The national team’s qualification for the 2015 Netball World Cup has been met with euphoria among Ugandans.
The She Cranes, as they are popularly known, defied several odds to qualify for the 16-nation tournament in Australia, as one of Africa’s four representatives. Few milestones aertise a country’s potential more than competing at the highest level. It was the first time for any Ugandan team to qualify for a global tournament.
However, the events surrounding the She Cranes’ road to ‘Sydney 2015’ have been anything but smooth, and the quickly-organised dinners to toast to their success smacks of deception. Like it was in 2012 and 2013 when Stephen Kiprotich won gold at the Olympics and World Championships respectively, Ugandans have adopted a tradition of associating with success, without necessarily contributing to its achievement.
To this day, Kiprotich does most of his training in Kenya, but his pleas for a high-altitude training facility in Kapchorwa are yet to bear any fruit. Like Kiprotich, netball thrives purely on passion and dedication, given the little government support.
Time and again, the She Cranes have become used to last-ditch solicitation for funds, yet they always return from international engagements with their heads high. Take the example of their gold medal triumph at the 2011 All Africa Games or the 2013 Netball Nations Cup in Singapore. For a sport that operates on an annual budget of Shs 90m, it is clear netball is punching above its weight.
And due to the little remuneration, star players take netball as a part-time sport. In fact, there were only two fulltime netballers in the 12-member squad that travelled to Botswana for the qualifiers. Star shooters Peace Proscovia and Annet Nakiwu are best known for their heroics in basketball, while the likes of Halima Nakacwa and Hadijah Nakabuye are established names in handball.
Granted, netball may not be the most popular sport in Uganda, but it is through international sporting success that some countries are defined. It is high time the government put its hand where the mouth is, or else, Uganda may continue the trend of mediocrity in popular sporting disciplines, while suffocating real opportunities of making a world mark.
Source : The Observer