Bin Asali the corner master and Dolly Mubarak the speed merchant of motor sport. Shaban Yasin, Mathew Lucha, the Jalendo brothers Charles and Khisa in the footballing midfield. Bright Dhaira, the god of goal keeping. Onito and his sons Yokwe and Sebbi the rulers of the golf course. The list of great sporting individuals in endless.
From the 70s all the way to the late 90s, Busoga was the cradle of sports. Producing sportsmen in football, boxing, cricket, hockey, and motorsport to mention but a few.
Before Busoga United, BUL FC and Hippos Rugby team, Busoga had Nile FC, UEB FC (later UMEME FC), Tobacco FC (Blue Bats), Nytil FC, Millers FC, Kakira FC and Victors FC and Nile Rugby club which at one time had Idi Amin (later president) on the team.
In the last 90s into the new millennium, Jinja continued the sports sector feeding the national sports team with now legends like Geoffrey Massa, Simeon Masaba, Jimmy Kidega, Noah Babadi Kasule, Andy Mwesigwa, Timothy Batabaire and Abby Dhaira in the Uganda cranes. Charles Waiswa and Emmanuel Isaneez in Cricket.
The question is, can Jinja tap into its past glory to once again rule the country’s sports line ups?
And, with the great River Nile and its Source and the Lake Victoria on its western banks, can the Jinja tap into its sports potential to project itself as a sports tourism hub of Uganda and the East Africa?
Busoga Kingdom minister for sports Owek. Amin Nkono Bbosa is confident Busoga region has the potential of tapping into its past glory to once again rule the country’s sports.
“We can get back to the top though to get there, we have to reorganize ourselves from the sports administrators to the players.
“Those olden days, those managing sports were very passionate and put all they had for the sports. The same applied to the players, they minded more about exceling unlike today when many of our players are mostly mindful about money forgetting that money comes after you nurturing your talent and exceling,” he said.
Sports tourism is a leisure-based travel that takes individuals temporarily outside of their home communities to participate and or watch physical activities or to venerate attractions associated with physical activities.
Sport tourists select and look for a city to experience “unique” sport tourism components like physical activities or sport events.
While most cities in Uganda are not primarily designed for sport tourism Jinja city has the basics like accessibility in terms of transportation and highway access, it has basic sporting facilities like a Golf Course, a Cricket Oval, a rugby pitch and tennis courts, not to mention the great source of the Nile. The city also has hotels and lodging facilities that are fit for purposes. What could be lacking is local government (city) involvement.
Indeed, Mr Jacob Yateesa one a sports journalist on one of the radio stations in Jinja says the ground is fertile for sports tourism in Busoga now that many sports activities are running in the region. “Many people are coming to Busoga because of the Kigulu Hill climbing, others come to follow motor sport especially when we have competitions in Busoga,” he said.
Ms Vivian Mpango, the director operations at East Enders Sports Hub, a newly established sports talent development and sports events company says the city and the region’s stake holders need to look back to what made it possible for sports to prosper in the region and do exactly that.
“Things like cohesion. The community would stand as one whenever talent was identified to support these people both morally and economically because they wanted the best to come from their regions.
“We no longer see that these days. If we borrowed or got the same culture we would get back to those heights,” she said.
In disciplines like motor sport, the region had people like Muhammed Kisingo (1960s) late Sosipeter Munyegera, Ben Koyesiga and Yusuf Kalimali. Right now, people like Peter Brown, Ahmed Kawesa, Mansoor Sanya, Abdul Nyombi, Jamada Lwabaga are ruling the circuits,
In weight lifting there was Mariam Nalubanga, Ssenfuma Tom now a coach of black Monsters, Betty Namusoke and Katende Ibrahim.
In cricket Busoga College Mwiri won the Coca Cola Cricket week a record ten times consecutively producing players like Kenneth Kamyuka who later went and played for Canada among other players. Jinja SSS and St James too have had their share in schools’ cricket too.
The Eastern Motor Club Chairman Peter Brown Kyemba is optimistic about the future of sports in the region. “Motor sport is growing fast in Busoga because of the good leadership and unity among the drivers though what hinders sometimes is the fact that the sport is expensive,” he said.
Fred Makoha a former cranes player is however pessimistic “Now day’s people are playing for money, it’s not like our days when we used to feel proud in the national colors,” he said.
A prayer for Jinja and Busoga to roar again and make people travel to the city for sports fun is however being said.
“We used to follow sports in the early 1980s, I could also play football as we had Nytil, Grain Millers, Tobacco and the likes of Nile FC. That time Busoga had serious sports activities. Going by the look of things lately, looks like we are getting back the past glory,” Pastor Zacharia Sserwadda of Evangel Church World Vision said, adding that they as pastors continue to pray for that glory.