Fair play is one of the fundamental principles for which the game of football is based. With fair play, football is a joy to behold for everyone doesn’t matter if your playing or watching from the stands.
But just like any other principle of our societies, fair play is the most tried and tested principle as people seek to gain unfair advantage over their opponents for the purpose of fulfilling their selfish desires and goals, even when they have the might to achieve it by breaking a little sweat.
Over the years, football in Uganda has experienced the lowest of lows regarding unfair, unjust and pre-determined results, sadly perpetrated by the very people who should be upholding the principles of the game.
The biggest of those scandals came in 2004, the year football ceased to be a game for all. The story has been degraded to a joke, but it is one that has shaped Ugandan football since then.
SC Villa had won the title for six consecutive years, but rivals Express were determined to end their grip on the title. Heading into the final fixture of the season, Villa needed to win by a huge margin to seal the title; luckily, they had already relegated side AKOL to play on the final day.
Matchday, AKOL show up with few players who are supplemented by Villa’s fringe players, they lose 22-1, enough to win Villa their 16th league title, but football suffered a disaster.
Fast forward to 2019, and the wounds suffered after the 2004 scandal are yet to heal, with football yet again still tumbling down the dreaded road of MATCH FIXING. But how much have football’s stakeholders done to arrest this monster.
The biggest stakeholders of the game are the players. They toil 90 minutes on the turf trying to achieve victory for their teams, as well as get paid for doing something they would do for free. But it is these players who are the biggest promoters of match fixing.
Often, we have seen an error, a complete misjudgment, an episode of madness or even what we may perceive as clever play from the players. But in actual sense all these situations are planned prior to the game.
To error is human, and these players know they can walk away with unscathed from an error but two million bucks richer.
These players are the catalysts and the biggest brokers for these scams. The mafia works through fellow players who transmit the money and expectations from the pay to their mates. A player might pocket between UGX 500,000 and as high as UGX 5,000,000 for a game, it depends on what is at stake.
This 2019/2020 season is just eight games old, but money has already been paid to players from various teams to fix results. The biggest culprits are those involved with the mid-table and relegation threatened teams.
The Clubs: KCCA coach Mike Mutebi intimated recently that league trophies in the last 20 seasons have all been fixed.
Many thought he was blushing, some called it mind games, and he was sanctioned by FUFA for an investigation into his claims. Whatever happened behind the scenes, was never released, but Mutebi could have been right.
Clubs and their officials rely more on fixing results, some for glory and achievement while others for the money involved. Clubs viewed as the epitome of success are actually breeding grounds for match fixing scams, with others settling for mediocrity because they earn a few extra millions of shillings from it at the end of the season.
Top officials treat match fixing as an income generating activity, to the extent of giving directives to coaches and players regarding a certain game, and what the result should be, not to see a turnaround in results, but to earn themselves some cash especially after they ensure survival or confirm relegation.
Little wonder a club would sack their head coach days after delivering league success, or a relegation struggler would pick up a massive victory over a team in the top five.
The Federation of Uganda Football Associations (FUFA), the custodians of the game in the country have also played a role in seeing the vice creep back into the game.
FUFA have been strong against match fixing and unfairness, but in cases they have been found wanting in administering over cases of match fixing. Clubs have sacked coaches, and players who have been found guilty of match fixing, but FUFA have turned a blind eye in sanctioning other relevant punishments against these individuals, and have happily allowed them to continue their careers at other clubs.
Federation officials have also been indicated in match fixing rings, aiding in pre-determining results especially for clubs in which they harbor interests and support. For them, they close deal with the match officials who they expressively give instructions about their interests.
FUFA by now should know better that they stand to carry the dead wood should football slip back to the dark days of 2004. Therefore, a house clean-up is required before they can be in position of gunning down the individuals who engineer results.
As the fourth estate, we should as well take portion for promoting match fixing. A couple of media personnel have been proprietors of huge match fixing schemes, getting money from overseas bosses, which they pay to players under instructions.
Reason some quickly jump in defence of their accomplices after they receive a public lashing for their poor performances.
The Ugandan league is listed by many betting companies around the world, making it an easy target for agents world over. The biggest payers come from mainland European countries, Serbia, Croatia, Andorra and the likes.
Football stakeholders need to work in tandem if they are to kick out this scourge of match fixing that threatens to kill the game in country, at a time when it is slowly but steadily finding back its roots in society and attracting an ever-increasing interest from the populations.
Click here to vote for your 256 Footballer of the Year