Makerere University Bachelor of Information Technology-first year student Simon Tumukunde has introduced a competitive concept to what has been a traditional back yard game Dodge-ball (Kwepena).
Originally played by most especially girls up to the age of 13, the improved version can be played by even University students and adults.
Through the Cheza Association, Tumukunde has urbanized the game by designing a court and introducing rules to the sport that is set to take the country by storm.
Michael Nsubuga had a chat with Tumukunde over the revitalized game
What is Cheza?
Cheza is an urban version of a traditional sport people call Okwepena. A local game of poor organization we redesigned to fit the current scope of sport so that its life changing capability can be unearthed, shared and realized.
When did you develop the idea of Cheza?
I developed the idea of Cheza in 2011, in my form 5 when I looked at the scope of sports in Uganda and Africa and realized we have no dominant traditional games because they are poorly organized. So for these games to become professional and dominant sports, a puzzle needed to be fixed which we have done overtime.
Cheza ‘Kwepena’ seems to be your first major sport you have taken on what is it all about?
Cheza is all about playing the traditional Okwepena in a more professional manner with rules, limitations like a court, team number, time frame, specific equipment like balls, jerseys, and an organized point basis for game play. It is kwepena with purpose not mediocrity.
How is it played? What new modifications have you introduced to it?
Now cheza is played in four rounds by two competing teams, playing under both point and elimination basis. The first two rounds are played within a limitation of 15 minutes and then the other two also known as the seven stones rounds are played on elimination whereby if one is hit more than two times, the round ends.
so in these last two rounds, a person piles seven stones/cones/boxes at the center of the court collecting them from the sides of the court as they dodge the ball thrown to them while also protecting the stones from being hit or even falling.
Tell us more about the scoring of points in the game?
As I told you, Cheza is played in four rounds, between two teams with the main aim of getting more points than the others. Every time a dodger dodges a ball, they get two or five points, every time a shooter hits a dodger, they earn two points. And looking at it in a more technical view, in case a dodger does a special art dodge (okwawuza), they earn 5 points and can still invite a team mate which makes it two dodgers against one and this gives them an edge that they can earn 4 points instead of two if they both dodge the ball, but still the shooters earn 4 points in case they hit one of the two dodger.
Still if a player steps off their court limitations, the opponents gain either 3 or 1 point depending on the type of step off. If a dodger steps off and is hit, the shooter gains 3 points, but if not hit, the shooter gains 1. In the same way if a shooter steps off and hits a dodger, the dodger gains 3 points and incase a shooter fails in the step off, it’s a point to the dodger.
Have you launched it yet?
Yes, we launched the sport on the 28th of July 2014 at Kati Kati with our chief guest, the senior Education officer Ms. Grace Abalo representing the ministry of Education and sports. We had demonstrations to the audience and game try outs.
How has it been received by the public out there?
The public has received the game with massive interest and encouragement, the young, old all embrace it and want to be a part of it, The ministry appreciated it, the media still does so. Some people do not appreciate they even tried to kill the initiative and look at it as an impossible vision to achieve but the good thing is that, such people are smaller than the dream so we keep moving.
We also got backing from the parliamentary committee on education and sport through the then Chairperson, Hon. Ssinabulya Namabidde Sylvia who encouraged us and recommended us to society and schools.
How does it compare with other available sports?
Well it is a sport with a deep African heritage, and with a lot of potential. If you compare it to other sports, it is not yet dominant. But it now has rules and regulations governing game play, it has equipment like balls, jerseys, associated to it. It has a strong team of individuals and a strong Nation as its backbone. So when you look at it in a comparison perspective, it is heading in the right direction and is about to dominate sports.
Has it made any progress in any school or elsewhere?
We have made progress in schools, both primary and secondary, we approached over 10 schools but concentrated on two schools that is Green hill academy for the primary section and Kitante hill school for the secondary section. The schools have adopted the game well which really encourages us to push on.
How do you plan to spread it/ grow it?
We plan to spread it in many dimensions that no sport uses today but still staying onto the basics, that is schools at all levels, universities, we shall get to a regional level, a district movement, till we cover the nation, East Africa, Africa and the World. We actually have 3 more Cheza arrangements coming up by the end of the year which are also part of our long time strategy as an association.
What are the challenges you have faced so far?
The challenges cover a wide scope, we have had people try to steal the idea and discourage its development and this has been a massive challenge, we have had financial challenges because we are a team of young individuals that are working on something bigger than us, with no sponsors though we still manage to hustle and keep it alive. Then another challenge is people who lack vision and have “cognitive dissonance” such people are still a challenge cheza and to many young visionaries in the nation today.
Future prospects of the sport?
The main prospect is taking Cheza to the Olympics. We want to watch it grow from a small entity to a huge global sport that can be played in a major stadium, with a huge player core and massive fan base. We want people to relate to this sport and enjoy it more than they relate to other sport, we want people to develop from this and here am talking about careers, the game having its own Messi or Federer or Serena or Kiprotich, Am talking about people having a new portal of employment through this because the sports sector is one that has a lot of potential across all nations in this century.
And still we want to impact people’s health in a whole new dimension because the core value of any sport should be impacting the health of any of its participants.
Has the ministry of education and sports embraced the sport?
As I told you before, the ministry loves the initiative and that’s why they sent us the senior Education Officer, Ms. Grace Abalo to endorse our launch. At this point, we are still working on more arrangements with them to take this to another level.
The Ministry promised to support us as we spread this sport so we are waiting to see how far this can take us.
How about getting sponsorship for it?
Right now we are working on finding the right sponsorship that is going to help us elevate this sport because Cheza has a very wide range of benefit for any party that can stand out among the crowd of companies to sponsor it. So once we get the right sponsorship, we shall surely let you know.
What would a potential sponsor have to invest in to sponsor say an event?
It depends on the kind of event, we have a sponsorship structure laid out and that’s what we are following. But in case of an event, we are looking at a standard venue, equipment sponsors, media partnerships.
By the way who is Simon Peter Tumukunde?
Tumukunde Simon Peter is a regular dude, a student doing a Bachelors of Information Technology at Makerere University in his first year. I am ambitious and I always go for what I want, I love my Mom, I love my team, I have respect for everyone in society and have big dreams for myself and my nation. And I believe that “There is nothing bigger than my dream”.
Where are the headquarters of Cheza?
The cheza headquarters are at Kasangati Buganda Buladde. That is where you will find the cheza grounds and headquarters. firstname.lastname@example.org Facebook us @CHEZA and our twitter handle is @chezasport. +256 703784632 and +256 779902185. We are always ready to work with you.