If there is anything that the February 24 Federation of Uganda Basketball Associations (Fuba) elections proved, it is that new president Nasser Sserunjogi is a smooth operator.
While majority of the enthusiasts thought this was a foregone conclusion because of the little publicity he enjoyed on social media in the run-in, Sserunjogi was down in the trenches selling his ideas to 59 of the 61 clubs. Thirty seven were convinced but 14 said “no”.
They joined City Oilers and A1 Challenge who Sserunjogi did not waste his time on as he was sure they were always going to back his opponent Grace Kwizera.
In fact the new Fuba president says City Oilers president and national team manager Muhammad Santur, mostly known as Hajji, once told him; “If Grace doesn’t go through, I will quit the national team.”
Sserunjogi holds no grudge and has extended an Olive branch to his “friends” to work with him.
“Hajji is my friend and I do a lot of legal work for him. Generally, they are very good people and we need to work with them.
“Grace has good ideas and as of yesterday (Tuesday), I had sent them messages saying this was politics but they hadn’t replied.
“What we were fighting for was to serve the game. I am ready to work with anyone but I think they need time to recover. They will certainly reply.”
Beyond promoting unity, he must build on the legacy that his predecessor Ambrose Tashobya built.
As vice president administration, Sserunjogi was a big role player in Tashobya’s executive but was never one to jostle for space in the limelight. You get the feeling he is the perfect team player – one only interested in being judged by results.
He built his campaign around the need to redevelop grassroots programmes with the view that it would guarantee a conveyer belt of talent for generations to come. What better way to capture the ears of the lower division in a country with a small pool of players.
There are, however, no guarantees that this part of the electorate will get preferential treatment. “We will make sure all members are served equally.
The lower division is already doing well because we introduced the league managers committee last season. The NBL (National Basketball League) as of now NBL is under the executive but we need to share with the managers and see if they can buy the idea of having their own committee.”
Sserunjogi’s love for rebuilding from the bottom was met with some resistance from certain quarters that thought he thinks the national teams Silverbacks and Gazelles are the biggest attention of the Fuba administration.
“Those allegations are not true. But they arise from the point of my campaign theme that focused on grassroots rather than national team
But here is the point; our national teams have done great work but my thinking is that we need to have a foundation to maintain that. The way the national team has been structured now leaves the fear that in a few years it might not work. I just want to bridge that gap.”
To close the gap, Fuba must cast their net far and wide to unearth talent from all corners of the country. They have been at it before but Sserunjogi says the game is dead in primary schools and secondary schools are only relying on the national ball games that mostly attract schools from the central regions of Kampala, Mukono and Wakiso.
“People talk about Steve (Omony) and Flavia (Oketcho) but all those came from Kitante Primary School. Even (Mandy) Juruni, Jeff Omondi are all products of Kitante. But there is no basketball there now. Nakasero Primary School have a court but don’t play the game.”
But enthusiasts should not despair as Sserunjogi has got a few solutions up his sleeves.
“We have a plan to create a good network throughout the country. I have tasked my commissioner to get a contact from every district so that we can liaise and see what to do
“I have also spoken to my clients, the Members of Parliament for Tororo and Bukedea. I put a proposal to them to get us community courts in those areas.
The network will also help us see how many primary schools have courts. Primary school leagues are not going to play on grass so we need to start with those that have courts and spread it.”
For secondary schools, the 39 year old administrator envisages a time when they can qualify for nationals through regional leagues.
For schools like Gayaza High School with good facilities and enthusiastic players but with no coaches, Sserunjogi believes the Fuba partnership with Fiba that supports clinics for coaches comes in handy.
“We need to focus on the games teachers in those schools. If you equip them with skills, they will pick interest and start to teach the girls.”
“If I leave behind a very competitive primary and secondary schools leagues I will be very comfortable because whoever will come will be able to build on that.”
The legacy Sserunjogi wants to build his clear but he must also chew his gum while walking.
“For now, we have started our work. We need to create the committees of five people under the different departments of finance, marketing, media and publicity and so on. And I have tasked members to bring up names that we can start to discuss by Thursday.
We also need to get the different leagues starting and the awards ceremony. We haven’t awarded our best players from last season and we want to combine that ceremony with a very good send off for our president Ambrose.”
But that’s just the start. The previous administration had entered a bid to host the U-16 Zone V Qualifiers. Sserunjogi was lucky to receive the news that the boys and girls tournament due May 11-18 will be held in Kampala. Sserunjogi also hopes the bid they put in to host the women’s Zone V Afrobasket Zone in early June will materialise. For now the sky is the limit.