Last Updated on: 9th October 2023, 06:52 pm
Lira I Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania won the co-hosting bid for the African Cup of Nations (AFCON2027) finals with matches expected to be played across the three nations.
Hosting Africa’s most prestigious football tournaments is big news for Uganda amid its football infrastructure challenges – especially on standard, internationally and regionally approved stadiums to host the forthcoming matches.
Only Mandela National Stadium – widely known as Namboole is racing to be fit before it can again host local and regional matches ahead of 2027. Last week, the government and FUFA said besides Mandela, Akii Bua Olympic Stadium in Lira City – whose construction has stalled for years – is in the plan to be constructed.
The current but temporary Akii Bua stadium is on an 18-acre piece of land. Bringing it to where it is, Lira district and central governments spent not less than shs1b after President Museveni made a promise to Lango sub-region and Northern Uganda at large during his political campaigns in 2016.
In 2017, the project began with the preliminary works which included opening the land boundaries, clearing and levelling the field, construction of access roads and drainage channels, and construction of a latrine and a pavilion as aforementioned.
Once completed, the 30,000-capacity stadium will be internationally licensed and will live in the memory of Uganda’s Olympic gold medalist, John Akii Bua for his historic triumph in 1972 in Munich.
As per the artistic design made public years ago, it will have, among others an aquatic centre, indoor stadium, training ground, and a modern hotel. The estimated costs to completion were valued at US$ 125m.
Now, with AFCON2027 coming home, tndNews asked a section of Lango leaders about what they think, and what they want the government to do to ensure the stadium is built – not only for hosting AFCON but also to remember John Akii Bua.
Otuke East Member of Parliament, Julius Acon Bua said that the delay in the completion of the Akii Bua Stadium was due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Acon, one of the most successful sprinters Lango has had in recent years, adds that because of the pandemic the funds were later diverted to curb its surge in the country.
“Such games (AFCON) come with development though am skeptical whether the government would have completed the stadium in the three years left. I don’t know which methods the government will use because the biggest challenge Uganda has is corruption which could probably delay the completion of Akii Bua. Corruption sagas have been identified in funds meant for roads, hospitals or even school construction,” said MP Acon.
Widely known in Lango as “a boy who runs”, Acon further noted that this is the right time for the government to accelerate the completion of the said stadium to facilitate development in Lango sub-region, calling upon the young talents in the region to embrace the games as they get inspired.
“The young sportsmen and women now have an opportunity to watch their role models live across the different stadiums set to host these games. Sport is a talent that pays off very well through bursaries, job opportunities and the like,” Acon told tndNews Nancy Atim.
Kole North MP and General Secretary of Lango Parliamentary Group (LPG) Dr Samuel Opio Acuti said, “We support the government’s move to build Akii Bua stadium as one of the stadia for AFCON 2027. It is a requirement that each of the three countries: Uganda Kenya and Tanzania must each have three stadia for the event.”
“Uganda, therefore, needs two other stadia and Akii Bua should be prioritized for two reasons. This was a Presidential pledge and needs to be fulfilled. Secondly, AFCON is only three years away and the designs, feasibility studies and costing for Akii Bua Stadium have already been done. As LPG we will follow up to ensure this commitment is fulfilled.”
Daniel Fred Ogole is the Lira City sports officer. “CAF body always has rules and regulations regarding the standard stadium approved to host AFCON games thereby I’m calling upon the government through the Ministry of Finance to allocate funds in order to facilitate the construction of Akii Bua Stadium,” he noted.
“Having announced that under their consortium of the East African Pamoja, Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania will co-host the 2027 AFCON games, this now requires the government of Uganda to rehabilitate the famous Akii Bua Stadium as required by CAF.”
According to Ogole, the AFCON games will facilitate economic growth and development of different infrastructures like hotels, and roads, among others in Uganda and East Africa as a whole.
Ogole also called upon leaders and the different stakeholders to join efforts and work for the good cause and ensure that the dream of Uganda co-hosting the AFCON games alongside Kenya and Tanzania is achieved.
Meanwhile, one of the sports officials from Lira district who preferred anonymity said that this is a dream, adding that it comes with its positive benefits that will boost development projecting that the market base for goods and services will be widen.
“The demand for goods and services will be high thus the big market too. Demand for food, drinks, beverages, hotels will all be high,” he added.
Aside from that, he also said his great opportunity will inspire young talents to shape their football career.
“These young bloods will now have the opportunity to see their role models live and turn ‘up their games through the acquired skills’,” he said.
Born on 3rd December 1949 in the then Abako sub-county village in Moroto County in Lango District now Alebtong district in Lango sub-region, Uganda, John Charles Akii-Bua left school early, at age 15, with an elementary school education. His leaving school early partly had to do with the death of his father. Soon, he started herding cattle and also worked in a local family retail store.
In an interview in “Sports Illustrated” soon after his Olympic gold medal win, Akii would proudly remark that the “lions were particularly weary of his presence when he was there and would not go after the animals he was herding”.
James Akung Wapakhabulo is the LC3 chairman of Abia sub-county in Alebtong district. He noted that security has to be prioritized ahead of these games.
Akung also called upon the natives of Lango sub-region to embrace what he described as “this big come true opportunity” that will come along with benefits.
“First of all, we shall be able to maintain that good relation between the East African countries and the other African countries we are to host. This will boost our economic status. The tournament is not a one-day event,” Akung added.
He further said that collective responsibility is required by the government leaders, stakeholders, FUFA and all partners to ensure that all the necessary facilities are completed early enough.
Akung also challenged the government through the Ministry of Education and Sports and the Ministry of Finance to spearhead the construction of the famous, yet pending Akii Bua stadium.
“It is high time President Yoweri Kaguta acted on his pledge. Completing Akii Bua stadium is the best way the government can honour the late Akii Bua since he was a great athlete. The stadium will not only be used for the AFCON 2027 games but will equally host forthcoming events.”
Recently, Moses Magogo, President of FUFA confirmed that the privilege now marks a significant milestone for East African collaboration and a reward for belief.
Three Eastern African nations clinched the hosting rights –triumphing over contenders such as South Africa, Zambia, Botswana, and Senegal. It should be remembered that this endeavour gained substantial momentum in July 2023 when CAF President Dr. Patrice Motsepe, during his two-day visit to Uganda, encouraged Uganda and Tanzania to submit a joint bid for hosting AFCON. Motsepe’s endorsement later prompted the three nations to embark on this ambitious journey.
As per CAF, one of the minimum requirements for hosting the tournament is to provide six stadiums to accommodate the 24 participating teams. It also mandates that among these stadiums, two must have a seating capacity of 40,000, two with a capacity of 20,000, and two with a capacity of 15,000.
Currently, the three participating countries face other infrastructure challenges among them. As a result, in recent years, Uganda has had to host her qualifying matches in foreign territories because Mandela is under renovation and there are no other licensed stadiums in the country to host continental games.
In 2019, a group of Lango men and women collected more than shs20m to ‘build Akii Bua Stadium’ – accusing the government of leaving it to them
Additional reporting by Milton Emmy Akwam.