed to putting all national and regional sports facilities to required standards.
Currently, the biggest multipurpose sports facility in the country, with venues for football, volleyball, netball, cycling, and athletics among others, the Mandela National Stadium was reserved by the government of Uganda as a health facility to supplement on the existing facilities during the fight against the COVID 19 pandemic.
“As the government, we are committed to the development of sports infrastructure. The government signed a contract with two experts to do a feasibility study for Buhinga and Akii-Bua of which all was a success. We shall start with national training centers and go for all the traditional facilities in 18 sub-regions of Uganda. For Namboole it is a special arrangement because the minister and the team made an assessment for the stadium and its renovation was divided into three phases and we are waiting for cabinet approval for the work to go on and I am sure that the stadiums shall be done,” Ogwel told this website.
But all hope is not gone. Last year the president of Uganda Yoweri Kaguta Museveni while speaking at a statehouse sports and teachers’ luncheon, provided a ray of hope that the Nakivubo War Memorial Stadium will be constructed as promised by the developer. This year, Hamis Kiggundu himself also assured Ugandans that by 2022, the Stadium will be done, and sports activity will fully return, so let’s keep the faith.
Happy Independence Day fellow countrymen and women.
By Fredrick Kalyango