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Joy as former footballers hold gala, launch cooperative to fight poverty

KAMPALA, December 12, 2023 – There was joy and excitement as over 500 former footballers who played for the Ugandan Cranes and various clubs from across the country held the first-ever football gala at Old Kampala Senior Secondary School in Kampala.

The event that attracted over 3,000 football fans and journalists was organised by the Former Footballers’ Initiative [FFI], a body that brings together all categories of ex-footballers. The event was held under the theme, “Life next after football”.

The event held recently was attended by the Minister of Works and Transport, Gen. Edward Katumba Wamala, Dr Sam Mayanja, the Minister of State for Lands, with the latter presiding over the launch of FFI’s Multipurpose Cooperative Limited.

Some of the former footballers and fans who attended the cooperative’s launch (Photo by George Mangula).

Minister Mayanja and Katumba contributed Shs 5 million and Shs 2mln respectively as Shs 17mln was raised in cash and pledges.

Speaking at the launch of the cooperative, Mayanja urged all former and current footballers and fans to join the cooperative, saying it will help them improve their livelihoods, given that some of the former footballers are living in poor conditions because they did not plan for their future.

Minister Mayanja promised to organise a meeting between the former players and President Museveni so that he can contribute financially to their new cooperative. “H.E President Museveni is the number one football fan and I promise that you will meet him,” Mayanja said.

Gen. Edward Katumba Wamala speaking during the FFI-organised event (Photo by George Mangula).

On his part, Gen. Katumba who is the patron of FFI, said they have been able to help some of the former players by paying for their medical care, as well as building them houses. He cited Baker Kasigwa,90, who was on the barefooted Ugandan Cranes that toured England in 1956. Among others on that team included former striker, the Late George Situma, who played for both Uganda and Kenya.

Situma, whose family still stays in Nauyo Town Council, Mbale district is said to be one of those that provided refuge to President Museveni in the late 1970s as Amin soldiers were hunting for him. Museveni visited Situma’s family recently, meeting his widow, Loyce Situma, and other family members.

“Through FFI, we have been looking for former players, especially those who played from pre-independence days, who are now very old and need help,” Katumba said, urging the current generation of footballers to work together and care for each other.

“Former Footballers Initiative is intended to bring closer retired footballers in good and challenging times. This unity can be helpful as we seek workable solutions to hardships and celebrating good deeds together as a family,” said former FFI chairman, Pastor Paul Musisi of Caring Heart Victory Community in Wakiso district.

Pastor Paul Musisi, the former chairman of FFI, and one of the brains behind the formation of the multi-purpose cooperative (Photo by George Mangula).

Former footballers represented clubs like Coffee FC, Lint FC, Mbale Heroes, Express FC, SC. Villa, UCB, Mbarara FC, Water, UEB, ATM, Nytil, Tobacco, Bell, Scoul, KCC [KCCA]. The older generation of footballers that attended the event included Baker Kasigwa, Polly Ouma, Paul Ssali, Davis Kamoga, Ashe Mukasa, Patrick Lukalu, Ali Sendegeya, George Nsimbe, Charles Baker Masiko, and George Ssemogerere, among several others.

Obadiah Ssemakula, who played for Coffee FC and Uganda Cranes as  a winger and is FFI committee member said they decided to form a cooperative to pool resources together. He said the cooperative would welcome all footballers and fans in Uganda.

Former Express FC players led by former captain George Ssemogere (2nd right) (Photo by George Mangula).

He added: “This cooperative is for former players, and the current generation of footballers. We want to encourage the young people to save because for us former footballers have learned a lesson after not saving part of the money we used to earn.” He said that the cooperative would also invest in certain ventures as it grows.

During the event, former footballers and football administrators were awarded accolades, some posthumously.

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