English Soccer Overshadows Uganda’s Donestic League
CUE: Uganda was one of Africa’s powerful soccer nations in the 1960s, 70s and early 80s. The Uganda Cranes finished fourth in the 1962 African cup of nations and did even better in 1978, only losing to the mighty Ghana in the finals. Football attracted a massive following in the East African country, with the local league playing to packed stadiums. All that has changed since English Premier League matches became available to Ugandan viewers on satellite television. Interest in the local league has since dropped dramatically.
Today, the biggest local matches in the Ugandan Super League can hardly attract 3000 spectators. Our reporter Andrew Kabuura is in Uganda and now brings us more on the demise of local soccer.
FX: Soccer fans in a local video hall watching a premiership match. 00:09”
NARRATION A: I am seated among about 200 soccer fans in a make-shift video hall commonly known as “kibanda” at the Kawempe trading centre, a Kampala suburb. We are watching premiership giants Manchester United in a tantalising clash with arch rivals Liverpool. Many of the fans here are dressed in the colours of their favourite team. They come in all ages. Any one of them can tell you the latest premiership news without hesitation. Such is their confidence that many have placed bets on the outcome of today’s encounter.
LINK: The atmosphere in here is electric.
FX 1: Fans celebrating 00:03”
NARRATION B: Premier League matches were first screened in Uganda in 1995. They took the country by storm. The fans quickly pledged their loyalties to teams they fancied. Many were simply swayed by peer pressure. This created excitement across the nation as the “world’s most watched and glamorous league” attracted more and more followers.
I asked fans to explain the magic of the premier league.
Voxpop 1: the reason……..Wenger 00:27”
NARRATION C: But not everybody is cheering. Stakeholders in Ugandan football are now openly blaming the English and other European leagues for the demise of local soccer. At its inception in 1968, the super league, as it’s called today, attracted thousands of fans to the different stadiums across Uganda. People viewed the league as their own and took a lot of pride in it.
And on match-day, police had to be deployed at stadiums to direct traffic and keep order as fans squeezed through the gates to catch a glimpse of their local idols.
Clip 3: when……believe….00:03”
Narration I: Forty-five-year-old Sabitti Muwanga was always part of the crowd
Clip 3: I personally….market 00:16”
NARRATION D: But that was then. Today, the big matches between traditional giants like KCC, Sc Villa and Express attract fewer than 3000 fans compared to an average 15,000 some 10 or 15 years ago.
I asked Edward Katende, an ardent follower of the domestic league, whether the premier league could be the reason for the low turnout.
CLIP 4: Definitely………better deal. 00:14”
NARRATION E: The Premier League is not just popular because of its beautiful football style; the fans here in Uganda also find it cheaper to watch at subsided prices in the local video halls for less than a dollar per two matches. Others listen to live translated commentary on various local radio stations.
But can anything be done to revive interest in the domestic league?
CLIP 5: first and foremost……….product interest 00:11”
NARRATION F: Despite the overpowering appeal of English football, soccer analysts believe there are other factors that have kept fans away from domestic matches.
James Bakama and Aldrine Nsubuga are celebrated columnists in Uganda’s leading daily, the New Vision.
Voxpop 2: Violence…..down. 00:17”
NARRATION G: The English Premier League is rated by many as the most popular in the world. This is hardly surprising judging by the huge revenues generated by the league and salaries the players are paid weekly. Top ranked players like John Terry and Emmanuel Adebayor earn over 130,000 pounds a weeks.
Many youngsters in this country also hope to emulate these superstars in the future and for this, they have kept their eyes glued to TV with unprecedented addiction.
Clip 6: Premier league audio with West African players. Play and fade under voice 00:05”
NARRATION H: In West Africa, the English Premier League is equally popular largely because many West Africans play in England. The West Africans have however kept true to their domestic leagues with fans thronging stadiums on match-day. To Egypt, the population takes a lot of pride in the local league, whose players make up over 80% of the national team.
Unlike in Uganda, the quality of the domestic game in Egypt is of a standard comparable to that in Europe. This has probably helped keep the fans coming to the stadiums. It would seem safe to predict that until standards improve dramatically in the local Ugandan league; fans looking for more thrilling entertainment will stay glued to TV screens showing English soccer.
Reporting from Uganda, for the 2010 World Cup, this is Andrew Kabuura
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