SPORTS. “May be people have been owning the clubs so that they can get money but that is not my motive, money is not the most important, what is important is the future of these boys because I saw them suffering on the streets and I have been with them for the last three years”,
“They have also been with me, even in my marriage here in Uganda; so, yeah it is difficult I know but right now I can tell you there is no regional club buying boots and all equipment, medical bills, etc for their players” Mr Farid Akbar, the new president of Diamond stars football club retorted sharply.
He had been reminded by a reporter that most clubs owned by individuals in the west Nile region in the past had collapsed. The 24 year old Pakistani national was addressing his first press conference after acquiring the club playing in the West Nile regional league, the third tier of Ugandan club football.
His family has had an illustrious history in football in his native Pakistan despite not being a top footballing nation in the world, part of the reason Farid is passionate about football.
“My father played for the military forces and won a lot of medals while captaining the team including two for Asia games, my grandfather played for the same team while my uncle played for the civil aviation team, so for me it is a very big achievement that I carry”, Akbar says.
Akbar, despite primarily coming to Uganda for business swiftly moved to identify with football after seeing the enormous potential in the West Nile region that largely goes to waste due to lack of opportunities for young stars.
His first was Kacupa FC, a club that did not have the ambition of big and professional but played friendly games for fun and social interactions. This was mainly a team of aged former players and the corporate class mixed with youngsters. But Mr Akbar had a bigger target to go professional.
“My target is not just to stay here, most of the local clubs just want to play local football and ruin the future of the boys but we want to go to a different level, we want to sign good players who should someday play in the Uganda national team” he says of his new Diamond stars team.
He sees the club and football at large as a unifying factor regardless of one’s race, colour, and ethnicity. Akbar confesses to have known so many people in Arua during his short time in the town, thanks to football.
Despite the ambition and determination to rise to the top, the club president says his club will be open to the idea of players joining other clubs if the opportunity at hand is bigger.
“If we see a good opportunity within or even outside Uganda, I will not keep the players here, all I want is the players should get better opportunities and exposure in life” he says.
However Akbar knows that the journey to the top doesn’t come easy, stringent measures have to be in place to maintain team cohesion; chief among these, he says is discipline.
He says the club turned down some talented players due to their ill-discipline that would show a bad example to the young stars who form a large part of the team.
Mr Omar Muhammedin, the head coach and technical director played for the club before turning into a coach, he recalls the club was started to mainly keep the young people busy during holidays.
“In the process of keeping them physically and mentally fit is when we realised the boys can actually pursue a professional career in football” Omar says.
Due to the increasing number of clubs, Omar says the few playing pitches poses the biggest challenges to the emerging club. Teams have to share the same pitch during trainings.
Omar says in line with their objective of breeding young talent, the club is first tracking the full establishment an academy.
“You know managing a football academy is more difficult than the adult teams because it involves convincing the parents and managing the kids so we are still trying to establish many things” He says.
Clubs playing in the premier league must have an academy according to the rules, something Omar says they want to address in advance as they aim to rise higher in the leagues.
He is optimistic that crowds will be attracted once the club hits the ground moving with good results and attractive football.
“People in Arua love football and more so when they are performing well, even Onduparaka you see here with a big following was little known when they were playing at lower levels but the story changed when they started rising steadily” Omar says.
Club Chief executive officer Mr Swali Hussein who doubles as a player says the club will sign players who are deemed ambitious and serious about their careers.
Asked how he will manage the two roles effectively Hussein said he doesn’t interfere with any technical decisions of the coach and gives total respect on the pitch.
Coach Omar also re-echoed the same message adding that Hussein had given up on football despite his enormous talent had it not been for his (Omar) efforts to convince him to play again.
In a bid to promote professional management, Hussein says he will embark on further studies to enable him meet all the required qualifications.