By Michael Nsubuga
Girls’ football which has not been in prominence for much of the time in Uganda is on its way to more recognition with more stakeholders coming on board to help lift it.
Gafford Girls Soccer Academy which has its roots at Cleveland Primary School ground in Kyebando, is the latest entrant.
Started last year by Henry Barungi, a former soccer player and brother to former KCC FC striker Rogers Atugonza, the one year old academy not only wants to promote girls football but also wants the girls to benefit from their talent by getting scholarships in local and foreign educational institutions.
“Girls football has been ignored for long and the few girls that have excelled end up getting pregnant before their peak. We want to provide the missing link by pushing them to aim for greater heights where they can even pursue professional careers after their studies,” Barungi says.
“We coach girls from 13 years and above including slum kids and orphans with the aim of making them soccer professionals”.
According to Barungi, US based coaches William Gafford and Franklin Davis are ready to connect talented girls to colleges in the US from where they can be linked to professional clubs. Atugonza, who plays for Rocket City FC, acts as their contact in the US. Currently the academy trains about 33 girls,eleven of whom are on various national teams; seven on the U-17 team and four on the Crested Cranes senior national team.
So far the academy has secured schoolarships in Muteesa 1 Royal University, Masaka SS, Gaddafi Integrated School and St. Juliana SS.
Barungi is assisted by two coaches every weekend during school days, and five days during the holidays.
The coaches also ensure the girls play friendlies with teams from other academies and institutions.
Barungi says at least three girls from the academy will be dispatched to the US in February next year as international transfer students from where they will further their studies and pursue professional football careers.
The three are Betty Omega, Betty Namataka and Daisy Ashemereirwe.
But all is not sailing for the academy as they face various challenges that include financing teams travel to matches and providing other logistics like water, jerseys , boots and training kit for the girls.
Despite all that Barungi is optimistic they will keep growing and will soon acquire a certificate from FUFA. They are currently looking for medical partners to offer first aid to the team on top getting a permanent home.