PtG Article 06.07.2010

The complexities of democracy: the Ugandan Football Association as polity

Knowledge bank: This paper, by Professor Michael Schatzberg examines the microcosm of football by looking at the complicated relationship between the state, non-political societal organizations, and international institutions exemplified by a case study of the political fall of Denis Obua, long-serving president of the Ugandan Football Federation (FUFA).

Centered on a case study of the political fall of Denis Obua, a long-serving president of the Ugandan Football Association, FUFA, this paper by Professor Michael Schatzberg explores the complicated and murky relationship between the state, seemingly non-political societal organizations such as Fufa, and international institutions through an examination of the closed world of football.

In his paper, Schatzberg outlines FUFA’s role in Ugandan football, its way of governing, its management and spendings thorugh interviews, news articles and other sources. According to the information gathered for the paper, FUFA’s administration has been lacking in terms of accountability, transparency and funding of development projects and is being described by informants as corrupt.

In order to understand the way FUFA works, Schatzberg re-introduces the older term ‘polity’ to describe FUFA. Schatzberg argues that FUFA belongs to a larger class of liminal organizations that fit comfortably under neither of the two of the broad rubrics of contemporary political analysis — state and civil society.

"Treating FUFA as a polity helps us to understand that governance in all states, including democracies, is rendered more complicated by these organizations and collectivities that are intensely political but lie outside the conceptual parameters of the political," Schatzberg states.

It is assumed throughout the paper that what occurs within the daily life of the world of football reflects the same political and social fault lines that can be observed in the wider universe of Ugandan, and African, politics and society.

Read the paper in full here:The complexities of democracy: the Ugandan Football Association as polity

This paper appears in an edited French version in quarterly review Politique Africaine, number 118, June 2010, Dossier: Les terrains politique du foot. It is published on with kind permission of the author and Politique Africaine.