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The ladies netball team; the t

By Vision Blogger

Added 31st October 2011 08:01 PM

UGANDA is home to a number of riveting grass-to-grace sports tales

UGANDA is home to a number of riveting grass-to-grace sports tales

By Eden Kironde

UGANDA is home to a number of riveting grass-to-grace sports tales. Every story I am told tends beat the previous one I listened to which at times gets me wondering if these sportsmen/women are in an unofficial competition on who will paint a gloomier past in order to give a grandeur perspective to their achievements.

Currently trading is the John Akii Bua rise from obscurity to World fame. By a mile the nation’s best sportsman, Akii Bua has had his tale relayed in a documentary recently premiered locally. A lot has been said about his epic achievement at the 1972 Munich Olympics games where he won gold in the 400m huddles. But the fact that he was born in a family of 43 children and his father passed on when he was only 16, loudly speaks about the deprivation he endured en-route to shattering the World Record.      

Yet, in spite the travails he endured, Akii Bua cannot claim monopoly to such accounts of triumph against colossal odds. Like the track legend, the ladies netball team that won gold in the just concluded All Africa games in the Maputo, Mozambique, has a teary story that preceded its victory too.

I heard the first account of the story while attending the first Nile Special-Uganda Sports Press Association monthly awards dinner at which the national ladies netball team was being recognized for its success at the All Africa games. 

As most of us were getting lost in the dinner and other niceties, the netball association general secretary Annet Kisomose, with the poise and charisma of an evangelist, drew us into the pitiful adventure that was the team’s preparation. 

Given the customary financial hiccups whenever such games come round, the huge number of sports federations yearning to send their contingents and the hide and seek games by the Sports Ministry and National Council of Sports, the netball teams were everyone’s number one pick for the cut. The men’s team fell first. They were told not to burn any calories or drop any sweat earlier on. 

But this did not herald good days for the ladies team. They were left on the traumatic knife edge. Everyday presented gloomy press reports announcing the team’s elimination from the Moputo-bound contingent. 

Meanwhile the trainings continued at the Nakivubo courts but they were anything but smooth. Already grappling with its financial pains, the federation was besieged with another problem; keeping the team spirit high in spite the daily reports that they were not destined for the games. Not an easy task. 

So here were players training hard everyday, receiving no allowance and being tipped for the chop. Even the news from the Sports Ministry and NCS corridors simply complemented the disheartening media speculation. The resultant effects were expected. 

Players started missing training sessions. At times only two or three turned up. Even the few that continued to show up were psychological frail and at times broke down in tears recalls Annet Kisomose who, all this time had turned the NCS and Ministry of sports corridors into her second home in search of some positive news that would add a spring in the training sessions. But good news was not forthcoming. 

The days to the games were dashing, the morale was dwindling and speculation offered little relief. Then in came the rumours that only seven players - the exact number that comprises a netball team - were going to Maputo.  This was to assume, that the seven players were not expected to get injured or fatigued since there weren’t any substitutes catered for. 

Finally when the team was confirmed as part of the group to represent the country, serenity returned to camp but skepticism reigned everywhere. Few expected the team to return with gold or rather a medal of any kind. 

But the girls shocked the nation. The victories over South Africa and Botswana were particularly impressive given the gulf in facilities, preparations and funding. This made the final triumph over Tanzania merely an icing on the cake. Not even the gold medals by Moses Kipsiro and Annet Negesa in the 5000 and 800M respectively could over-shadow the heroics by the netball team.  

True to recently history and perhaps our nature of reaping where we did not saw, upon return the girls were granted a welcome deserving of their feat and together with the rest of the All Africa games team, were treated to a sumptuous dinner by the head of state. 

What would such a dinner be without any promises from the first citizen? He listened to their plight and pledged to address the pertinent issues. However, the usual fears remain at least according to Annet Kisomose. Will the president come through and if so when? 

If he responds with usual slothfulness, that’s fulfilling the pledge in about five years time, I wonder where most of this team will be if no corporate companies come in to render a hand. I bet many will be mothers by then tendering to their little ones, long forgotten even how pass a ball. Like Akii Bua, we shall be left to lament their unfulfilled potential, pondering what might have been. 

And many years from today when a movie producer with an eye for gold lands on this story, he or she will interview some of the team members –then grandmothers- patch up a documentary and hit the cinemas. Our grand children will then watch in bewilderment at the monumental achievement by these monumental ladies and wonder how ungrateful our generation was. 

Of cause this is to assume that they will know better than to view sports as a burdensome sector and actually go an extra mile to leverage the galvanizing power sports to bring together a nation even when it’s teetering on the verge of a major oil split in parliament,

UGANDA is home to a number of riveting grass-to-grace sports tales

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