The countdown to return.

The January 2020 transfer window had two main stories that captured the attention of Ugandans.

Allan Okello was signed by Algerian club Paradou AC for $200,000 from Kcca FC then Mbwana Samatta joined Aston Villa from Genk to become the first Tanzanian player in the English Premier League (EPL).

98% of Ugandan footballers that join professional football return to Uganda within two years.

I always get asked why our players fail in professional football. I usually answer that our environment doesn’t have what it takes to prepare a player for professional football.

We don’t yet have competed coaches that are capable of preparing players for professional football.

We don’t have many credible competitions that enable players to go through a thorough player development pathway.

Our society is yet to embrace football as a profession, we still treat football as a leisure activity.

Imagine that you want to be a lawyer/engineer/pilot/doctor/architect/teacher, your education pathway will be career-specific midway through secondary school and, become clearer the closer you get to university.

By the time you start practicing your profession, the education pathway has prepared you to have a good foundation.

Let’s imagine again that you want to be a lawyer/engineer/pilot/doctor/architect/teacher, you study anything open then decide to go and work in any of those professions.

You will have skipped the stage of studying the specific subjects for that particular profession.

The lack of basics in that particular field will make you incompetent. If you are being interviewed for the job then you would be exposed.

Does that sound familiar with the majority of Ugandan footballers failing trials?

Footballers in Uganda don’t have a development pathway from 6 to 21 years of age. It’s all about kicking a ball, join a club, play for the national team then an agent convinces a club in North Africa or South Africa to sign the player.

Usually, they start well but with every other match and training session, they get exposed.

Another question that I usually get asked is how a player like Mbwana Samatta managed to make it yet he comes from a country that lacks all the football education that I highlighted earlier.

When you look at Samatta’s pathway, he’s managed to be patient, work hard and prove himself at every level that he’d played from Simba in 2010 through TP Mazembe for five years then Genk for four years.

How many Ugandan footballers have proven themselves at Uganda Premier League (UPL) level?

How many Ugandan footballers exercise patience and hard work when they are transferred?

The agents of most Ugandan footballers want to earn quick money in sign-on fees, they ensure that players move to another club within two years.

How many Ugandan footballers would be key players at a club competing in the quarter-finals of the CAF Confederations cup or CAF Champions’ league?

We need to have players that can prove themselves in Uganda and on the continent before progressing to compete in Europe.

It’s not the only route but it’s the best pathway for a country that lacks football academies.

Denis Onyango, Ibrahim Sekagya and Micheal Azira have managed to make it through hard work, patience and proving themselves at each level.

How many years did it take for each of those three players to make it to the top? How much patience was involved in the process?

Now you know why whenever most Ugandan footballers get transferred to a professional league, the countdown for their return is on tik tok.