Uganda Cranes’ 3-0 win against Lesotho over the weekend would have been even more impressive if all the stands were fully covered with cheerful supporters as was the case recently against Tanzania’s Taifa Stars.
Against Taifa Stars, thousands of football lovers flocked Namboole, endured the heavy downpour, all in the name of showing support to the boys donning our black, yellow and red colours.
Yet against Lesotho, it seemed totally different as by 2pm, you could literally count the number of fans in the entire stadium.
A good number had begun to stroll in at 3pm. Nonetheless, at the time of kick-off, vast sections of the stands remained empty. If football is most fun with fans, it appears a lot still has to be done to attract fans to Namboole whenever the Cranes are fighting for the badge.
So what ought to change?
Ticket pricing is important
The ticket price, for starters. Shs15,000 would not be much for an ordinary fan if the Cranes were facing Nigeria or Egypt, but against a team like Lesotho where most Ugandan fans do not know a single player, it is easier to opt to watch the game from their favourite hangouts.
Which would then beg the question; is it wiser to charge Shs5,000 and get 40,000 fans or charging 15,000 and attract only 10,000 fans?
Although it is important to thank the president for the Shs200m boost to players and a chartered plane, he should also be told that fans are the twelfth player. For example, in Rwanda, President Paul Kagame subsidises some games or directs that fans access some games free of charge. In Kenya, it was free entry as the Harambe Stars triumphed over Ethiopia on Sunday. This not only motivates players, but it also helps bond fans to their team.
Advertising games is key
Most of the people this newspaper interacted with were not aware that Cranes was playing Lesotho on Saturday.
“I didn’t know Uganda was playing today, I just saw people dressed in Cranes jerseys heading towards Namboole,” one fan told us. FUFA should undertake an aggressive media campaign as was towards the Tanzania game which was publicised everywhere around the country.
With the recent run of poor results by the Cranes, it was evident on Saturday that some fans decided to give the team a break.
“I am tired of wasting my money and energy to support a team that is bringing no joy even against very week opponents,” a fan angrily stated.
The simple fact is that many fans are drawn in by results, and the Cranes who had a built an impressive record at Namboole have been slowly losing it.
Perhaps the weekend’s 3-0 win will reinstate it. The Cranes resume action in Lesotho in a return leg looking for a win to qualify for the second AFCON finals in a row.