Fred Musisi Kiyingi is retiring after a colourful career in sports journalism that spans over 38 years.
He was a pioneer at Soccer World magazine, worked with Ngoma before joining Daily Monitor in 2004 as a reporter. He became the editor of Enyanda in 2011 and leaves as an acting editor for Monitor sports.
He has worked with CBS FM, co-hosting the Akaati show for the last 15 years.
Many have gone through his hands and he has also inspired a lot to join the industry. That is the debt, most football writers and other Journalists at large whether they know him or not, owe him.
Uniquely, he joined the Sports Journalism world when he was still an active footballer – Then with KCC FC.
He is a well-respected figure in both worlds; having won three league titles (1979, 1983 & 1985) and two Uganda Cups. He has played for Nytil, Coffee, UCB and KCC.
He retired on March 31 and was accorded a brief send off the following day at Monitor Publications.
He has been described by workmate Elvis Ssenono as “strict” and “wastes no time telling you if you don’t meet journalism standards.
Former Nation Media workmate Isma Dhakaba Kigongo says that FMK is “relentless with unwavering passion.”
“Fred is always first in office and always demands so much from those he works with,” added Dhakaba.
“In addition, with every story he would ask; so what? You had to retell the story or rewrite it to please his taste. Glad to have worked with him all these years and he really loved my work.”
Monitor photographer John Batanudde referred to him as a guy who guided any reporter on how to approach a story.
“He has been a tough guy when it comes to executing assignments, he would call your phone several times until you deliver,” says Batanudde.
“He has been very organized and loved his work.
He wanted to associate with hard working people and was a no nonsense, hard working and good timekeeper. He helped me a lot especially on Motorsports where he opened up on everything.”
In his long career, long is an understatement here though, FMK has covered some of the biggest sports events including the 2010 World Cup.
For a profession that demands you to be right where the action is, working against deadlines to deliver a great story for one of the region’s best Media power house, FMK is widely considered as one of the best of his generation, not only because of his longevity but passion and knowledgeable.
FMK says that winning Journalism awards is not a big deal. He says: “The recognition and respect I have received from the public is enough.”
The big interview
You joined journalism while you were still an active footballer, how was that possible back then and how did you manage to balance the two?
FMK: Yes it’s true, I joined journalism while I was still active (playing football) but I think it was by mistake or chance.
How did you get started?
FMK: It all began in 1982 while on our way to Kumasi, Ghana to play Asante Kotoko in the 1982 Africa Champions Cup (now Caf Champions League). The internal flight from Accra to Kumasi had a magazine of Asante Kotoko.
The idea behind starting soccer world?
FMK: Mister Bidandi Ssali, then coach of KCC FC, on arrival in Kumasi asked me if we can do a similar magazine – not for the club but a general soccer magazine. We picked some copies as samples and came back with them. Why did he choose me? My sister in UK used to send soccer magazines SHOOT, WORLD SOCCER and MATCH. May be Bidandi released my passion for soccer. When we came back he summoned me, Rashid Mudiin (RIP) and Paul Waibale Snr (RIP). We chose the name SOCCER WORLD from WORLD SOCCER. The rest is history.
Attraction to rally?
FMK: I was attracted to motorsport around 2000 as along with my friends started following rally whenever there was an event. So when I joined Monitor Publications Limited in 2004 I became active reporter of rally. Another reason, most of the journalists at that time even now, majority want to cover soccer.
How crucial is writing as a skill to being a good journalist? U have been on radio but do u prefer writing to radio!?
FMK: In my opinion having skill and being a good journalist complement each other. Again I cannot say I prefer writing to radio. Each has advantage and disadvantage. With Radio, you have enough time to explain your point which is not the same with print. With print, your byline, people get to know you fast. One of my mentors the Late Freddie Ssekabembe who used to write for Munno publication, he told me the byline can take u to people and places you would never reached or met. By mere mentioning your name you are easily recognised.
Who influenced you to join journalism?
FMK: Bidandi Ssali, Freddie Ssekabembe, Fred Ssekitto, Paul Waibale Snr and South Africa celebrated journalists Mark Gleeson. Bidandi Ssali brought me to journalism, Ssekabembe mentored me and showed me the value of journalists and Gleeson introduced me to the world journalism.
You have covered many sporting events, how was the experience for you in South Africa?
FMK: I have covered seven AFCON tourneys including Egypt 2019, but it’s the 2009 confederations Cup and 2010 World Cup both held in South Africa, the highlight of my career. Creating friends internationally gave me a big advantage. I was known both in CAF and FIFA and I managed to get tickets to watch over 25 matches in South Africa, cover press conferences and accessing mixed zone as well as meeting celebrated players, officials and journalists. I also helped other Uganda journalists who covered the tournament to access to tickets and press conference passes.
How do you compare Journalism then (80s) and nowadays?
FMK: When we started, there was no internet, computers, we were using typewriters. My biggest asset was the Radio, BBC. I can say despite the people above I mentioned, BBC gave me the knowledge I have. And up to now I listen or watch BBC.
Do you think that online is a big threat to Print?
FMK: It is because the online does not wait. You cover event as it happens unlike the print where you have to get a better angle for a day two story.
You have been around for long, who do you consider the best writer (sports) you have ever seen (both local and international)?
FMK: I will always read Mark Ssali stories/column and the late Kenneth Matovu. Internationally, Henry Winter, Martin Samuel and Mark Gleeson. Gleeson and Mark Ssali are not only good writers but they will go deep to give stats and other relevant info.
Who do you look forward to reading nowadays?
FMK: Martin Samuel (Daily Mail) and Allan Ssekamatte.
You have covered local sports, how have you got on with managers, sportsmen and administrators?
FMK: By reporting correctly. I will give both sides a hearing. I have many friends with managers, sportsmen and administrators. I separate friendship with my professional. That has kept me going.
To all the young generation, what is the advice you can give them on how to become a good writer?
FMK: First have passion. In my opinion covering different sports you need to have passion. Get stats well, use recorders while interviewing people. Because many of our people will deny after seeing the story. But a recording helps to clear that.
If you are to change one thing in Ugandan Sports Journalism, what would it be?
FMK: I would encourage journalists first to respect themselves. If you respect yourself, the person you are talking to will respect you. I would encourage journalists to be punctual in the course of the duties and be smart in appearance. The appearance earns a person a lot of respect.
You support KCCA FC and Liverpool, Do you ever have any problems because of who you support in relation to your work?
FMK: No at all, this is the first thing Ssekabembe told me. I have KCCA jerseys at home but I have never put it on. For Liverpool when they win something I put on my wear. I have written many stories criticising KCCA even on radio if they do something bad I will say so. Am not someone with sentiments. Even I cannot put on Cranes jersey while watching them in action. That’s the respect I give my job.
Is there anything you would like to see more of or see less of in sports writing?
FMK: I want journalists to think more about day two story especially the print. The online and other social media platform is taking over.
How important has been mentoring and teaching young journalists in your time?
FMK: That’s the biggest challenge because the present journalists some don’t want to learn and think since he has platform he is a star. You need to have the right mentality especially for the radio.
There is a story you wrote about Desabre heading to a Moroccan club, and he later joined Pyramids. As a writer, how do you go about such when your sources become wrong once in a while?
FMK: The story I wrote about Desabre I was spot on. My only regreat was not writing it early enough as the tournament was progressing. I did not want to disrupt Cranes. I was in touch with Tunisian press who linked me to Sahel officials. But you things change so fast. I kept telling my people on the desk about that story.
And that’s the good thing with online. The things moved so fast when Pyramids put on table a deal the coach could refuse. Even Desabre admitted while being presented that the Sahel deal was on until Pyramids came in. I don’t regret at all.