Meet the youths who will do anything to catch a piece of Premier League action

If you want to pick up an easy fight with Lenny Inzama, talk ill about Manchester United, one of the most decorated Premier League clubs in England.

“I don’t tolerate anybody who insults my team. Manchester United is a great team even if we have some problems at the moment,” he told me at his Boda Boda stage in Kyaliwajjala, Namugongo, roughly 15 KM from Kampala.

Inzama is 27 years old and hails from Arua, in the West Nile region of Uganda. He said he has supported Manchester United since he was 12 years old.

He fell in love with the premier league giant when he was living in Arua town.

A childhood friend introduced him to European soccer and over the weekend, the duo would sneak from home and head for one of the video halls that televised premier league matches.

Yet of all premier league clubs, I asked, why did he choose Manchester United?

David Beckham, came his instant reply.

“That guy [Beckham] was a great footballer,” Inzama said, wiping beads of sweat from his brow.

“I remember he was a specialist at free-kicks and I loved the way he used to cross the ball into the penalty box.”

When Inzama moved to Kampala city to look for better opportunities in 2012, his love for Manchester United went a notch higher.

See, Kampala being the most developed city in Uganda has numerous entertainment spots and attractions. It also has many people.

On a typical weekend, you will find Inzama proudly donning his Manchester United jersey. The jersey is one of his most prized possession.

Locally, he said, he does not support any club because in his view local football is less entertaining. Inzama has never attended a local league match but is an avid follower of the national team.

“I only support Uganda Cranes because Uganda is my country. It brings me joy whenever we win,” he said.

Choosing between Arsenal and a girlfriend

Like Inzama, Nsereko Ayub is also a soccer fanatic.

Nsereko, a vendor in a food market confessed that he is a dyed-in the wool supporter of Arsenal FC, another Premier League Club with a big following in Uganda.

His love for Arsenal has cost him a relationship.

“My girlfriend told me to choose between her and Arsenal because I was spending more time during the weekends watching soccer. I chose Arsenal,” he told me with a sheepish smile.

Nsereko moves with a fixture list of Arsenal’s games and barring a major personal crisis, he said he has never missed any game.

Once in 2015 when there was a power blackout in his area after a transformer malfunctioned, Nsereko walked six kilometres to catch an Arsenal game.

While there are no official records on which premier league club in Uganda is most supported, it is clear that Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool have more supporters.

Relatedly, more males seem to be interested in Premier League Football than females in Uganda.

Some women have resorted to accompanying their boyfriends to bars or night clubs as they watch the games.

Yet as one soccer fan said, most of these females “are watching their boyfriends or husbands not the game” because they believe when they go to the bar they do a lot of mischief.

Local sports journalist, John Vianney Nsimbe said the rise in the premier league craze in Uganda is directly proportional to the fall in the standards of the local game.

“When people see the standards of the game in Europe and compare with what happens domestically, they choose Europe,” said Nsimbe.

Before Covid-19 pandemic wreaked havoc and led to a lockdown, bars, video halls and nightclubs could be seen teeming with football fans on weekends.

With many of the bars and nightclubs still closed, youths have found other ways to catch the games.

Inzama and Nsereko watch the games from make-shift video halls which are usually located deep in the suburbs, away from the prying eyes of security personnel.

At times when security personnel raid they are given ‘something’, so that they look away.

Others have installed numerous soccer apps that stream the games, on their phones.

Yet streaming the games via these apps is very costly in terms of internet data and usually requires one to have a smart phone.

Costly or not, some youths will stop at nothing to catch a piece of the Premier League action.

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