By Daniel Lutaaya
One of the reasons why football is the beautiful game, is that it can be enjoyed in many forms, at different times, and conditions but never go short of the unique feeling it brings.
Unfortunately for Ugandans, football served at night is a dish only a few travelled individuals or those who have religiously followed the game for the the past decade.
The last competitive football match hosted at the national stadium was a goalless AFCON 2017 qualifier against the Burkinabe on the 29th of March 2018. But this is not the one I will dwell on, rather the one that came before.
On the cold Wednesday night of 10th September 2014, the Mandela National stadium hosted the most unique football party the country had seen in a while.
It was a crucial AFCON 2015 Qualifier against Guinea, with stakes high for the national team. Football pundits including me, unlike the usual, this time got a different angle to our analysis. Sports shows, newspapers and online news portals all weighed in on The Cranes’ chances playing under floodlights, but most importantly questioned the Mandela National stadium’s ability to host a night game.
This had last happened two years back, when a league match involving Bul FC and Proline FC had to be played at night. This particular one was too impromptu to attract a reasonable crowd. But the national team game was almost a sale out, not with the publicity it got.
Uganda won this one easily by two goals to nil thanks to a brace from Geoffrey Massa in the 21st and 42nd minutes. But the win did not come without events.
In the second half of the game, there was an embarrassing eight-minute power black-out in the stadium. This was in front of Vice President Edward Ssekandi and then Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi. In fact, later reports suggested that the stadium manager Jamil Sewanyana spent some time in the coffers for negligence.
The aftermath was a binge of sorts. Besides celebrating the win that had sent Uganda joint top of Group E of the qualifiers, Ugandans were drinking and dinning in enjoyment of a football experience far from the usual.
Fast forward to today, the situation is different. For one, tonight’s game is not an AFCON qualifier, and we do not expect the Vice President or premier in the VVIP stands, but the game is not any less important.
While appearing on Sanyuka TV’s sports show, Sport Daily this morning, Jamil Sewanyana, the Managing Director of the Mandela national stadium affirmed that tonight’s game will be flawless given the preparation they have had.
““We are well prepared to host this game and have the capacity to handle all the aspects of this game and the safety features that it demands” – Jamil Sewanyana
For Sewanyana, nights like this are not new, but to most of the players who will be involved in the action, it is a whole new experience.
While speaking to Nile Post after their final training session yesterday, Sports Club Villa Coach Douglas Bamweyana admitted that this is a new experience for his players, and for him as a coach.
However, he revealed that everyone at the club is excited about the innovation and they all can’t wait to be a part of history.
We are in a mixed state of emotions given that it will be the first time to play under floodlights, physiologically we know the bodies will have to adapt since normally they are resting at that time, we have worked on our team to try and improve on the last game, and hope we get the win we need from the game. I like the idea, I think it will even attract more fans to the game. said Bamweyana
His opposite number Abbey Bogere Kikomeko too had almost similar sentiments about the game. All players at Kirinya Jinja SS have never played competitive football at night.
Bogere however said he has briefed his lads of what to do tonight.
“We have never played under floodlights but i hope it won’t change anything on my players as long as their focus is on the pitch not the lights.” Abbey Bogere Kikomeko.
As both teams tussle to adjust to night conditions, for Sanyuka TV, the official broadcaster of the Startimes Uganda Premier league, it is expected to be a walk in the park.
Two weeks ago, the home of sports had a dry rehearsal shooting a night game, as Sanyuka Tv downed Startimes 2-0 at the same venue.It was flawless.
In full fulfillment of the promise that Sanyuka TV made to bring the Ugandan league to your home, this game will be live on channel 222 on Startimes and on the Startimes ON App, MISS IT AT YOUR OWN PERIL!!!