When the Cricket Cranes returned from New Zealand without Raymond Otim and Faruk Ochimi last Friday, it was neither the first time cricketers went missing while on duty abroad nor a practice exclusive to cricket.
For instance, in 2009 a whole seven players on the U19 Cricket team, vanished in Canada and just about every other discipline has examples of sportsmen (and officials by the way) who blended with the night on the eve of the return journey home.
But before we pass judgment and wince at the amount of shame that these people bring upon motherland, we need to appreciate the reasons why this phenomenon is so prevalent that it is now common practice for every head of delegation to also serve as custodian of all passports until the check-in counter on the journey back.
First and foremost, many people in this country and sportsmen are no exception, have been raised to believe that a good life lies beyond these borders. As it is, there are a vast number of us who wait for that one opportunity to move out and into a world of possibilities. To many, it is the only way to improve their lives.
In any case, perceptions of life abroad are made rosier by the harsh realities of life at home.
The young boxers of Naguru know by instinct that living off sugarcane and sharing gum shields is more likely to get you knocked out by malnutrition and cholera than by a defending champion in a multi-million dollar fight.
So we need to ask who we think these young men are going to emulate? The answer is Kassim Ouma, who deserted at the World Military Games of 2003 and went on to become a world champion with riches far removed from the wretched slum-dog existence of lower Naguru. This disappearance, therefore, is a ticket to the dignity that isn’t prevalent in local sports or very much else.
It is an investment of sorts into a future that promises much more than the present can offer. Parents buy into this as well and those who can will sell off family inheritances and send off a son with a promise that they will return to replenish all lost fortunes.
So, even if we mainly see the loud types that return at Christmas with dodgy accents and dodgier monikers like ‘Young Money’, beneath that vain surface are people who vastly improve their lives and that of their dependents.
I have to say that I pray Otim and Ochimi return in the latter category because they had better make their selfishness count.
I say selfish because their act wasn’t done in the interest of the Uganda Cricket Association whose image is now tainted or those cricketers who will come after, for their chances of international exposure just got thinner.
But that is a reality we have to contend with now. And what a grim reality it is that the livelihood of sportsmen talented enough to represent our country is so dire that a 19-year-old with a whole career ahead of him is desperate enough to want to trade all that in exchange for a life spent taking care of elderly people in a home 8000 miles away from home.