ANALYSIS. Fans of Paidha black angels have had a nightmare of a season, the heroic events that propelled the club’s promotion to the Uganda premier league is a memory that never lasted.
For a club whose history dates back to 1979, it was understandable why these adoring fans poured out on the streets in their hundreds for that grand welcome from Kampala after the triumphant penalty shootout. Their unwavering loyalty had finally paid off at Lugogo.
However it was evident from the ensuring preparations for the ‘big stage’ that progress was rather slow, the imminent decision to play the first five home games, as was the communication at Onduparaka’s green light stadium was no surprise to many however unwelcome the pronouncement sounded. Barokoro was under construction, the fans patiently waited while some followed the “home” games to Arua.
The Barokoro weeds
On the 12th December 2018, Mr. Edgar Watson, the chief executive officer (CEO) meeting with stakeholders of the Zombo club at Paidha town council offices said the Barokoro ground still had some unmet technicalities with the pitch that the Federation of Uganda football association (FUFA) needed to be addressed.
Whereas FUFA applauded the club for tremendous improvements on different infrastructure, a weed on the pitch was outlined as a major problem making the ground unplayable.
Having gone past the stated five home games away from home, the fans were fast losing patience. They accused FUFA of partiality citing grounds like the Buhinga stadium in Fort portal that also hosts premier league games as worse than the “weed infested” Barokoro.
Consistently bottom of the table for most of this time, Ms. Monica Achan pleaded with the FUFA administration to reinstate the use of Barokoro immediately to re-establish any hopes of fair competition for the Black Angels.
Fast forward to 1st February 2019, another letter from Watson stated that the ground needed time to recover after the removal of the weed before it can be cleared to host games.
Frustration and desperation
This latest pronouncement enraged Paidha fans and administrators alike into arms with FUFA.
“ I can tell you that in all West Nile region, we are the only green pitch right now given the dry season conditions because we keep watering it, I can say we are at least at 70%,” said coach Charles Ssenyange after their one all draw with Bul FC.
“Every game I am away and it’s costing me so much psychologically, if the under 19 played a game there with KCCA that means it is definitely ready, this pitch (green light) is worse than Barokoro and I don’t understand whether the inspectors come here before we play our games” A bitter Ssenyange further complained.
Five draws in five games and the team left languishing at the bottom of the table, the January additions of players led by Dickens Okwir not helping to ignite the much-needed spark in the team.
Mr. Rasul Oryem, the club chairman told the West Nile Web that the club is losing a lot in terms of revenue from gate collections.
“Most of the club fans do not go to Arua and this has made us miss that home support which is partly responsible for team's poor performance in the Uganda Premier League, this alone is a big blow to the club that survives on gate collection and handouts from well-wishers”, Oryem laments.
He said the club pays 800,000 shillings to Onduparaka for the use of the stadium, 100,000 to hire security and another 60,000 to hire the doctor during games. This is beside the expenses of transportation for their “home” games from Paidha to Arua.
FUFA in its recommendations to Paidha black angels noted that they would pay stadium fees to Onduparaka so as to allow free usage of the facility for Paidha.
The few fans that attend the Arua “home” games are often heard hurling insults at officials and sometimes their own players in a clear sign of deepening frustrations.
Time fast ticking against the blacks
With the second round underway, time is of the essence for the blacks, the team remains bottom of the log, injuries and licensing difficulties have compounded the problem, in their last game against Bul FC only three players sat on the substitute’s bench.
The recovery period of the grass before the next inspection by the club licensing committee is not clear and unless a dramatic turnaround of events, Paidha are certainly at a critical stage, their chances of surviving relegation are dimming by the day and yet one wonders if Barokoro will ever host a premier league game again if Paidha were to be relegated this season.
For the fan that moved the journey from 1979 only to breathe a sigh of relief at the end of 2017/18 season, a nightmare sounds an understatement considering the fortunes of the club in the 2018/19 season.
If that’s not bad enough, what about the loyal fan who has not watched a single Paidha game due to the costs involved in traveling to Arua? The thought is simply unimaginable as the countdown goes on.
For now, from the perspective of BPA, they seem to have met all conditions set by the premier league administrators and the same seem to be condemning them to big league football. Onduparaka FC and Paidha BA currently travel the longest distances for their away games yet the latter has no sponsorship and has depended on home support and gate collections for their existence.
The Federation, therefore, has to listen and act quickly to the cries of the locals if its image is to be redeemed in a region where football is a cult.