By James Bakama
UGANDAN table tennis players have excelled at a three-nation competition in Kenya. But Uganda’s celebrations are threatened by a police scare.
The Ugandan duo of Rodney Semata and Irene Nekesa on Tuesday beat Kenyan and Nigerian opposition in an African qualifier to the prestigious ITTF World Hopes Week and Challenge scheduled for June in Slovenia.
But as Semata and Nekesa earned themselves scholarships to Slovenia, little did they know that their team faced detention by the hotel for failure to pay $1800 (sh4.5m) in accommodation fees at the Nairobi Parklands Hotel.
Led by Ronnie Serulya, Team Uganda that comprises of U-12s Kelly Ayikoru, Daphne Akol, Semata, Nekesa and coach Jude Mutete was yet to clear the daily fee of $50 (sh125,500) per person.
“There is a big bill to settle here. We have already been warned by the hotel that we shall be detained if we don’t pay by Friday. We are worried but of course we haven’t told the children,” Mutete said.
The U-12 Africa Hopes Week and Challenge, that ends today, comprised of training and U-12 competition. It was organized by world table tennis body ITTF, the Africa body ATF and Kenya’s KTTA.
It ended in a two-day tournament to determine eight players to be offered scholarships to attend the world meet in Slovenia.
Organisers were shocked that a team of children could be dispatched with inadequate resources.
“This is risky especially after parents have entrusted their children’s safety with you.” But when contacted yesterday, Uganda Table Tennis Association chairman Dennis Galabuzi attributed the mishap to a breakdown in communication between the organisers and his body.
“At first we had the impression that there would be hospitality for everybody but it later turned out that they would only cater for only two people,” explained Galabuzi.
He however said that the matter would be sorted. “I have talked to ITTF and the matter is being sorted.”
Mutete said they had initially planned to get alternative accommodation at a lower cost in the Kenyan capital. ITTF however insisted on having all the three nations based in the same hotel. It is common practice for international sports federations to have participants of their activities in the same hotels.