By Jjagwe Robert
Sports and the Ministry of Defense
If there is any aspect of life that teaches people to win and lose peacefully, then nothing beats sports at this. It is very interesting how fans of two different teams can sit inside the same Arena in numbers as high as 50,000 then one group loses the game but they shake hands and go home peacefully.
In Uganda today the biggest problem is people refusing to lose an election and then resorting to violence. It appears that even the more advanced countries like America also still need these sporting lessons because as we speak, Trump has totally refused to concede defeat.
Over 70% of Uganda’s current population are youths. These youths are so energetic and loaded with ideas on what to do with their lives. The Ugandan Job market is fully saturated and cannot offer these youths the jobs they need.
According to reliable sources, Uganda’s population stands at about 40 million people. So 70% of this would be 28 million youths. Even if government decided to build factories to create as many jobs as possible, there would still be a huge deficit and very many youths would remain unemployed.
No huge factory can be completed effectively in less than one year and it also costs a lot of money to set up a factory. The factories need skilled labor. So ideally as the factory is being set up, there must also be some special training for those who will work in it. Unfortunately a good number of the factory employees must be highly skilled people like Engineers, Industrial Chemists, Accountants, Marketing Managers, Human Resource Managers, Managing Director, etc. It takes several years to train such skilled people properly and some like the Managing Director also need some good years to gain experience to run the Factory successfully.
This is not the case with sports. In just one month, anyone can be trained and they start playing any game well enough to enjoy it. In just one week, a new sports club can be established and people start using it. We have so many places that simply need sports equipment and a game can be started. Take the example of a game like Draughts. This doesn’t even need any special place. Any office, balcony or room can be turned into a Draughts playing Arena by just putting Draughts boards in it. Even some physical games like Badminton can be played from any open space that doesn’t have strong wind.
An idle mind is the devil’s workshop. The so many unemployed and idle youths are therefore a recipe for a national catastrophe. They have no jobs and very little hope so they are idle enough to engage in all the dangerous political activities as we have all seen in the past few weeks of the presidential campaigns. People who have what to do cannot spend entire days following politicians around a city. If we were to engage the youths in sports, they would in fact be too tired to even think of walking around or standing in a political rally for an entire day.
Our games are also very addictive. When someone falls in love with a sport, they many times even get obsessed with it to the extent that every day they want to play. We have seen children dodging school and classes because they are playing games. Some even fail to sleep at night because they are playing especially the board games. This factor alone can make the youths opt to go and do sports instead of joining political rallies and processions to walk around the city the whole day at no pay at all.
A sports person will always be more physically fit and energetic because they exercise regularly. This then makes them more efficient even in other areas outside sports and this would definitely lead to higher productivity of our country’s work force.
Our sports federations have clubs through which we can as well educate the youths better about the dangers of Corvid-19 and advise them to adhere to the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). All players listen to their coaches. When a coach talks about adherence to SOPs, the players will listen very intently and much more than they do if it is just on radio or TV.
Countries must now look at sports as a sector capable of harnessing the above elements. Most countries that take sports seriously do not do this because they like seeing winners very much. They do this for other more important reasons such as national security, health, productivity and income generation. Uganda today has a very serious youth problem and we have seen several riots, chaos and general crime perpetrated by these so many idle youths. This danger has been greatly exposed during the ongoing presidential campaigns.
National Defense and Security cannot be effectively achieved only by using negative means like intense policing and arrests of criminals. Some other means of maintaining National Security also require use of dangerous tools like rubber bullets and tear gas. It is now time to also utilise the positive elements of attaining National Security and one of these is to attract the dangerously idle youths into sports. It doesn’t make any sense to wait to tear gas rioters so as to disperse them when sectors like sports can attract them and they in fact go there willingly. Using Sports is also much cheaper than deploying police all over the country.
From some angles Sports is correctly under the Ministry of Education and Sports but it also needs to have a prominent presence in the Ministry of Health as well as that of Defense. If the Ministry of Defense is looking for ways to secure this nation and attain peace on the inside, they should seriously consider using the positive avenues such as sports that also naturally appeal to all young people. If we avail attractive cash prizes to competition winners, we shall have so many youths diverting their time and energy to sports. All we need is to avail equipment, organize competitions with attractive prizes and the problem of youth idleness will be no more. The icing on the cake is that whereas most other sectors cannot absorb and mop up the idle youths massively and quickly, Sports can get this done in as little as just one month.
The Writer is the President of the Uganda Table Tennis Association (UTTA) and Secretary General of the Association of Uganda Sports Federations and Associations (AUSFA)