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Cricket is Uganda’s fastest growing sport – Ansasiira

Charisma. From the departed Abbey Lutaya to Sam Walusimbi and more recently Bashir ‘Badu’ Ansasiira, Uganda Cricket Association (UCA) have been blessed to have leaders that are knowledgeable and passionate. The latter went down in history books as also the youngest. Ansasiira believes he over-achieved but will probably live with a tinge of regret that cricket didn’t get its desired home during his two term four-year era.

How have you been? How many months since you left chairmanship?
Not bad. Almost four but it’s like I never stopped. You know, it’s business as usual.
When you have a team that takes over that is so good, you are so comfortable and you do not have to follow up on whether where you left everything is okay.

What is your role in cricket in Uganda now?
Right now, they entrusted me with the international relations and sustainability project. When I came in 2017, the aim was to see Uganda play more cricket.

I think with the structures we put in place and establishing international relations which yielded more. We can now play cricket without any external finances.

I am trying to put a team together because I am required to have various ambassadors because it is a global thing, we cannot have only a local committee. We need cricket lovers ready to invest time like Lloyd Paternott in the United Kingdom is a very resourceful guy, well connected, young and vibrant.

Then you have a guy like Fred Lutaaya and Paul Kaheru (both UCA board members) as well as Jackson Kavuma (national men’s team manager) on your team and you are good to go.

So you have not yet formed the team?
Not yet, it is not a matter of sitting to have a team. I see this team having like three Ugandans and like four foreigners who will act like ambassadors outside the country.

Aren’t there too many people? They say too many cooks spoil the broth
You need someone in the Middle East, USA, Europe and here so that you can brainstorm and have ideas that will make cricket in Uganda self-reliant. It is not about the team being big but how efficient are those people. And I will need to provide direction.

So far so good because we are trying to partner with some NGOs. We want to be able to tap into sponsors that will be able to give support to the construction of our cricket home.

We want to look at the bigger picture. How can you put together a team that will get Uganda cricket $10m (about Shs35.2m)? It might seem big but how did Rwanda do it?

What are the things that you look to achieve?
To have access and rapport with potential sponsors so that we can fundraise for a cricket ground.

By doing so, we are developing the game which requires finances. How are we going to partner with those international people to come in and actually sink money in the development of sports?

Everyone wants to come and work with Uganda like the Africa Cricket Academy. It is because of the talent and positive willingness they see here. We the leaders must see the areas that require more investment. If we do not, then we shall remain the way we are. How shall we get high performance if the national team is not playing in Oman, Bermuda, Dubai, and Jersey consistently?

We have to find a way of making it happen. And these are the things that we tested but we need everyone to buy into them and see that it is the direction to take and I am happy that is how I started in my term and the new board has requested I handle that area.I can comfortably say, if the International Cricket Council (ICC) closed the doors on us today, that we are 20 per cent self-sustaining. Honestly, if without ICC support we cannot fly a team to Qatar or anywhere for a tour, then we have a problem!

Tell us more about the partnerships during your term.
The biggest partnership for us is Swetal Desai’s Sanjay Farm in Chikhli, South Gujarat-India.
Desai is the mother of most of our big partnerships. We got to know Vijay Patel’s Omtex from him.

I was scheduled to have a meeting with the new Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports Anurag Thakur so that our coaches get placements but only for Covid-19 to happen. Our Indian friends have opened doors for us everywhere.
We have many budding ones in the Middle East. The last one was sealed in December with the Emirates Cricket Board in Dubai. In Qatar, we became like brothers. These are Arabs and for them to establish a relationship with an association, it is about trust.

Kuwait is our next target for our women’s development. We need our teams to play at these good facilities and tournaments.

Trust is also the reason I was also voted on the ICC Chief Executives Committee (CEC). As Ugandans we have to continue building it. In the last election, I finished fourth. Now the chairman CEC wants me to be the board’s eye in Africa. You don’t buy that trust, but just earn it.

If our pending deal with Plum Sports goes through, then Uganda’s issues with development will be sorted forever. They are internationally recognised and have capacity to grow.

Did you do enough as chairman?
Personally, I am very satisfied. I was not a leader who came to cause pain. I empowered people and let them run things on their own and then offer accountability for their works.

UCA is not a profit-making business so it should be a people-led organisation. Monitoring people is not my way of doing things. But I am very result-oriented and those at the secretariat know this so well.

And I have left a good team in-charge led by Michael Nuwagaba (Chairman) and Alvin Bagaya (Hon. Secretary). Nuwagaba is quite busy but he is a strong policy maker. Bagaya is a strong policy maker but also good with operations while Lutaya (Fred) is very analytical. Nehal (Bibodi) is good with finances. The new chairman is enjoying himself because the team will run the show.

With that team and how they operate, we are headed in the right direction.

Does the current board work closely with you? Do you feel respect when you drive into Lugogo?
Absolutely. Respect is what you make it and you earn it. At the end of the day, when you are done with your term, what you did will come back to you. I was entrusted to lead a self-sustainability drive, so what more can I ask for?

People said you were a yes man and took forever to make decisions and that that is why we have no cricket oval but you called it unity. So tell us about your personality in your urge to seek unity vis-à-vis taking decisions.

Those two things do not meet anywhere; decision making and unifying. For the oval, no one can blame the other. Did we save the money? Yes

Did we have a committee? If I put a committee led by Paul Kaheru then I do not have to look there because he is as good as I am. And who are the people sitting on such a committee; Fred Mpanga, Junior Kwebiiha, Jackson Kavuma, Dan Ligyalingyi and Benjamin Musoke. Aren’t those big names? Do I need to tell such names what to do?

As a leader, you are not there to force people.
This whole delay was as a result of things beyond anyone. If you go to buy land and find the land has issues, there is little you can do.

But where was UCA in 2013 to 2017 vis-à-vis where we were by 2020, a very tight year?
If one thing we achieved, was the amendment of the Trustee Deed. It was never easy for anyone to come and say something was wrong.

Explain the Trustee Deed to a layman and of what benefit it is?
Personally, the Trustee Deed was something that I never saw as beneficial to Uganda cricket. We had our trustees in place already for an advisory role if things had failed at board level. But it delayed us from making certain big decisions like land acquisition.

But the Trustee Deed came in to change things like ownership. Trustees getting involved in running association activities on a day-to-day basis. To me, we were just fulfilling a requirement from the National Council of Sports (NCS).

But the right-thinking members of the cricket family reasoned it out. All it did was feed us into corporate governance that this association has a secretariat, board and is overseen by trustees.

How much of your manifesto did you fulfill when you came in 2017?
100 per cent. First one was financial stability and transparency. We were in the negative of Shs800m+ when I came into power.

UCA accounts were frozen by Uganda Revenue Authority (URA). But me and Premal Yagnik (former treasurer) worked out things. That man (Premal) sacrificed his time and money as sureties. His company (Blueberry Travel Uganda) was the biggest surety and they wanted Shs102m in cash immediately for us to be able to offset the debt periodically.

Stanbic Bank had frozen our accounts. Now we have a healthy balance and money in the excess of Shs700m to purchase land for our new home (Sunday Monitor understands the balance on the account saved aside for the project is in billions).

We made inroads via governance. We put cricket Uganda back on the map.
One area we did not concentrate on was development. But we tried to qualify. We had quality cricket being played even though it was not in large quantities. It was not widespread.

The committee got land in Gayaza but one member on the committee said we could not get land before a decision from the trustees.
That was beyond us because land ownership became an issue so we lost the land.

I’d have been happy to go to court to explain why we bought the land. But you go through that and it becomes a learning experience because now the new board knows that if someone frustrates a project, they are frustrating everyone and not only the board.

So what are they doing to get land soonest?
Before I left, we got land in Bombo and the committee agreed to the offer but there were ownership issues. To get land that will meet our requirements; proximity and development, is going to be hard.

It took us four months to re-draft the Trust Deed and we lost a year as the Trustees tried to throw out the board. So for two years we have not bought land. The good blood in the document was lacking so I am happy that the members of cricket rejected it.

Rebranding national teams. How did you manage to pull it off to the extent of having two foreign coaches?
From the title I was vice chairman, I used to promise the national team players like Roger Mukasa that if they worked hard, they would earn their worth. I did not mind how much we spent because my target was the results. In 2017, we spent but got relegated. But we didn’t give up and spent a little more and are now on top of the ICC World Cricket Challenge League B table with 10 points. The women’s team is also back on its way up.

And we knew that apart from getting teams exposure, we needed coaches to monitor the players and tutor them better. That is why Laurence Mahatlane (men’s coach) and Suraj Karavadra (women’s coach are in town.

You sound like you think you left a blueprint for cricket to be No.1 sport in Uganda.
Being No.1 sport in Uganda would be most unrealistic because it would be like comparing growing peas and beans in Kabale. With cricket you have to plough and cultivate and so on like beans. But football is like peas, you just throw and plough. But we are the fastest growing sport. The impact we make is always felt.

How is this so?

At UCA, we have structures and let teams’ management do their work. The secretariat and board do their work without micro-managing. Now the issue is getting the regional offices to be empowered. Did you know that we have cricket being played in Gulu, Kabale and Soroti more regularly on a competitive basis.

Put a time frame to some of the good things you ought to think will happen.
Covid-19 has killed us and put a big mess to some of our plans. But we have had no control over it.
We were penciled in to travel to Dubai last year but the pandemic stood in our way and hopefully we will have some Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) signed next month.

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Pleasantries. Former UCA chairman Ansasiira (R) receiving a hamper from the ICC Head of Global Development William Glenwright at the ICC offices in Dubai.

We have also had the goodwill of friends always intact. We also need to make use of trustees like Ranmal Keshwala, who put $15,000 (Shs52m) at one time and continues to do so whenever called upon.
Aziz Damani CEO Siva Koti, Challengers boss Vaheed Mohammed and KICC’s Hanumant Katkar are very selfless to cricket.

They have always given us and will continue to give us when we don’t have and ask. Our stock will rise.

By the way was their pressure? Why did you bring in the two coaches even when you were leaving?
First we could avail the funds unlike when we came in. And we had the need and support. Karavadra’s house and car, for example, was purchased by Keshwala. If we had five Keshwalas, we would do wonders here. Mahatlane did us a favour and came out of goodwill because of the team he was going to work with. Not what we promised to pay him.

What are the priorities of Uganda Cricket?
We are fully dependent on ICC majorly so we have to play by the scorecard.
Now that governance is streamlined, we need to up the performance of the management team. At our stage, we have no mediocrity.
National teams must open up the doors for us so they must improve including the under-age teams because whatever happens is dependent on the national teams.

The moment they take off, things will be better.

We already have a good governance structure but we need them to perform because whatever they do, they feed into the national teams. Give them priority, and the ovals, partnerships will come.

Two words to describe you?
Easily underestimated.I went to the shithole and dumped the arrogance and pride there. I stayed humble. It has to be a nice lesson for everyone.

I am not a slow decision maker but it is my strength to empower people. I don’t want to push them so fast and I actually encourage them to make mistakes because they grow that way.

Final Remark
Politics cannot be stopped. But we can do it in a healthy way. Let everyone come and give back to cricket. It’s a full-time job giving back to this game and it cannot be done by one person. People volunteering must not be taken for granted. Special plaudits to Kavuma (national team manager). Is there anyone who has taken care of the game like him?

Role and achievements

1998-2004: Member of Schools Development & Mini-Cricket Committee
2000-todate: Representative of Nile Cricket Club on UCA Board
2007 – 2008: Hon Secretary of UCA
2007-2013: Team Manager for Baby Cricket Cranes (Uganda U-19 Boys Side)
2014-2017: Vice chairman of UCA
2016: UCA voted best performing association by Uspa.
2017: Uganda hosted the ICC World Cricket League Division III
2017: Lady Cricket Cranes won ICC Africa Women’s World Cup Qualifiers in Namibia.
2018: UCA voted most organized sports association by NCS.
2018: Cricket Cranes won the Division IV World Cricket League in Malaysia.
2019: Cricket Cranes won Round One of ICC World Cricket Challenge League B in Oman.
2019: Uganda hosted the Africa T20 Finals Championship.
2019: Uganda hosted first-ever Women’s Victoria Series (Zimbabwe & Kenya)
2017-2021: Chairman Uganda Cricket Association
March-August 2021: ICC Chief Executives’ Committee (CEC)