Are foreign players a threat or blessing to Ugandan football?

As Ugandans, we need to embrace expatriates and more foreign work ethics if we are to progress, especially in sectors where we are not doing well enough.

Just like any company in the world, foreign workers are hired to accomplish tasks and achieve success every other day. It has become the trend, turning the world into a global market. It is the same scenario playing out in the Star Times Uganda Premier League. We have had foreign players here before but the majority had their roots in neighbouring countries like DRC, Rwanda and South Sudan, among others. We hardly witnessed players cross seas to come and play here. Looking at the top five football leagues in the world, notably the English Premier League, many players have crossed seas to play there and that’s why it’s arguably the best league in the world.

In this transfer window, our local clubs like Vipers SC and KCCA have gone all out to purchase foreign players. This could be attributed to the mentioned clubs having hired foreign coaches or due to the fact that they are representing the nation at club continental competitions. Foreign players not only add quality but also contribute to the commercialisation of the league. Football matches are broadcasted beyond borders thus growing the following and fan base.

Football enthusiasts from the region eventually pick interest in the league foreign players have moved to. For example, Italian side AC Milan having bought Fikayo Tomori, Olivier Giroud, Loftus Cheek and Christian Pulisic from Chelsea, Jadon Sancho who was in Borussia Dortmund before moving to Manchester United and Harry Kane who recently joined Bayern Munich. This creates excitement among locals, which makes them curious to find out how good the new buys are.

Having worked around the local league and in our grassroots football, I’ve noticed that most of our local players are “comfortable” playing their football within the country as their behaviour, attitude towards training and disrespect towards the staff at their respective football clubs is tolerable but would be unacceptable if they moved to professional clubs across borders.

This probably has something to do with their upbringing, different societal problems but also because local clubs are not strict enough when it comes to upholding professional standards, procedures and structures. That is why having foreign players who have witnessed and been around professional football environments could act as a learning benchmark for our local players. This can have a positive impact on their performance as the local football looks to adopt missing foreign approaches and departments like psychology.

As Ugandans, we need to embrace expatriates and more foreign work ethics if we are to progress, especially in sectors where we are not doing well enough. Challenges are good for growth and development. However much we keep pushing the Buy Uganda, Build Uganda agenda, there’s a need for some expatriates and foreign investment.

Looking at other countries, especially in West and North Africa, they might not have that many foreign players in their local leagues, but they’ve been able to export their local talent and invest in their grassroots education, hence the quality. That’s why their national teams are always dominating on the continent and representing us at the World Cup stage.

Img Src: Pulse Uganda

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Written by Lewis Ainebyona (0)

Mr Lewis Ainebyona is a Football Studies Graduate. Solent University, Southampton and Grassroots coach

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