Kampala. For sports fans in Uganda, the juxtaposition is hard to ignore: the netball team, the She Cranes completed an unprecedented seventh at the Netball World Cup that ended Sunday in Liverpool while their Uganda Cranes still celebrate a second round knockout from the Africa Cup of Nations.
The two results portray a big disparity! Apart from highlighting a contentious battle about pay for different sports, netball’s success is rewarding for the grassroots.
“Uganda netball’s continued presence at the big stages is providing a template for the future of the game,” Ronald Mudhasi, a veteran umpire has said.
Uganda is the most successful netballing country in East Africa having won the World University championships, the Africa Netball Cup and the East African Schools games that were held in Musanze, Rwanda, last year.
In a minority sport where teams struggle for players, the size of the national talent pool predicts success. One important factor is the massive support by schools which compete in national and regional games.
Powerhouse St Mary’s SS Kitende leads the elite category of investors followed by East African champions St Noa Girls’ School Zzana, Buddo SS as well as Mpigi District’s Ngando SS.
These schools possess Uganda’s finest next superstars including Margaret Baagala, a short but aggressive centre, who was voted MVP at the recently concluded Ball Games II in Soroti. Others are Shadia Nassanga, who scores for fun as well as Ediofe’s highly sought goal shooter Grace Nyanjok and Ngando’s Milly Stella Nyadoi.
Steven Ndawula, Kitende’s head coach, identifies lack of initiatives as a big challenge.
“Many schools lack basic equipment and thus programmes supporting community netball must be thought of,” Ndawula, who is also the head coach of Police, said.