the soccer fan approach to politics and society in general

The excitement in Uganda dominating talk over the past three weeks was triggered by the signing of the Anti-Homosexuality and Anti-Pornography Acts, and has been fuelled by the NRM Parliamentary Caucus turning on Prime Minister and Party Secretary General Amama Mbabazi for showing more ambition than they were comfortable with.

More sparks flickered up, on social media at least, from the first Oscar to be brought into Africa by one of our sisters – Lupita Nyong’o. She’s Kenyan, to be strict, but we are all East Africans on this one so, wa’ndugu, Keep Calm.

The excitement has been like a daily roll of Premiership soccer games live on TV!

Now, this phrase here will resonate loudly with most men, because of the pull of Premiership soccer and the hold it has on many of us once the games are on TV.

I used to be under that hold myself – partial to Manchester United for many years, Liverpool before that, and both Queen’s Park Rangers and Rangers FC way, way back. In between I supported Bayern Munich and even Hamburg because that’s all we got on TV.

Until two years ago when I just put a stop to it and ceased tuning in or recording games. The reasons were many – including a need to focus on some local soccer rather than obsess over far removed action, however exciting, and the ridiculous levels to which some of us took our interest in the games.

I don’t personally know any of the idiots in bufunda who have committed suicide over Premiership soccer, but read about them in the newspapers. I do, however, know some who go through deep depressions on Mondays after their teams bomb over weekends, and others yet who spend far more than they can afford drinking up a storm as they watch games in bars. I can also point out some of the calmest fellows in this town who these days display a version of Tourette’s syndrome when the name Moyes is mentioned, like others used to do when they heard the name Houllier.

During one of hundreds of discussions of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, the NRM Caucus meeting resolutions and rumours, and Lupita Nyong’o, the soccer analogy insinuated itself into conversation.

Most of the people talking about these things, I charged, were just like Africa’s army of premiership soccer enthusiasts.

Keep Calm & STFU

They follow all the players and games in earnest but can barely kick a ball themselves, can’t do a sit-up to save their own lives or won’t do a push-up unless there’s a beer bottle or a lusaniya of pork at the point their elbows straighten up.

Just like most kafunda political commentators, including the ones on Facebook and Twitter who seemed to know so clearly how the plot to bring Mbabazi down was hatched, yet will not join any political party, have never read up on any political process and don’t even SMS their MP with an opinion even though all the phone numbers are on the parliament website.

Even the people making comment on the Anti-Homosexuality and Anti-Pornography Acts hadn’t read either in much detail, thus the continued talk of mini-skirts and the startling lack of analytical defence of Uganda under the attack of the Gay lobby.

Those chaps clad in t-shirts proclaiming allegiance to Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester (both), Barcelona, Real Madrid and so on and so forth are exactly like many of the fellows in yellow, blue, green political colours. None have official party cards, which can be okay if they don’t exist, but even those t-shirts are pirated versions of the real thing and therefore don’t really support the clubs.

See, the idea is that fans buy club merchandising as a way of funding the club activities – but the t-shirts people wear over here send not a shilling anywhere near those clubs.

Just as the DSTV they watch in bars most times runs on ‘home’ connections rather than commercial ones, and they drink sodas and beers that neither sponsor the teams playing nor the TV channels airing the games. And when they are angry with their team’s performance, they pour another beer and curse the team manager – the approach of so many so-called elite to national politics.

Which reminded me of Lupita, whose Oscar-winning movie 12 Years A Slave is more likely going to be consumed via pirated DVDs than in any cinema that will send back proceeds to line her pocket and allow her to spend millions (US Dollars) as a celeb in Nairobi and maybe Kampala.

Mind you, the comments about her superbness on the day she won the Oscar were massive but from the world over, including a New York Senator or Congressman who talked about her “bringing the Oscar back home to Brooklyn…”

We blasted him quickly and tried to argue that #LupitaIsKenyan and luckily didn’t get the rebuttal #ObamaIsAmerican but I felt that once again we were just Ugandan fans of premiership soccer or commentators of politics.

She definitely loves Kenya, but can’t make a career move to move base to Nairobi – just as the views of all the middle class commentators on NRM issues will remain just views because the party won’t be getting its vote majority from these commentators…

Meanwhile, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City fans talk more about Manchester United losing than they do their own victories, which is not to say that there is anything wrong with Opposition members focusing more on the NRM than their own houses.

When a group of enthusiastic media people launched the Uganda Cranes Initiative last year, the main drive was to change Ugandans from being fans to being supporters, and have them change their chant from “We go, We go, We go” to “We pay, We pay, We pay”.

There is no initiative to turn kafunda political commentators into proper political analysts – or is that what the political party mobiliser is supposed to do? None yet either, to make us more knowledgeable about Acts of Parliament or the laws gazetted – or is that what the House of Parliament is supposed to make us aware of?

A couple of years ago, during one of his jovial speeches that tend to veer into surprising directions to illustrate a point, the protagonist of this past fortnight, President Yoweri Museveni, picked on people who watch European soccer games as time-wasters – especially those who watch the games in bars.

Well – I strongly believe that one of the reasons he continues to be a protagonist is that he doesn’t put time aside to watch soccer, drink alcohol or frolic, and hasn’t done so these forty years past. He is a full-time politician, and many of us aren’t ready to even be serious part-time politicians.

We’re not even in the stands, but are watching games on TV; either go to the stadium and shout from the stands or, even better, get onto the pitch – and if you can’t play in the premiership, join the village soccer team, dammit!

4 thoughts on “the soccer fan approach to politics and society in general

  1. Lupita wasn’t the first African to win an Oscar. Charlize Theron won for “Monster” and then Semenya a technical award for best score for “Colour Purple”. I think someone else also won for a short documentary


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