The mention of the name Ashford Mamelodi directly links people’s minds to football. He has been spotted regularly in the East and Southern Africa region on various missions to help with the development of football. One would be surprised to know that Mamelodi was a deadly striker for his local club-Black Pirel in Botswana way back in the 1980s. During his playing days, life was so sweet for him on the pitch because the club he played for then was in the top flight but now, they find themselves in the lower tier league (First Division) -South End in Botswana.
How football has evolved over the years since 1986 when Mamelodi last kicked a ball as an active player until today where he holds one of the most powerful positions in world football on the African continent, tells a different story on how he fell in love with football administration.
FUFA Media Team caught up with the FIFA Development Officer for Eastern and Southern Africa during his most recent visit in Uganda when he addressed the sports media on the status of artificial turf project at the KCCA Stadium in Lugogo.
The extensive interview carried out at Emin Pasha Hotel in the Ugandan capital-Kampala covered issues on football development in the country, structures, the new FUFA administration and FIFA’s continued support to its member associations.
FUFA Media (FM): Why did you leave playing football and join football administration yet strikers are guaranteed of the limelight when they score goals?
Ashford Mamelodi (AM): I was a deadly striker at my club Black Pirel FC but I never stayed long in active football as I saw things not going right off the pitch in terms of administration. I decided to quit active football in 1986 and switched my attention to another field. I felt football needed a helping hand in administration.
FM: Is there any change in football administration on the African Continent from the time you gave up playing the sport?
There is a huge change over the years but there is still a lot to be done. It has been a gradual process. Administration is not about leadership of federations but the pillars of football like clubs need to appreciate the importance of proper administration. If I run a club for 20 years it would still need to be given the administration touch. I have even seen professional clubs being run poorly administratively. We need to put in a lot for the administration of clubs in Africa.
FM: What is the role of FIFA Development Officers?
AM: First, let me tell you that there are four FIFA Development offices in Africa. They are found in Yaoundé (Cameroon), Gaborone (Botswana), Cairo (Egypt) and Abidjan (Ivory Coast). Initially our job was to manage FIFA goal projects but over the years the job has evolved with different responsibilities as assigned and guided by FIFA. Now The FIFA development Officers have been handed the tasks to see that the world soccer governing body’s projects like goal projects, coaching courses, refereeing courses, administration courses are welcomed. These projects help produce the right level of quality on the pitch. FIFA will never be satisfied until its member associations get the best. It should be noted that FIFA has made an impact on global projects particularly Africa with reference to the goal projects. Many federations didn’t have offices. There is no federation in Africa now that doesn’t have what FIFA President Sepp Blatter calls ‘House of Football’. Uganda has the FUFA house in Mengo as its football headquarters.
As a FIFA development officer, I have also tried to see that every country in the East and Southern Africa get an artificial turf pitch. The ‘Win In Africa with Africa’ project which came after the FIFA 2010 World cup in South Africa, FUTURO III and grass roots programmes were also extended to the African countries.
How do you rate development of football in Uganda?
I think Uganda has made positive strides. The last time we were here in Uganda, we had to put off some fires. I vividly recall how we had to fuse the 2005 fires before Lawrence Mulindwa got elected. When such happens, the focus switches from football. The Win in Africa with Africa, FUFA house, technical Centre in Njeru with funding for the extension of the project set to resume, at Njeru technical center, Uganda football is destined for the greater things. The huge constitutional review of the FUFA statutes which has given a big revision of how football should be run in Uganda has also helped the game move forward. There is a right environment, but we need to launch the grass root football in Uganda. I’m certified that Uganda has moved forward. With the FIFA Performance programmes, many changes are set to occur and they will definitely take toll on some people but Ugandans must give football a chance to re-engineer itself in this country
FM: Have you noticed any improvement on Uganda beach soccer?
AM: Beach soccer has done very well in Uganda compared to many countries in Africa but we still think it can improve. We want Uganda to start competing regionally and internationally. There is a lot of potential for beach soccer and can be taken to other parts of Uganda. I like the National League which also has Pepsi as a sponsor.
FM: Does FIFA have any plans for coaches in Uganda?
AM: We need to restructure the FUFA Secretariat first. Then the job of producing coaches will be easier. Once the development structure is improved on, it becomes easier. We want the current figure of about 28 CAF C License coaches to increase to 500. If coaches qualify with good grades and papers it will help clubs get good tactics to improve the sport. It should be noted that good coaches and referees lead to quality football. We want Uganda to have more courses for capacity building. The more instructors we have in a particular country the better and the fruits are there for people to see.
FM: What is your take in regard to the current football environment in Uganda?
AM: As FIFA, we are not opposed to any probe committees but we insist that people must remember the FIFA statutes in terms of interference by outside parties. It is important for people to know what the remedies used by the probe to stop any irregularities should not interfere with the smooth running of the game. We are not insulating soccer officials from the law. The leadership needs to be focused. When there is change, it is normal that people will react to it differently. FIFA has been part of the governance reforms in Uganda epitomized with the new statutes that brought into the current leadership. So far so good and that is why the FIFA Development Programmes are continuing in Uganda
FM: How does FIFA plan to help Ugandan football under the leadership of Engineer Moses Magogo? And how do you rate him?
AM: It is still early stages for Magogo’s leadership but we have reason to be hopeful for the best. He is a FIFA regional instructor and his Vice president Justus Mugisha. They have been trained by FIFA to teach football Administration. I strongly believe they have a lot to offer and know what to do. FUFA is on the right direction and will go far. Lawrence Mulindwa came in at the end of a crisis in 2004 and basically rebuilt football in Uganda. He helped steer football to calmer waters. Football needs to be given prominence.
FM: What is the relationship between FIFA and the current FUFA executive led by Magogo?
AM: It is a cordial relationship and that is why we see good things happening to Ugandan football. The federation is in a stable environment. We have known Magogo for a long time and he has gone through all levels of football administration conducted by FIFA. When a new team comes in, some-times people never appreciate the changes. But we are supporting Magogo and we believe he will improve the standards of Uganda football.
Photo: Ashford Mamelodi