Falcons’ 19-year-long fairytale in the top-flight National Basketball League ended on a chilly Monday night at the YMCA courts in Wandegeya. UPDF Tomahawks defeated them 70-66. Falcons will play in division two next year.
At the buzzer, Falcons players were crestfallen. They sat by the court-side, stuck in deep thought, but probably in despair at what the future holds for their 20-year-old club.
However, club chairman Dennis Mbidde said he was certain the future of Falcons is guaranteed.
He said: “We are not winding up because we have been relegated. We intend to improve the team, and ensure that we bounce back at the end of next season. I believe in the players we have.”
But how many of the players still believe in Mbidde and the entire Falcons project? Listening to some of them, as they agonized about the Monday game, this year was a real nightmare. Not many players would fathom the idea of dropping down to division two either.
The media hardly covers division two. But Mbidde said they have to accept their fate and work together as a Falcons family, and recover from this setback.
However, it will require a lot. Falcons’ relegation means they are unlikely to retain the Shs 60 million StarTimes annual sponsorship package. With added financial difficulty, a rebuttal is encumbered. And in retrospect, Falcons will rue what has just befallen them.
But Mbidde said there is no time for thinking about what it would have been: “We have got what we deserve. Most of our competitors were better organized than we were, period.” Lack of organization, as Mbidde admits it, is an indictment on him.
For example, on Monday, none of Mbidde, Friday Kagoro (a lawyer at Muwema and Company Advocates) or Henry Semanda, the brother of the late John Ssimbwa, who founded Falcons, were at the game. The aforementioned constitute Falcons’ administration, which has seemed disinterested.
Insider sources revealed that Kagoro gave up on the club a long time ago. He handed Mbidde the chairmanship in April.
Yet, Kagoro remained key liaison person for the club’s sponsors, and apparently, the club’s documentation still indicates him as owner.
For now, Kagoro is undecided, which is detrimental to the club’s future. And without a clarity on leadership, Falcons is at a crossroads. Mbidde does not skirt from blame for the team’s woes; the kind that Falcons miss 28 free-throws against Tomahawks, but lose by four points.
Falcons is a team with a rich history, dating back to 1998, when they were established. Not only did they win their first championship then, followed by total dominance of the league in 1999, 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2007, they built legends such as Henry Malinga and Stephen Omony.
That made them the greatest basketball club. In fact, they were the first Ugandan side to win the Fiba Africa Zone Five club championship in 2000.
But Malinga feels they must recover from the huge disappointment, which is disheartening. Falcons could end up in oblivion like Lady Bucks, the six-time champions, did, if the team’s leadership problems are not resolved, and to Omony it is such a dark day!