The name World Wide Futsal for the section including this article is no coincidence. After travelling to the cold lands of Finland, we are now heading to somewhere a little bit warmer…
Thanks to the magical powers of the Internet, in fact, we could find a new league in Central East Africa, on the shores of the immense Lake Victoria. More precisely, we are going to Kampala, capital of Uganda. The land of the cranes (as they also call their football national team) has just started to know futsal. The champion of the first edition of the national league is going to be proclaimed next May.
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¿How do you start a league?
The inaugural edition of the Ugandan Futsal Super League began at the end of 2017 with 12 teams (now 11) and will end on May 5th 2018. The League champion will be the team with the most points at the end of the season, without playing playoff rounds.
Jjunju Hamzah is the league’s main architect. Founder and President of Futsal Association Uganda (FAU), he was the first to introduce futsal in the country. According to what he tells us via e-mail, Hamzah got interested in futsal because he wanted to “play a role in opening up and diversifying the football sector”. But most importantly, he meant to use futsal to enhance the skills of football players. However, he and his co-workers soon realised that it could be developed as a sport on its own.
Three years of futsal
It all started in 2015, when Hamzah founded FAU and organised the first ‘formal’ torunaments. “We began with the Corporate Gala and the Inter University Gala”, he declared last November to local website Kawowo.
In 2016 and 2017, other Galas were played. They were one–day, single edition events with no continuity, but they achieved growing success. Another “major milestone” was FAU’s admission as associate members of FUFA, the Federation of Uganda Football Associations, highlighted Hamzah in the same interview.
In 2016, the Mini League took place as well. It was the first experiment of a longer championship (from March to May). One year later, the Super League was announced. The 2017-18 season began with the Supercup on October 26th. The champions of the 2016 Mini League, Sauna FC, played against the runner-ups Typhoon, who won the match and the trophy.
A good start
Considering that futsal in Uganda started completely from scratch three years ago, the League reception has been quite encouraging: “on average we get 100-150 fans per match day, who pay to watch games” in facilities with a capacity of 300 people.
The same can be said for futsal’s presence in the Ugandan media. Updates of the Super League appear at least once a week on print, as well as online, on TV and radio. “We believe more coverage will come as we continue to professionalise the game”.
Jjunju relies on the teams’ help to build a fan base, as “clubs are closer to fans than the association”.
The matches are all played in Kampala, in the same facility, as all teams of the league are from the capital. However, FAU plans to spread the sport in other areas of the country with the institution of regional championships, as well as school and university tournaments. “The facilities are centrally located, but we are going to approach private investors to make sure futsal structures are well spread in the country” Hamzah explains.
Futsal for everybody
The Somali Community League took place between January and February 2018. That was another experiment by Hamzah to promote the game in Uganda. After the Somali tournament, FAU got in touch with other communities, such as the Pakistani, to develop the project. The President believes that the leagues for minority groups can “open up the game to all communities in the country”.
The goal, of course, is to involve everybody in the national league. “We are preparing a paper which details the conditions to fulfil in order to play in the Super League. Furthermore, we are going to introduce a lower division league to open up the competition to more teams.”
The first Futsal Uganda Cup was also announced in these days. The Cup is planned to take place from May to June, right after the end of the Super League. FAU tries to include clubs and fans from outside Kampala by opening registration to all teams around the country.
‘Training’ and ‘facilities’ are key concepts
In November, Jjunju mentioned resources, facilities, knowledge and understanding of the game, along with the lack of professionalism, as the main challenges. This surely cannot be solved in less than six months, but it is also true that you can already notice some change. First of all, as Hamzah confirms, the league “has made people believe that [futsal] is a serious sport”, while it was only considered as a leisure activity in the past.
On the other hand, many difficulties still persist: “the facilities are still few, we need more that suit international standards”.
As for the knowledge of the game, this is improving: “the Association is organising courses to improve the understanding of the game. At the same time, we are going to try to get partnerships with already developed nations to assist in training our members in administration, coaching and refereeing.”
The President knows that professionalising a game “is a step-by-step process. Training our members on that will be vital in changing their mindset”.
What about the national team?
Very little is known about futsal in Africa in general. Egypt, Morocco and Libya are the three most popular national teams, as they are the most successful. The Ugandan National team has to be born yet. In the same interview for Kawowo, Hamzah said he aims to play the qualifiers for the African Cup of 2020. “Our aim still stands,” he confirms.
Talking about his ‘neighbours’, “Kenya and Tanzania have begun” to work to have a national team.
“We are in touch with these countries and we are trying to see how we can work as a unit to develop the game”.
The attention of the institutions
Monday March 26th was a great day, as Moses Magogo (FUFA President) and members of CAF Beach Soccer & Futsal Committee attended a Super League match. On the same day, a meeting was held in Entebbe between FAU members and their guests. It was the perfect chance for Hamzah and his team to show to CAF what they achieved and the difficulties they faced in these first three years. The members of the African football organisation could “see physically what we do amidst the challenges”.
Hamzah and his Association hope that the event facilitates their pursuit of resources and sponsorhips, both for the development of futsal in Uganda and for the training of those who are part of it.
Author: Emanuele Risso (@eman_risso)
Cover Image: Twitter (@FAU_Uganda y @FutsalSupaLiigi)