To have a wonderful playing surface such as this one (pictured) of the 19th May 1956 stadium, Annaba, Algeria, there are certain sacrifices that must be made.
And in Uganda we lack the discipline for that.
The late Balamazze Lwanga(RIP) was the first stadium Manager of Mandela National Stadium, Namboole, when it first opened to the public in 1998.
And he was very very strict, that nobody who’s not a football player in football boots & technical staff, should be allowed to step on the Namboole playing turf, which by Ugandan standards was very impressive. And he was very strict too in that the main stadium pitch is used strictly for competition. Training sessions must take place on the outer pitch, which too had an impressive playing surface.
The response from the public was to ridicule him(Balamazze), “Ako akasajja kalugezigezi, tekagya kumalako….ebyo tebikola wano.”
And surprisingly the ridicule included from the SC Villa and KCC FC Management that were using the stadium as their home ground, and the Uganda Cranes Management, people you would ordinarily expect to know better and appreciate the importance of a good playing surface.
Slowly by slowly, Balamazze Lwanga was overpowered, people started stepping on the Namboole turf with ordinary shoes, both before and after matches, teams including SC Villa, KCC FC and Uganda Cranes, started to use the main pitch for training sessions. And the result was a gradual degeneration of the main pitch, with small ant hills springing up all over the pitch, probably because of bacteria ‘imported’ onto the surface by people, who had absolutely no business being on that Namboole turf. It was the very exact effect the late Balamazze Lwanga was keen to avoid.
So as the State Minister of Sports, Hon Peter Ogwang leads a crusade to renovate Namboole stadium to FIFA and CAF standards, the most critical area, will have to be the discipline exhibited, as far as the playing surface is concerned.
And ooh….the outer playing pitch at Namboole, must as must be a part of the rehabilitation process, so that teams have no excuse to demand to train on the main pitch of the Namboole stadium.
Prestine and immaculately kept pitches like those we see weekend after weekend in the English Premier League, are never used for training sessions. Those clubs, have their training grounds(eg Man United has Carrington as its training center, not The Old Trafford Stadium), and use the stadiums strictly competitions.