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Observations of EPL Football Mania in Uganda

The Start of it All:

In early January 2011, this article was one of the first ever written in the Soccerwidow blog. I remember it clearly; another hot, sunny day on the verandah of our residence in Lugala, towards the end of our 2-year stay in beautiful Uganda…

Football Fans of English Premier League Clubs in Uganda

Photo: u.g. boy (Skyscrapercity)

There is hardly a Ugandan male who is not fanatical about the English Premier League. Arsenal is the most popular team closely followed by Manchester United, and then smaller support for teams like Chelsea and Liverpool.

Many, many of the local ‘Matatu’ mini-bus and ‘Boda-Boda’ motorcycle taxis are adorned with club logos, team or player names splashed across the windscreen sun-shield vinyls, let alone the number of people walking the streets wearing replica shirts (mostly Chinese fakes).

This is not a Ugandan phenomenon either; I am told that in former times the boda-boda stage outside AIG’s office in Nairobi, Kenya (AIG being a previous Manchester United shirt sponsor) was simply known by everyone as ‘Man U’. If you wanted to reach AIG’s office, one simply had to say, “go to Man U”. However, it is amusing that not many of the Ugandans I asked actually know where England is or that England is in Europe or even where Europe is.

Arsenal is apparently the most popular EPL team simply because of its recent history of fielding more African players than any other team. Also, they were the most successful and glamorous club in England when satellite TV was introduced into Uganda and people began to follow football for the first time.

Many people jumped on the Arsenal bandwagon as they completed their unbeaten league season in 2003-04.

As I mentioned, football club logos are seen everywhere from buildings to vehicles and in most cases have been carefully painted by hand. A lot of time and effort goes into parading support for a football team they are only ever likely to watch on TV and which plays football in a country that they are never likely to visit.

In Uganda, EPL games are broadcast via the South African satellite service, DSTV, via their Super Sports channels. These live feeds are also watched by radio stations who then give commentaries in the local Lugandan language only.

Football Betting in Uganda

Photo: u.g. boy (Skyscrapercity)

On a Saturday afternoon, up to three EPL games are shown simultaneously, whereas in England it is not possible to watch a 15.00 hrs Saturday kick-off at all. Therefore, for my (English) husband, Uganda, apart from the constantly beautiful weather, is simply a football paradise. If you support Arsenal or Manchester United especially, you have live TV access to literally every game they play whichever competition they are playing in.

Ugandan league games are seldom shown even on the local UBC (Uganda Broadcasting Company) networks, but there is intense support for the national team, which is currently managed by a Scotsman, Bobby Williamson.

If the national side is playing an international match not too far away from home, there is a tribal away support that travels to watch the game.

Recently, Uganda played Kenya in Nairobi and the border was absolutely clogged for a couple of days with people trying to get into and then back out of Kenya.

Last Update: 28 March 2013

Categories:Blog Reports Curiosities & Oddities Obsession

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