For pool, re-opening  comes with hurdles

Thursday September 24 2020
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2015 Uganda Pool Open champion Amos Ndyagumanawe takes aim at the ball while 2012 winner Alfred Gumikiriza aka Black Sheep waits for his turn during the final of that year’s Nile Special National Pool Open at Lugogo. PHOTO/JOHN BATANUDDE



BY GEORGE KATONGOLE

Sportsmen and fans are bubbling with optimism after President Museveni gave positive signals for the re-opening of sports activities.

In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, sports federations/associations can implement health and safety as part of measures for re-opening. 

This arrangement is ideal and easy for the sport of pool as it can ably be played with no contact at all. Actually, the National Council of Sports (NCS) has listed it as a low risk sport alongside archery, cycling, darts, athletics, golf, motorsport, rowing, swimming and skating, among others. But the return of pool is easier said than done.
 
Broke association
Adjusting to the new normal of social distancing and playing behind closed doors is a walk in the park but pool faces additional complications.
The Pool Association of Uganda (Pau) have already called off the league declaring Ntinda Giants and Upper Volta as men and women champions, respectively.

At this stage of the year, about five activities could still be played including the prestigious National Open, Kampala Open, Club’s Knockout, Christmas Cup and the All Africa Pool Championship, which will be held in South Africa. But Pau have been rocked by financial hardship after prime sponsors Nile Breweries and Betway withdrew.

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The financial undercurrents have left the association in a spot of bother failing to give cash prizes since the 2018/19 season.

“Definitely the morale is low but many people are hungry for sports,” Michael Mawanda, the administrator of Soroti Pool Club explains.

Some elite pool players have tables from which they train and a great number is expected to be in pristine condition for competition. But the majority have limited access to such amenities. The mere fact that bars remain closed, many players are unlikely to be training during this time.

Adjusting to the new normal would not be hard because there are several pool arenas around Kampala. For instance, one is Temuseewo Plaza in the city centre, Upper Volta and The Don in Kasubi, as well as Cue Sports Centre in Ntinda.
 
Testing times
Compliance to mandatory regular tests that are supposed to be admitted to players and officials are a major obstacle. The painstaking health protocols, which cost a minimum of Shs240,000 would be so demanding for most clubs.

Samuel Ochen, the proprietor of Soroti Club has actually decided to call it time in the national league and instead form a regional league in order to minimise costs.

The NCS which works on a shoestring budget does not commit to help clubs in the more than 50 subscribing federations, which has spurred fear of sports like pool being left at the starting blocks.

Even if there are clubs that could manage the tests, many pool players work to support their families. 

Other alternatives
Sharon Mirembe, 27, a national team player for Ntinda Giants is involved in cocoa farming in Ssekanyonyi village, Mityana District. The nursery school teacher is busy with the harvesting season working all week.

“The money I get from other activities help me pay all my bills,” Mirembe said.

This was a common experience for many pool players as well as those in most amateur sports sectors. During the lockdown, many of them have continued to work full time.

A shift that can maintain their sport-work balance is not supported by suggested Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) that require a team camp and quarantining.

Players can be passionate, but such craving is not limitless.

gkatongole@ug.nationmedia.com

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