Uganda’s 2027 Afcon bid could be a pipe dream

Uganda submitted the Pamoja bid alongside Kenya and Tanzania.

BEN MISAGGA Uganda’s 2027 Afcon bid could be a pipe dream

Immanuel Ben Misagga • 06:28 - 31.05.2023

The Pamoja joint bid is up against other bids from Algeria, Botswana and Egypt.

Uganda’s joint bid with Kenya and Tanzania to host the 2027 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) is a welcome development that, if successful, could greatly improve the potential of our sport on top of improving our infrastructure network. 

It makes more sense when you add the usual narratives, such as attracting a large influx of tourists, national pride and international attention. 

The Pamoja joint bid is up against other bids from Algeria, Botswana and Egypt.

For the government, an AFCON tournament in Uganda can have lasting legacy effects beyond Uganda’s hosting of the OAU summit in 1975 or the 2007 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM). 

However, it is important to note that while hosting AFCON offers several advantages, it also comes with preparation challenges and costs. Any missed step along the way can be disastrous for the country.

For instance, a prospective host country must have a guaranteed all-inclusive strategy involving government and private sector players. 

Unfortunately, FUFA, the brains behind the hosting idea, don’t seem to have or comprehend the proper roadmap for a successful execution of an Afcon tournament.

Time is of the essence, and between now and August 15, when the continental football body (CAF) announces the winning bid, we, as Uganda, have our work cut out.

Between June 1 and July 15, CAF will commence inspection visits among the bidding countries. The question is, "What do we have to offer as Uganda? Is this a serious bid, or is Fufa just posturing? 

Even if the Pamoja bid wins, does Uganda have what it takes to host a tournament of that magnitude?

From a planning perspective, there would by now be a plan for a new stadium because, according to the Pamoja bid, each country would, at the bare minimum, be required to have at least two internationally rated stadiums to host eight of the 24 tournament nations.

Kenya and Tanzania already have plans for this, but there is nothing to make of it in Uganda.

However, matters are not helped by the fact that just a few weeks ago, Moses Magogo, the FUFA president, wrote off and dismissed the gallant efforts by the UPDF engineering brigade to renovate Namboole stadium by describing the work as so shoddy that it should be stopped and a new contractor assigned the job. 

So, how do you expect the same person to persuade African football associations (FAs) to support Uganda’s bid to host games in a ‘shoddy’ stadium? It cannot get any more unpatriotic.

What’s more, Uganda will need to construct at least eight special training pitches to be used by each of the countries that may camp in the country. 

To date, we only have one in Njeru, and the situation is not helped by the fact that Fufa, the protagonists of the bid, even failed to complete a fully-funded three-year Fifa deal to develop Kadiba stadium in Mengo.

That aside, we all know the once prestigious Nakivubo stadium cannot host international games, mostly on safety and security grounds. 

This calls for constructing a second stadium, whose cost cannot go below Shs 700 billion. By now, there would have already been a plan in place for a new stadium, but there is nothing in place right from the budgeting process. 

So, it is sheer daydreaming to imagine that the government can find land of at least 50 acres, compensate the landowners, invite bids for stadium designs and contractors, and expect the project to be completed within three years!

FUFA has argued that a country’s guarantees determine the hosting rights of Afcon, but that is akin to putting the cart before the horse. 

CAF has previously burned its fingers by awarding hosting rights based on guarantees, as was the case for Kenya in 1996 and 2018 (Africa Nations Championship).

In Kenya and Tanzania, the football authorities consulted with their respective Finance ministries to get government guarantees on the developments and upgrades needed for a successful tournament. 

Unfortunately, our own FUFA kept the bid under wraps and only got to present it to President Museveni at the last minute, just hours before the May 23 bid deadline.

What guarantees will the government commit at least Shs 1 trillion for Afcon hosting in the next three years?

The situation is further exacerbated by the fact The Cranes are no longer national darlings that attracted thousands to stadiums. 

What we have today is a weak, demoralised Cranes team that cannot even qualify for the expanded 24-team Afcon.

Do we really expect Uganda to impress or for football fans to fill stadiums at Afcon?

What I smell in all this bidding stuff is for a few individuals to monetary trade-off Uganda’s supposed bid for their personal gain. 

It may sound weird, but this is backed up by previous admissions by Magogo when he traded off World Cup tickets meant for Ugandans for his self-aggrandisement.

In all this, millions, perhaps billions, are going to be spent between now and August 15 in the name of promoting Uganda’s bid, but I highly suspect the Pamoja bid is the latest plot to blackmail the government into releasing funds for an already failed cause.