The Covid-19 pandemic has barely left almost no stone unturned. Like other sports federations, Uganda Rugby Union (URU) has felt the pinch, tricking down to the most important stakeholders, the players.
The ruggers have not only had their games affected but it has also been hard for the coaches to enforce any form of training at home.
But the biggest hit for the national Rugby Sevens team players, majority of them students or unemployed and therefore struggling to make ends meet, has come in terms of unpaid monthly allowances.
The side was in line for a busy year, starting with the World Challenger Series in Uruguay and Chile which saw them finish seventh to make the Hong Kong Sevens Qualifier cut. The next trip was due around this time in Biarritz, France for the final Olympics qualifying tournament (June 20-21) before heading to Hong Kong with the Safari Sevens and Africa Cup also waiting.
During a Zoom meeting organized by Uganda Olympic Committee (UOC) to discuss how athletes can keep active during the ongoing lockdown on sport last weekend, Rugby Sevens Cranes captain Michael Wokorach, inquired on why his team had stopped receiving payment despite having running contracts.
“I would like to know if National Council (of Sports) is still sending money to federations in this period because since lockdown, we have not received the allowances we are supposed to get as national team players,” Wokorach said.
NCS chairman Dr. Donald Rukare was quick to explain that “most government ministries, departments and agencies including NCS were facing severe budget constraints.”
“But this is an issue we will discuss with the technical committee at NCS and get back to URU.”
URU treasurer Simon Mutama, however, insists that everything is in the right place. These contract that were to last six months, with players earning anywhere between Shs400,000 to Shs800,000 depending on URU’s discretion, had after all been cut to two.
“Contractually we have paid them. I believe he (Wokorach) is alluding to what we have done or not done outside the contract. We have distributed food and with the help of Rugby Africa, more food is to be distributed,” said Mutama.
For their coach Tolbert Onyango, working out on anything should be a personal initiative as he finds it “ironic to recommend workouts in times when we are struggling to put food on the table. It is all about survival and staying alive for now.”
Wokorach, however, fears his teammates must be battling weight issues at the moment and will have to dig deep to return to form in the future. He sought the advice of nutrition and fitness expert Dr. Andrew Etuket on what foods they should eat to stay in shape.
“In order to maintain one’s weight, the first thing that needs to be addressed is eating enough food. The greater your weight, the more food you need to eat.
So most rugby players need to eat quite a lot given that most weigh 75 kilograms or more.
The next thing to be considered is that you are eating high quality nutrients like proteins (eggs, meat, dairy), dense carbs (sweet potatoes, irish potatoes, yams, whole grain bread, oats, beans) and healthy fat (groundnuts, avocado),” Etuket advised.