By Samson Opus
For many decades, netball has been confined to the backyard of Nakivubo stadium.
Despite a vibrant schools programme, Uganda Netball Federation (UNF) has been running a six-team national league because of a lack of funding for clubs.
This is notwithstanding the fact that netball is perhaps one of the oldest sporting events on the Ugandan scene. The sport with deep roots in British aristocracy was introduced to the country during the colonial days.
Over the years, however, women involved in the sport have endured disgraceful conditions. Due to lack of adequate facilities, players have to adopt squatting positions while changing in the playing attire infront of crowds of spectators.
The situation changed a little a few years ago when dressing rooms were built adjacent to the courts at Nakivubo stadium. However, due to the recent developments at Nakivubo, netball players have gone back to squatting positions in training at Mandela National stadium, Namboole.
The on-going developments at the former home of netball in Nakivubo has exerted more problems to Uganda Netball Federation. The cash-strapped national netball body has to cough money for every training session at Namboole.
According to She Cranes team manager Jocelyn Ucanda, the team is still indebted with the stadium management.
“We have not been able to raise player’s allowances. We also had borrowed money for training and still have outstanding fees to take care of training grounds. Any support from well wishers is still welcome,” pleaded Ucanda before her belated departure (with sh45m from the sports ministry) for the team’s hotel bills.
Despite the financial woes, the She Cranes underlined their potential by winning the Six Nations Cup in Singapore in December last year. The team was only saved by the last-minute intervention of President Yoweri Museveni, who bailed the team with sh100m. It was another near-miss situation for the She Cranes before departure to Gaborone.
The team did not have any funding for the trip. Lady luck smiled on the team after Members of Parliament secured tickets for the team.
The team travelled to Botswana with only $240 (about sh600,000). However, the Ugandan representatives put aside their financial woes as they achieved victories against their well facilitated opponents in Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana.
The Africa Championship victory puts Uganda in the last two places for the World Cup in Australia. Uganda joins South Africa and Malawi in the global championship that involves high profile countries like Australia and New Zealand.