Why is Uganda Continuing to Fail as a Footballing Nation?

When it comes to renowned footballing nations in Africa, Uganda is, unfortunately, way down the list. The East African nation is listed at 72nd in the FIFA world rankings, way behind the likes of Nigeria and Ivory Coast at 45th and 23rd respectively. While these sides may be respected on the world stage and can rub shoulders with the giants of Europe and South America, Uganda’s national team has never been considered a force in international football. Things need to change at a grassroots level if the country is to compete with the big guns.

Best Finish Came in 1978

There are surely several people outside of Uganda who have never even heard of the country’s football team. Indeed, the Cranes have never qualified for a World Cup, and have only taken part in the Africa Cup of Nations six times. Uganda managed to achieve consecutive appearances in 2017 and 2019 but were unable to follow this up with qualification to the 2021 competition. Their best finish was in 1978, when they finished as runners-up. On every other occasion, though, they were unable to make it out of the group stage.

One positive note for Uganda is that the country is currently ranked number one among the teams in the Council for East and Central Africa Football Associations, having recently won the cup in 2019. This was their second title after claiming it in 1995 as well. However, football lovers in Uganda will be hoping that the country can start pushing towards being a more serious power within Africa in the years ahead. One way to start towards this would be to push harder for qualification for the two major tournaments.

Fans in the Country More Interested in Premier League

The main problem that Uganda has faced over the years had been in trying to market its domestic league to the public. The Ugandan Super League struggles to attract supporters, who are more interested in seeing the higher quality games from elite divisions in other countries. Nearly all the current Uganda squad play their football at clubs in the country, though, and with paltry sums of money being invested into the leagues they are struggling to become as well developed as players from other nations.

Thanks to the rise of the internet across Africa and the greater availability of western content, the English Premier League has taken the country by storm. People in Kampala have been quoted as saying they’d much rather watch the Manchester sides of City and United battling it out on the weekend, than spectate on the lower quality of football available at the MTN Omondi Stadium where Kampala Capital City Authority Football Club play their home games.

Few would dispute that the Premier League is where the main excitement is. This is highlighted by the fact that it is one of the most thriving betting markets in the world, thanks to the close-run title race that occurs most years. This season, there are at least four teams that could be in contention for top honours. As of the 15th of September, City are favourites at odds of 5/4 in the latest football betting odds but Chelsea and Liverpool are not far behind, priced at 11/4 and 4/1 respectively. With thrills like these, it’s no surprise that Ugandans prefer to tune into the English games.

Uganda Should Look to Other African Nations for Inspiration

If Uganda is ever to reach a stage where it can compete with African giants on the football pitch, it will need to look at what has made other countries successful. They could look at why the Ivory Coast has become such a dominant force and try to replicate the methods that the country used to get to that stage.

It’s no secret that the Ivory Coast has one of the best football academies in the world. ASEC Mimosas’ Académie MimoSifcom has produced some of the best African players of all time, including Yaya Toure, Salomon Kalou, and Emmanuel Eboué. It began in 1993, and budding footballers go there to learn their trade alongside other core subjects. This has become known as a football factory for international stars and is a model that countries like Uganda should seek to follow.

It seems that for Uganda to make the step up and become a prominent football nation, two things need to happen. More needs to be done to attract viewers to games in the country so that the league can generate greater revenue. In addition to that, it would be wise to set up footballing academies to nurture homegrown talent

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