Organising a school football tournament in Uganda is great for the pupils, who are really eager to participate. The only problem is that adults have to be involved!
By staging a tournament, you think you are doing something fun for the community to get involved in. Unfortunately, one or two of the teachers think that for the pleasure of having some time off school, they should be entitled to various ‘incentives’ such as payment (on top of their wages) or lunch, despite the fact the matches were starting at three in the afternoon.
I had experienced this previously when Volunteer Uganda staged a netball tournament. One of the schools had no volunteer teacher, so I was asked to be their token mzungu supporter. Despite having never been to the school, not knowing any of the pupils, and having to cheer the team on against schools I had coached at and was extremely fond of, I performed my role with vigour. Afterwards I ran into town and bought every member of the team a packet of biscuits, one of the few snacks available in rural Uganda. The players polished them off straight away and were extremely appreciative. Then their teacher came over and instead of being grateful, moaned that I had only provided biscuits and no water! I was annoyed for two reasons – not only had I made what I thought what was a kind gesture, but also Volunteer Uganda had supplied bottles of water for the teams anyway…
Anyway, I digress. I have heard from VU colleagues that in previous tournaments, teachers have often disagreed with refereeing decisions and see nothing wrong with shouting ‘corruption’ in front of the children, going against the golden rule that ‘the referee is always right’. This sets an awful example to the pupils, that it is acceptable to disrespect the official.
During one of the games I was refereeing, everything was going smoothly until the ball bounced up in the penalty area and hit a player on the chest. I shouted and signalled play on, but a few seconds later, another player suddenly caught the ball because his teacher on the touchline had told him that it was a penalty, which was not the case. I was furious because the teacher had undermined me as a referee, in effect teaching his pupils that the referee’s decision is not final. Of course I have played a lot of football and complain about decisions that don’t go my way, but when working with young players, one of the first things you learn on your FA Level 1 course is that as their coach, you are a role model to the children. You are taught to manage the behaviour of parents on the touchline, yet here he was teaching his pupils to listen to him and not the referee’s whistle.
Later on the same day, another teacher called his team off the pitch, saying that the opposition was fielding a player who did not attend that school. We told him to play the match, and we would check the school records later. If something was amiss, we would award his school the victory, irrespective of the result of the game. The pupils initially refused, having taken their lead from their teacher…again to my mind really irresponsible behaviour from a supposed role model.
That’s not to say cheating doesn’t occur, on the contrary…