A fun-packed day punctuated by a kaleidoscopic aura at Lugogo provided the perfect picture of activity as Uganda hosted the Global Goals World Cup East Africa 2020 as the world celebrated the women.
GLOBAL GOALS WORLD CUP EAST AFRICA 2020
By Joseph Kizza
KAMPALA - Forget the gladiatorial aura of football games as we traditionally know them, with one winner the ultimate object of the fervent sport. Think of the Global Goals World Cup a little differently.
Here, everyone is a winner - in many more ways than one.
With this five-a-side only-women tournament, whose East Africa 2020 edition was successfully hosted by Uganda on Sunday, adjustments had to be made to fit it into the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) aimed at transforming the world.
And as the world marked the International Women's Day, the teams that showed up at StarTimes Stadium, Lugogo in Uganda's capital Kampala provided the perfect blend of diversity, creativity, elderly spirit and youthful promise befitting both the global celebration as well as the tournament's vision of merging global citizenship with football.
Yes, I may have mentioned that everyone is a winner, but at the end of a jam-packed Sunday, one team rose above the rest to claim the top honours by being crowned the winners of the competition: Hearts-Vision! And for their achievement, they will represent East Africa at the Global Goals Finals in New York, USA.
Hearts-Vision's crowning as the champions wrapped up a day that had started off with a promise of beautiful weather which had gotten participants the more excited. As early as 8am, Lugogo was already bustling with life, an air of anticipation hanging well over the stadium, the home ground of local Premier League defending champions KCCA FC.
Sure enough, the weather was kind, as groups of females walked out onto the artificial turf of the stadium clad in creative, colourful team jerseys. Their presence did well to add a kaleidoscopic vibe to the event, with each team's ingenuity and style evident in their respective uniform attire.
That ubiquitous presence of women of all ages and from all over East Africa made for interesting watching.
To qualify for the Global Goals World Cup East Africa 2020, teams had to select one of the 17 SDGs and take action on it. Here, we are talking areas such as gender equality, education, poverty, climate action, decent work and good health.
You could say Team Abigail's Grandmaz drew a considerable dollop of attention on the day. This group of elderly women exuded admirable gusto both on and off the pitch. Having chosen to play for Goal 8, which is on decent work and economic growth, this team of grandmothers and mothers want to turn their "frustration into energy and action for the next generation".
On the pitch, they proved no push-overs as they battled their younger opponents in the six-minute duels.
Another special group worth noting was the Team Deaf Startlets FC, who, just like their name suggests, are true rising stars. Their Goal 5 choice - on gender equality - aims for inclusivity, especially for people with disabilities, such as hearing impairement, just like them.
Their team motto 'We deserve a better life' speaks astronomical volumes and their taking part in the tournament provided a refreshing reminder that every human being surely deserves a better life.
I will take you through this selection of pictures taken from the tournament on Sunday:
The stage was set for the Global Goals World Cup East Africa 2020.
It was great Sunday vibes as participants and spectators gathered at StarTimes Stadium, Lugogo in Kampala to get the sporting event under way.
They showed up with a wide range of style and fashion, and some extended that creativity to their beautiful faces.
Team Abigail's Grandmaz, playing for SDG 8, added a distinctive touch to their uniform - and just like the other teams, they maintained good spirits.
On a warm Sunday morning, Mariam Mpaata, the local host for the tournament, addressed the teams. She is the chief executive of Afrika Sports Foundation Centre. Other key guests also made their reamrks.
The day's itinerary started with the registration of the team at 8am, which was followed by an Entrepreneurship Space Open and then the matches.
National Council of Sports chairperson Donald Rukare and Uganda Tourism Board chief executive Lilly Ajarova were at Lugogo too. Local football governing body FUFA was well represented - with a team.
By the way, Ajarova was Team Silverback Divas' goalkeeper, and she did well to keep out those goals! :)
If you are keen on African football, you should know already what a formidable force Uganda is in regional (CECAFA) football.
At 15 titles, Uganda is the most successful team in the CECAFA Cup, which is the oldest football tournament in Uganda.
Therefore, for the regional powerhouse, hosting the Global Goals World Cup East African edition meant that mothers, sisters and grandmothers got a chance to experience the uniting factor of football and hopefully use that experience to interest the younger generations.
The teams were unfazed by the morning sun's heat bearing down on them.
The supporters played their part in livening the mood inside Lugogo - with vibrant colours and costumes.
Oh, and heartwarming grins! :)
Uganda joined the illustrious cast of five African nations to host the Global Goals World Cup.
Immediate neighbours Kenya hosted the tournament in 2017 and South Africa in 2018. Nigeria and Morocco will host the event this year in different months.
Tanzania was well represented . . .
Team UMWCI Futsal Club (white veils) played for Global Goal 5, which is on gender equality.
Uganda Muslim Women Civilization Initiative (UMWCI) is a non-profit organisation that focuses on empowering women to become self-sustaining. Its tentacles also extend to the communities through entrepreneurship training, capacity building, skills development and income-generating activities.
The Global Goals World Cup is an amateur football tournament open to any women above the age of 18.
Eligible players can come from women groups, corporate companies, sports organisations or federations, and a group of friends. Typically, a team comprises eight players, five whom play at a given time on the pitch.
Previous editions of the tournament have been hosted in several other cities around the world, including Copenhagen (Denmark), New York (USA), Bangkok (Thailand), Dubai (United Arab Emirates), Mumbai (India) and Prague (Czech Republic).
Hosting the tournament offered a perfect pedestal for Uganda to lend its voice to such global issues as included in the SDGs.
In the buildup to the event, Mariam Mpaata talked of the host nation's desire to use the tournament to showcase what the Pearl of Africa is made of.
"As a country, we have a lot to show the rest of the world - our beautiful diverse culture, the natural resources and our sporting passion. We want to create a world-class event that will leave our visitors and the world in admiration of our organizing skills and passion for women football," she said in an interview.
Teams turned on their style game.
Creativity is the word here!
As mentioned earlier, every team chose a Global Goal to play for.
For instance, Team Poverty Alleviation Warriors went for Goal 1, which is about ending poverty in all its forms everywhere.
The team took part in the Nairobi edition (2017) and to them, "Zero poverty is the ideal situation. It is the Uganda we want - it is the the world we want".
Uganda was well represented at Lugogo.
Kenya, Uganda's neighbour to the east, also had good representation.
And this Kenyan supporter took his loyalty a step further by having a painting of the his nations's flag over his entire face. Great stuff!
And then the time for a dollop of footballing action arrived . . .
Team Hearts-Vision played for Goal 4, which is on quality education.
According to their profile, the team's motto is 'In School - not on Street!'. They work to prevent children from becoming homeless, lacking food, shelter or protection through the street life.
They educate the youth and create awareness and counselling concerning the many challenges that children face that force them to leave their homes and join the street life in the slum areas of Kampala.
This is how the team showed up at Lugogo on Sunday . . .
It was a sweltering day and the action on the pitch was as intense as the weather itself.
Team Abigail's Grandmaz gave a good account of themselves on Lugogo's synthetic surface, with their goalstopper replicating some keeper-sweeping moves we usually see from the Manuel Neuers of the traditional football game.
Such admirable youthful energy in those senior hands and legs!
Did you notice the beautifully coloured ball?
One of the Grandmaz exhibited some deft skills, combining well with her teammate as she slalomed past her minders like a hot knife through butter.
If you were keen enough, you could have picked out a Ronaldinho-sque move from this elderly sensation.
Cool stuff! Hats off to you!
The Grandmaz proved they are not a joking subject and Golola Moses would have been proud of them too! :)
Team Centenary Bank Ladies, looking neat in their blue,red and white jerseys (reminds me of World Cup France '98) played for Goal 1 (No poverty).
According to their profile, this group chose this goal because they want to see every one of their customers and the entire community empowered to fight poverty.
Their team motto: 'No one deserves to live under the poverty line. Economic empowerment is important for all.'
The teams were from a wide range of fields, including the medical world . . .
Before their duels, the teams had the proverbial pep talk for last-minute emphasis of their respective game plans.
Team Century Bottling Company Ladies were in high spirits and relished a group photo. They went for an all-red jersey.
A signal of their footballing potency to their opponents, perhaps? Hatari!
The weather was surely kind. Perfect conditions for interactions, footballing action as well as photoshoots!
Uganda's leading multimedia company, Vision Group, was also represented.
They held high the company's flag under the name Team Abakazi Ssi Mere, and they featured Peace Diane, Becky Cynthia, Sharon Adong, Faith Kiai, Lillian Namaganda, Barbara Sempa, Grace Mbabazi and Olivia Nakate.
In the picture below, you can see them warming up ahead of their duel.
And when it came to the real action, Team Abakazzi Ssi Mere showed they are steely enough to outwit and outrun any opponent on that pitch.
They played for Global Goal 10, which is on reduced inequalities.
They took part in the tournament to show the world that all of us are the same, because we all deserve to be looked at in the same way.
It was no doubt a fun-packed day!
Teardrops and tents lined the perimeter of the pitch as spectators and players alike enjoyed every second, minute and hour of the day-long event.
A memorable outing seasoned with a sprinkle of hearty interactions . . .
Guess what they were talking about . . .
Personally, I think they were teasing their goalkeeper (in blue) over a Panenka penalty she conceded.
Just kidding! :)
As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, in the Global Goals World Cup, everyone is a winner!
At the end of the one-day tournament, the unifying factor of football was clear.
A successful tournament! Congratulations Hearts-Vision and well done everyone!