By Paul Kayonga
The annual Buganda Kingdom 18-county football tournament is arguably the most popular sports event in the modern Ugandan football times only beaten when the national team The Cranes has a game.
Since its inception in 2004, the Masaza Cup has attracted hundreds of spectators per game fueling clan and kingdom loyality and love. The 2018 final in which Ssingo beat Buddu in a 12-11 penalty shootout was no different.
The tournament has become so popular that since 2015, organisers have been forced to relocate the finals to Uganda’s largest sports arena, the Mandela National Stadium in Bweyogerere popularly referred to as Namboole. Previously, the tournament final would be held in the Buganda Kingdom owned Mutesa II stadium in Wankulukuku.
The Buganda Kingdom head Kabaka Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II is always the chief guest at the final. His entrance is always greeted with loud ululations and displays of love for the monarch and the dynasty that has led Bugunda for nearly 800 years.
Conceived to foster Ganda unity, the tournament has morphed into a serious footballing competition with all the trappings of the modern football game. There are player transfers, backroom deals on coaches and payments and investment in facilities these teams use.
This year’s cup finalists Ssingo and Buddu have built up a fierce competition. They are probably the best funded and organised teams in the tournament.
Ssingo’s home ground is Ssingo Stadium in Mityana while Buddu boasts of Masaka Recreation Centre in that town. As the tournament’s popularity grows, stakeholders are willing to pump more money into their teams.
Busujju County legislator David Lukyamuzi Kalwanga has just entered a partnership with Buganda Kingdom authorities to have the county team get an official soccer command centre on a 5 acre piece of land given out by the Kabaka in Manyi Sub County, Busujju in Mityana District.
Kalwanga believes Busujju lost their semi-final clash with Buddu because of their unfenced football pitch. Busujju was penalised for holiganism when fans tried to invade the pitch while others forced their way into the stadium.
His efforts to hire security and sponsor the team to the cost of 120million shillings came to nothing and the team was forced to settle for third place. Kalwanga believes it is the poor condition of their pitch which has cost the county a chance at the finals for the last three years. He is determined to rectify it.
Kalwanga is just one of the many Buganda bigshots who are dedicating their resources and time to uplift their teams ahead of the 2019 Masaza Cup tournament that might be the most exciting yet.