25 April 2008

UGANDA : Sky is the Start for Local Basketball

by John Vianney Nsimbe

UCU Canons' coach Jason Mehl may have celebrated avenging his side's loss to Falcons in last season's playoff semifinals and KCC Leopards may have sneaked past KIU Rangers without their influential pair of Mariam Hamala and Betty Akullo, but they weren't the only winners as the basketball league tipped off last week.
Local basketball governing body FUBA was also a winner. Judging by the people that thronged Lugogo Indoor Stadium to watch the matches, FUBA must have also smiled all the way to the bank.
It's a usual occurrence now for FUBA to bag handsome collections from the gates on big matchdays. Last season, during the play-offs that ran from October 12 to November 30, FUBA collected no less than Shs 3m. Fans were so gripped by the basketball that was on display that they were even willing to part with Shs 5,000 for an entrance ticket.
FUBA deputy general secretary Joseph Manano says that the federation won't be letting go of the initiative. He says basketball fans expect a cocktail of niceties at this season's Friday basketball games. "We want it to be a special time for the fans to come and have a good evening courtesy of good games," Manano said.
This of course is music to the ears of fans such as Lameck Ssonko. With a bar and barbecue setting right at the Lugogo stadium, the likes of Ssonko - a banker by profession - aren't complaining. Ssonko beamed: "I now don't need to look for where to hang out on a Friday after a busy day in the bank. I know there is basketball and with my girlfriend we feel the same like going to the bar."
With the likes of Ssonko ever-so willing to pay to access a basketball game, FUBA's gate collections have been increasing significantly in the past couple of years. While FUBA used to collect a little over Shs 4m all season the past two years or so, that figure was raked up at the gates during last season's play-offs.
The affordability of matches that sees fans pay even as low as Shs 1,000 to watch a match during the regular season has also augured well for FUBA.
With money now slowly trickling into FUBA's coffers, the sky could well be the start for local basketball.

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