"We still have leeway to make up if we are to compete strongly against other teams from Africa".
PIC: Action between Kampala Amputee Stars (blue) and UPDF Amputee team at Mengo Senior School in Kampala. (All photos by Richard Wetaya)
Crackling, snapping sounds from the metal crutches fill the pitch as players on opposing sides tussle for the ball. It is as intense as it is enjoyable to watch. Plenty of skill on show.
The perfection with which the Kampala Amputee Stars and their UPDF opponents pass the ball and set up plays leaves spectators in awe and bubbling with joy.
This friendly match unfolded at Mengo Senior School in Kampala during the 10th edition of the Ampfutbol, a Uganda amputee soccer event.
Eventually, Kampala Amputee Stars won 2-0, with Alex Mugerwa finding the back of the net twice.
Kampala Amputee Stars form the bulk of the Uganda Cranes Amputee team, who are set to represent Uganda at the 5th Cup of African Nations for Amputee Football (CANAF) in 2019 in Angola.
The friendly acted as a prep game ahead of the tournament.
Amputee football is an disabled sport involving seven players on each team. Outfield players have lower extremity amputations and goalkeepers have an upper extremity amputation.
Players use loft strands (forearm) crutches, and play without their prosthesis.
Lawrence Kitimbo, the President of the Uganda Amputee Soccer Federation, said that the friendly match had not only put the spotlight on amputee sports in the country, but also enhanced the fitness levels of the national amputee soccer team players.
“This is the 10th time the Uganda Amputee Soccer Federation is organising an amputee sports event," he said.
In Uganda, the sport took root in 2014, but, according to Kitimbo, "we still have leeway to make up if we are to compete strongly against other teams from Africa".
"Ours is the youngest federation in Africa and we expect to make headway with more funding in the not so far future,” he said.
Rajiv Ruparelia, the chief guest, pledged support to the federation, which he said had gone to all lengths to popularise amputee sports.
Rajiv Ruparelia inspected the amputee basketball teams
Thursday's match, which was played under World Amputee Football Federation and FIFA-sanctioned rules and regulations, saw both teams give a good account of themselves.
The UPDF team was made up of ex-servicemen who lost their limbs in battle, while the Kampala team had mostly amputee soccer players from Nakawa and Kawempe.
Later, spectators were treated to an entertaining game of wheelchair basketball -- between the UPDF team and the Kampala Amputee stars.
Sticking to the rules
Players may not use crutches to advance, control or block the ball. Such an action will be penalised in the same way as a handball infringement. However, incidental contact between crutch and ball is tolerated.