Liverpool legend John Barnes has become the latest ex-international figure to join hands in the cause to develop Ugandan football after commissioning the Liverpool International Academy programme in the country, writes JAMES SSEKANDI.
Former England international John Barnes was in Uganda for a ground-breaking Vodafone-Liverpool International Academy programme last weekend. Barnes is the latest of former football greats to visit Uganda for a similar programme.
However, it remains in abeyance having seen such programmes initiated by others before Barnes, fail to either take off or succeed. Can the Vodafone-Liverpool international academy programme leave an indelible mark on the development of young footballers in Uganda? Barnes is optimistic.
"With football there are no shortcuts, there is need for patience and long-term thinking. A productive project may have to take more than 20 years," Barnes said.
He explained that before anything, his major role during this event was to talk to the children and know their dreams.
"To succeed in football, one must have a good mentality, attitude, character and determination. That is where it all starts for these children even before we talk of how to develop them technically," he added.
Vodafone Uganda's chief executive officer, Allan Richardson, said the academy will run weekend programmes at the Hockey ground in Lugogo for the start as they work on getting a permanent home. More than 300 children attended the academy programme, conducted under coaches Andy Nicholas, Craig Malley and Daniel Reece.
Barnes' visit comes months after former Barcelona players Patrick Kluivert, Edgar Davids and Gaizka Mendieta, among others, visited Uganda. Through the RG (Rayco Garcia) Foundation, a football academy was promised and the wait goes on.
In July 2007, former Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand visited Uganda to promote the setting-up of the Proline Soccer Academy. The academy received 30 acres of land from government in June 2010 on a 49-year lease arrangement in Entebbe.
Six years down the road, the academy structures, as Mujib Kasule, the academy director, had promised back then, have never been built. Kasule says they are still looking for sponsors.
Kennedy Mutenyo, promotions' officer of Coca-Cola, the sponsors of the youth football schools tournament, Copa Coca-Cola, is concerned that such academy projects could be frustrated by the wave of playgrounds being taken over by investors in the country.