Just what does it take to erect a football academy? A number of balls, a field and a couple of instructors? Much more than that, reasons former national coach Mike Mutebi.
A football academy, Mutebi says, must have residential and elementary education facilities. By the youthful coach's description.
But it's not for the lack of it. The Uganda Youth Soccer Academy (UYSA) was set up in October 2007 with intentions to match the high standards that Mutebi preaches. After getting their academy up and running, they knew that for it to fit the soccer academy tag, it had to have a school where protégés also attended class.
They have made some success on their ground. UYSA children who had nowhere to study due to lack of school fees have all been enrolled in Happy Hours schools; both in primary and secondary levels.
Uganda Youth Soccer Academy chief executive officer and co-founder Ivan Kakembo together with his wife Ssali Doreen say it's too early to start rebuking or even lavishing his set-up with praise. "Uganda Youth Soccer Academy after thirteen years of existence wouldn't want to negate from the basics of a soccer academy, which among others includes providing academic education to these boys," Kakembo says, adding, "For all the boys that joined us but weren't going to school are studying from Happy Hours for as long as they're with us."
In return, Kakembo's protégés are expected to sell the Happy Hours brand by performing well on the pitch for the respective primary and secondary schools.
"We've to buy land and build a facility and I can say with confidence that we're getting there," Kakembo reveals.
All this has done nothing but please Happy Hours head teacher, Geoffrey Semakula. Says Semakula: "The future of football in this country is clearly in the hands of youth football development and we're proud to lend a hand to build talent holistically; both in football and in class.
"At Happy Hours, we now have 150 students studying for free since they're football students at Uganda Youth Soccer Academy too."
A cost-sharing deal between Happy Hours and worldwide foster families especially in the United Kingdom of the children enrolled on a football ticket has since been struck. Such concessions have gone a long way in helping 150 Uganda Youth Soccer Academt scholars enrolled at Happy Hours schools.
The academy, since its inception has garnered 500 children from the age of four to eighteen years in its programme which has seen 150 children enrolled at Happy Hours schools.
With such an organized set-up it wasn't surprising when at its several international tornaments in Denmark, Sweden and Belgium, Uganda Youth Soccer Academy won trophies, the football academy is here to stay.
Uganda Youth Soccer Academy making a difference in Ugandan slums together with its worldwide partners.