At 21 years, Shamim Bangi is ranked number one in women’s badminton. The sport has allowed her to travel across Africa and get a university education. She is optimistic that she will make it to the Olympic games in 2016 despite the financial challenges facing her team.
On a Friday afternoon last month, I board a boda boda headed for Bugolobi for an interview with female Badminton top seed Shamim Bangi. On my way, I imagine what she looks like and what comes up is a picture of a giant of a woman.
Arriving at All Friends Club that doubles as a badminton school, a slim girl dressed in black shorts, a red T-shirt and sneakers welcomes me.
It does not cross my mind that she is Bangi until she introduces herself. After a handshake, she leads me inside the club to meet her coach and friends, also stars in the sport. She then picks up a racket and practices with another trainee before our interview begins.
Who is Bangi?
Born to Francis Bugembe and Ramla Mpila of Luzira, she is the first born in a family of five children –four girls and a boy. Her father was a carpenter and the mother was a farmer.
Sadly, they both passed on. Bangi is Uganda’s best female badminton player, a rank she has held since 2010. She is arguably one of the best female badminton stars in Africa, ranking fourth and 158th on the universe. The 21-year-old started playing badminton at 13 years.
While in Senior Two in 2006, Bangi won her first trophy at High School Tournament held in Kampala. In 2010, she featured for the national team at International Badminton Tournament hosted in Kenya’s capital Nairobi although Uganda lost on first stage.
The invitation to feature for the national team gave her an opportunity to rub shoulders with overall Badminton top seed Edwin Ekiring.
“I met Ekiring at the national team meet just before we went to Kenya for a badminton tournament. I told him how I wanted to be a badminton star just like him. Ekiringi told me to be focused, determined and have love for the sport,” she recalls.
That year, Bangi won a gold medal at an international tournament held in Ethiopia. Since then, she has won a couple of local, continental and some international medals, with the latest being Bronze medal which she bagged in June at International Badminton Tournament in Abuja, Nigeria.
Bangi the student and friend
Bangi went to St Agnes Nagalabi for primary and Mariam High for her Ordinary and Advanced certificates of education. Because of her talent, she earned a bursary at Ndejje University where she has completed a course in Banking and Insurance and is yet to graduate.
William Kabindi, Bangi’s coach since 2006, says: “I saw her when she was in Senior One. Her talent matured fast and she improves every day. Bangi is self-driven, likes the sport, is very determined, focused and has the passion.”
Margret Nankabirwa, a longtime friend and second in ranking in Uganda, describes Bangi as an open minded girl, enthusiastic, friendly and charismatic. “She can be an Olympian but her talent is only limited by funds,” she adds.
Like most Ugandan sports people, for example Ivan Byekwaso, who has missed out on some International Body Building and Fitness championships due to financial constraint, Bangi is not exempt.
In her case, she has missed several of them, including two major international badminton championships this year.
She says: “I have missed more than five international invitations since 2013. I am not the only one affected but the national badminton team is facing the challenge”