Uganda is not always counted as one of the most noteworthy African football nations. Next to the likes of Nigeria, Ghana, and a few other nations that have had significant World Cup success, Uganda can sometimes fall behind in terms of international attention.
Despite this, though, the country has a very proud tradition, and for the most part the public loves the sport as much as people do anywhere else.
Currently, football is actually generating even more attention than usual due to Uganda’s strong play in the qualifying phase for the Africa Cup of Nations. Uganda has won Group L in qualifying, topping Lesotho, Tanzania, and Cape Verde with relative ease to secure a place in the Cup’s knockout phase this summer.
It’s a nice opportunity for the national team, and potentially an early boost in World Cup qualification for 2022 – which is a long shot, but still something Ugandans will be hopeful for.
Ultimately, because of the country’s abiding love of football and the excitement that will surround the national team heading into the summer, seeing football live can be one of the most thrilling things you do when traveling to or through Uganda. There are two primary options for catching the sport at the professional level.
The national team
The Ugandan National Team, as mentioned, is a very competitive one of late, keen on moving into the upper echelon of African football. The team’s matches can be tough tickets, but you can at least look into seeing them at their home venue, the Mandela National Stadium in Kampala. It’s a fairly large stadium, with a capacity just under 50,000, and it’s been all the more appealing following a 2010 facelift.
The Uganda Premier League
Once known as the Uganda Super League, the Uganda Premier League has been the top division of professional football in the country since 2015. It’s a full league with teams from all over Uganda, though your best chances to catch top quality local football are in Kampala (Kampala City Capital Authority FC is leading the league), Wakiso Town (the Vipers are another strong club), and Mbarara (for Mbarara City FC). Any of these can make for a terrific football experience.
Even if some of the stadiums may not look like much and the local professional clubs are not known the world over, football is a worthy aspect of Ugandan tourism. There are in fact several reasons to include it as something enjoyable to try during your stay:
Football is Uganda’s favorite sport, even if it might not be readily apparent to some internationals. There is more passion for the game than for any other sport, and this tends to show through when you make an effort to engage with the local football culture.
Gambling is legal and regulated in Uganda, which means there’s another dynamic to enjoying sports. Whether you opt for a local sportsbook or check on the trusted sites full of sports listings you can find online, the option should be there to bet on a match you may be attending. That doesn’t mean you should risk much money, but some travelers do find this adds some excitement to watching a sport in an unfamiliar country or league.
Perhaps it goes without saying, provided the previous assertion that football is indeed most Ugandans’ favorite sport. But people do attend the major matches in person, meaning there can be a very exciting atmosphere for the right match. Thus adds a cultural component to what would otherwise be just a sporting experience.
The Cranes – the nickname given to the national team – do have a rich history of success, which enhances the whole atmosphere surrounding Ugandan football. Despite not having had the World Cup success to gain renown beyond the African continent, the team tends to be very competitive, which sets the tone for the whole country’s attitude toward football.
Seeing a match live requires a bit of planning in advance. It’s worth it though, for all of the reasons mentioned above as well as for the simple reason that football is almost always fun!