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Uganda eye glory as Africa Netball Championship starts

By James Bakama

Added 24th June 2017 02:30 PM

Going by past performance, you get the feeling that Uganda’s national netball side is on course for gold.

Uganda eye glory as Africa Netball Championship starts

Going by past performance, you get the feeling that Uganda’s national netball side is on course for gold.

Team Uganda prepares for the Africa Netball Championship. PHOTOS: Mpalanyi Ssentongo

Do the She Cranes have what is required to be crowned African netball queens?

That is the question on every Ugandan's mind as the Africa Netball Championships get underway at Lugogo today.

Going by past performance, you get the feeling that Uganda's national netball side is on course for gold.

But a closer look at proceedings in the build-up to the week-long events casts doubt on the hosts' ability to rise to the occasion.

The She Cranes run up to the event has been a catalogue of embarrassments. Uganda's preparations got to their lowest when even the team's meals were in doubt.

Then there was that time when the hosts' friendly with Malawi delayed because they lacked jerseys.

Such scandals would elsewhere have teams losing well before the umpire's starting whistle. In Uganda it is likely to be a completely different story.

It is not the first time that the national side seems to have collapsed because of inadequate resources only to soar to unimaginable heights.

In 2013 the national side was almost detained in a Gaborone hotel for delayed payment but still soared to a bronze.

Should it be therefore surprising that even after last week's debacle, that Coach Vincent Kiwanuka's side went on to beat heavyweights Malawi in a friendly on Wednesday.

And then as if to prove that the result was no fluke, the hosts shot down the same opposition a day later in a second friendly.

Malawi is Africa's second ranked netball nation and have regularly featured in competitions like the World Cup and Commonwealth Games.

Slow on chest thumping

But maybe this might not be time for chest thumping.

Malawi did not field their first choice side. They spared it for the actual competition. The Central African state is expected to unleash superstars like skipper Joana Kachilika, Joyce Mvula, Thandi Galeta and centre Bridget Kumwenda.

But trust the She Cranes when it comes to pulling off surprises.

They did not have the kind of support they will be enjoying at home this week when they won gold at the 2011 All Africa Games in Mozambique.

That time they thrashed Malawi in the semi-finals before also beating Africa's top side South Africa in the final.

Vital experience

Stars like Peace Proscovia, Halima Nakachwa and Lillian Ajio who were part of that team bring loads of experience to the current side.

The current team got a huge boost of confidence by featuring at the 2015 Netball World Cup.

"We have what it takes to also win this competition," said the team's lead scorer Proscovia.

"I believe I am also still good enough to also win the best shooter's award. Of course the more goals we score the closer we shall get to emerging champions," stated Proscovia.

Proscovia, a professional netballer in the UK with Loughborough Lightning, indeed speaks from a position of strength.

Her impact on the team was evident in this week's friendlies.

"Her exposure in the highly competitive European circuit will be a huge boost," stated coach Kiwanuka after an impressive show by the shooter in Wednesday's friendly.

Should Proscovia and company deliver the title, it will be a huge gift to Uganda. This is the biggest netball competition Uganda is hosting.

The profile of the She Cranes has over the past decade tremendously grown. It is an impressive run that started in 2009 with a gold medal in the Inter Cup.

Two years later Uganda struck gold again at the All Africa Games. Next was bronze at the Africa Cup of Nations in Botswana in 2013. The year
2014 was had double gold for Uganda. Uganda first won the ANOCA Youth Championship before also winning the Africa World Cup qualifiers.

A good show in this competition will have the Uganda's profile further enriched with a slot in next year's Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast.

That all this is happening when Uganda is preparing to participate in the World Youth Cup, says volumes about the strides that the country has taken.

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