Woodball carrying its own cross to the world

Woodball carrying its own cross to the world

What you need to know:

  • During the five-day event, there were obvious challenges with equipment. The mallet, an equivalent of a tennis racket, costs $160 (an equivalent of Shs500,000). 
  • Using personal contacts, the Ndejje University financial director has lured the Chinese government into supporting woodball while his diplomatic ties have landed him support from the government through the National Council of Sports as well as other corporates like the Institute of Chartered Public Accountants of Uganda (ICPAU).

Uganda picked its second consecutive overall gold medal at the second edition of the Africa Woodball Championship last week beating a hard fighting and improved Kenya to the second place at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT).
Uganda’s dominance continued into the Kenya Open where Makerere University Business School showed they were an emerging force.

The five-day tournament that attracted participants from Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Malawi and Tanzania showed woodball’s carefully planned trajectory.
“I am really excited about the progress of the sport and the competition exhibited especially by Kenya. It is always good to have a competitive tournament. We have a tough road ahead but I am ready to celebrate the achievements we have reached so far,” Africa Woodball Federation president Paul Mark Kayongo said in an interview. Kayongo also doubles as the president of the Uganda Woodball Federation.

The poor-man’s version of golf is a sport for all people with a competitive advantage.  In Uganda, its adorable success is built on the goodwill of the Chinese government, Ndejje University and the government of Uganda through the National Council of Sports.
As the momentum shifts to increasing the woodball playing countries in Africa to 24, we look back at the recently concluded tournament.

World class
Despite being a continental event, it was devoid of high profile guests. You can partly blame the Covid-19 pandemic. For instance, when the Beach World Cup was held in Uganda in 2019, then Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga was the chief guest while the First Lady, Ms Janet Museveni, an adoring fan of woodball, ensured the tournament was fully facilitated.

In Nairobi, the third secretary to the Uganda High Commissioner Jeremiah Guma and the consular officer Juliet Magala Nakawuma, were the only high profile guests at the event.
To Kayongo, there are lessons learned in announcing the subsequent hosts.
“We have to select the host in good time, say two years. We should then come up with a standard dossier to guide the host. This would help the host to seek government assurance of the events and financial support,” Kayongo said in an interview.

A man like Kayongo
In African woodball, there is a man called Kayongo. He is Mr Woodball. All woodball activities mirror his personal effort and sacrifice. He carries almost all the load for the sport.
“If you come in looking for money, you leave a disappointed man,” Kayongo, who famously said he brought woodball in a suitcase to Africa, explained.

Using personal contacts, the Ndejje University financial director has lured the Chinese government into supporting woodball while his diplomatic ties have landed him support from the government through the National Council of Sports as well as other corporates like the Institute of Chartered Public Accountants of Uganda (ICPAU).
He has nurtured the sport earning the recognition of government and personal endorsement from the sports minister Hamson Obua who termed it the most organised sports federation in Uganda.

Equipment
During the five-day event, there were obvious challenges with equipment. The mallet, an equivalent of a tennis racket, costs $160 (an equivalent of Shs500,000). But players especially from Malawi and Burundi sometimes delayed the games because they did not have personal mallets and balls. In the Covid-19 times, sharing equipment was something discouraged which ended up affecting some of the players.

Kayongo said that it was prudent to ensure standard equipment production.
“We must make equipment available to all our member countries,” Kayongo said.
Uganda owns the franchise of manufacturing woodball equipment in Africa. The Chinese Embassy in Uganda supported the equipment manufacturing at Ndejje University with three hi-tech machines.


More government support
Players hope the sport’s recognition and continued medal haul will result in stronger government support. Legendary women player Lilian Zawedde said the status of woodball should guarantee better financial backing from the government.
“Our performance has been consistent even at world events not in Africa only. I hope that the government will start to take woodball more seriously,” Zawedde, who was ranked third in the world in 2016, said. Zawedde is the first bronze medallist for Uganda, an honour she won at the 6th Woodball World Cup in Korea. She paired with Nicholas Atamba for gold in the mixed doubles at the same event.

Athletes have been receiving luxurious vehicles, houses and monthly stipends following their successful performance. President Museveni issued a directive to gift gold, silver and bronze medallists at the continental or international level a monthly salary of Shs5m, Shs3m and Shs1m respectively. Yet woodball is understood to have only two beneficiaries. The various athletes are yet to get any State dinner with the president despite global dominance.
“As players, it is something we look forward to. We have won enough medals, now we need a presidential handshake,” Israel Muwanguzi, who took home four medals, said.

In the Nairobi event, Joan Mukoova, Florence Mukoya and Thomas Keddi, would be entitled to the Shs5m stipend for their individual gold medals. Yet there may not be any consideration as of now.
Uganda is expected to be a force to reckon with when the delayed World Cup is played in Perlis, Malaysia next year.
For now, the “small” sports such as woodball, is all about carrying the weight on the national team flag as a personal cross. 

Africa Woodball Champs
Stroke competition

Women singles: F. Mukoya (158), J. Mukoova (162) & C. Birungi (172)
Men singles: P. Waweru (149), P. Ahami (150) & B. Mutati (152)
Doubles women: F. Gacheri/M. Waweru (54), J. Mukoova/C. Birungi (58) & D. Birenge/D. Kendi 59
Doubles men: D. Mungai/K. Mutuma (46), B. Mutati/J. Wanyoike (46) & T. Kedi/I. Muwanguzi (47)
Mxd doubles: R. Mulindwa/F. Mukoya (49), P. Waweri/C. Mwende (50) & O. Atamba/J. Nalubega (51)
Fairway singles
Men: T. Keddi (Uga) 5-3 P. Ahami (Ken)
Women: J. Mukoova (Uga) 5-4 L. Mungai (Ken)
[email protected]

Welcome!

You're all set to enjoy unlimited Prime content.