17 January 2013

Uganda: Soigi, From Netball to Basketball Icon

Even when Martha Soigi, 26, was still in high school, her friends testify that she had 'mad love' for sports.

She played volleyball, handball and netball for the school. But Soigi never played basketball, yet today, she is the pillar of the national women's basketball team. Soigi's journey to the basketball court was actually accidental.

She started out playing for KCC netball club when still a student at Gombe SS. From here, she joined the UPDF netball team. But when her teammates were advised to join the army, she didn't welcome the idea.

"I loved the team but I wasn't ready to join the army," Soigi says.

So, she left the UPDF team and she was labelled a "deserter".

"This actually killed my morale for netball; so, I took time off before I joined Prisons netball team, which I helped win the 2011 national championship," Soigi recalls fondly.

A year later, Soigi left Prisons for the National Insurance Corporation (NIC) netball team. As the lead shooter at Prisons, NIC found Soigi a star attraction. Then something happened. Once, while passing by Makerere University, a friend asked her if she could play with them. Their team was short on numbers during the pre-season Makerere basketball open tournament in 2009.

"She [Mariam Birungi] explained that the game wasn't so different from netball and she praised my shooting attributes, an important aspect in basketball. I accepted."

She joined the Lady Bucks and with just one season under her belt, another team, KCC Leopards approached her in 2010 with the promise of making her a great player. The rest, as they say is history. Soigi, under the tutelage of Timothy Odeke, has since transformed into the best centre in the country.

She was the anchor that kept KCC Leopards afloat as she led them to their third Fuba championship last year, cleaning up the boards and giving them that physical presence in the paint. During the two national team build up matches before the team heads for the Zone V Championship in Dar es Salaam, Soigi has had a combined 26 points, and seven rebounds.

Odeke, says: "She is very instrumental, especially in defence; she will come in handy to the team."

Perhaps her only undoing is losing her head during games.

"I am a true Musoga; so, I guess it is in my genes to be stubborn but I have enough experience now, that will not be an issue," she explains.

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