If you’ve ever heard of #SpainIsNotUganda, please don’t think me a hypocrite because of the following:
This week the soccer legend Patrick Kluivert visited Uganda for the first time in his life as a crucial step in the set up of a promotional tour that will open Uganda up to tens of millions of potential tourists and investors in coming years.
The story behind the story, though, is a tale of good Ugandans versus bad Ugandans and how one group triumphed over the other for God and Country.
It all started with a good Ugandan, a young chap reportedly called Joseph Baguma who applied to join a soccer academy in Spain run by Rayco Garcia Cabrera, a soccer talent scout, and passed the trials easily.
Baguma was the first Ugandan ever to join the academy, and played so well that he got even more of Rayco’s attention – so much so that the soccer scout told his mother about the young man, and the old woman got Baguma to move out of his hotel and into her home.
And Baguma talked about Uganda a lot, even though he was based in England; before long Rayco was convinced that he could find more talent of this nature if he came over here himself.
After consulting his colleagues – the Patrick Kluiverts, Johann Cruyff’s and Lionel Messi’s – Rayco Garcia took a contact from Baguma and flew to Entebbe.
Within hours he was blown away by the beauty of the place, the hospitality of the people, and the promise of tourism – much the same way Kluivert was when he arrived this week – the story of every visitor to Uganda.
He kept spotting talent whenever he saw children dancing, playing soccer, running about – see, the things scouts look out for are not just accomplished soccer players already assigned teams. To his eyes, most of the bare feet he saw kicking balls in Uganda were golden boots gleaming in the sun!
But the contact he had been given was a bad Ugandan. For two weeks, Rayco was shuttled from fruitless meeting to fruitless meeting, achieving nothing close to progress in the way of securing interest in opening up a talent academy in Uganda, or hosting the Barcelona Legends to a promotional game here.
Instead, he got asked for money to set up high level meetings, and even the small things seemed odd to him – like the way his contact always had a meal in front of him when they met, but was never around to deal with the bill.
He couldn’t understand why the Ugandans were not seeing what he saw. When Uhuru Kenyatta happened upon him at a hotel in Kampala a couple of weeks ago, within minutes the Kenyan President had stopped everyone and whispered urgent words of invitation for Rayco to drop everything and go to Kenya.
Because of the talent he kept seeing, he stayed on a few days more, in spite of the phone calls from back home asking him to head back to business.
On his last night, he had drafted a letter of frustration to share with his management team back home, when another contact, Basketball’s Ambrose Tashobya, suggested that he meet with Tourism’s Amos Wekesa.
Those two good Ugandans turned the tide round.
Amos (please note that I am on first-name basis with him) cancelled Rayco’s flight out and insisted that the man stays another week to see some of the tourism attractions, and accomplish what brought him.
A few days later, the Barcelona Legends team captain himself was intown and within hours they were chattering excitedly about building an exclusive high-end lodge that would be patronised by the world’s biggest names in Sports, a set of town houses for world soccer’s biggest names (Barcelona players first, of course), a soccer academy based somewhere in Uganda that would feed the one back home…
…and the next day they were shuttling between meetings with more good Ugandans – including the Prime Minister and President who within hours had confirmed government support of their promotional tour during which they would visit the national parks, nature reserves, and lots more.
This is no small feat.
Barcelona FC is the second most valuable sports team in the world,
worth US$3.2 billion, and the world’s fourth richest football club in terms of revenue, with an annual turnover of €484.6 million.
More importantly, the official club Twitter handle has more than 15million Twitter followers, and each player has an average of 10million – if this December all those people receive tweets from their small gods declaring Uganda to be beautiful, peaceful, hospitable, promising and a must-visit…
Well, this week I met both soccer stars; and one of my favourite conversations involved a sincere and earnest apology from Rayco Garcia Cabrera for #SpainIsNotUganda – it certainly isn’t, but we can be friends on some level for God and Country.