The Observer (Kampala)

Uganda: Basketball - With Funding, Team Uganda Is Pumped Up

Team Uganda arrives in Dar es Salaam today ahead of the week-long tournament that ends on January 26. Felix Eupal looks at how far the team will go.

A timely boost from Air Uganda, Kampala Serena hotel, Roko Construction, Javas restaurant, Pamajo Afrique, National Council of Sports and funds from well-wishers were like mana from heaven for Team Uganda. The team which has been struggling to make ends meet realized its dreams, hours before heading for the tournament.

Air Uganda gave the team discounted tickets in addition to some free tickets for the coaches and two refs. Kampala Serena hosted the team to a luncheon and pitched in some money, while Roko Construction offered Shs 5m in cash on top of providing the team with kit bags. Javas fed the American- based coach Paul Johnson throughout his stay (he was brought in to help out iron out the mistakes in the team) and contributed some money; NCS provided the team with jerseys complete with branded track suits.

Yet, even with all this contribution, the National Team Steering committee hasn't yet met its budget, although it is happy something is on the table. Previously, the team has been financially constrained, sometimes, operating on a shoestring as was the case in 2007 when the federation had to take the team for the tournament but only had Shs 60,000 on its account.

Fuba President Ambrose Tashobya explains the good fortunes thus: "Previously, we have started slow because the players have been taking a road trip and would get to our destination when they are fatigued."

Dar es Salaam is a one-and-half hour flight and Tashobya believes that "even with the last bunch of players getting there today, they could play in the evening."

Joseph Ikong, assistant team captain (men's team), who also lifted the same trophy in 2005, believes they have prepared well and will bring the trophy home.

"Quote me on that," he said.

Timothy Odeke, the women's team head coach, is also happy they have funding.

"When you have a team that is only worrying about winning and not allowances, then you know you can fight when everyone is on the same page," he said.

The tournament winner and the best loser in both categories (men and women) will represent the Zone in the Africa Basketball championship later this year.

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