6 January 2018

Uganda: Beautiful Game of Soccer Best Unifying Tool in Ugandan Slums

Photo: JB Ssenkubuge
Priceless Sight. The matches between girls’ teams are always a joy to behold as every player looks to put in their best shifts in-front of a partisan crowd.

Alfred Obbo, is flying. In his borrowed plastic sandals each of a different size and make, and his toned cloth, he feels special. Quite unusual in his condition.

The reason for his mood is the spherical object running between his soiled legs.

His colleagues, who are better at the ball, are split in teams dressed in blue and red bibs, yet he is happy playing on the fringes of the rough pitch. It is Match Day 10 of the Slum Cup at Acholi Quarters Banda Zone 1 - Kireka, a suburb in the Ugandan capital Kampala.

The event brings together kids in slum communities, who have inherited a perennial cloth of poverty.

On this pitch is where their lives let free from the strain and stench of under-privilege.

Joy unlimited

Football is the sole joy and redeemer here. A handful of these kids, have just one 'improper meal' a day, yet for many, whose mothers depend on their hard-earned penny from stone quarrying, return home without it, which means that their stomachs will too go without.

On match days, their worries are temporarily confined by the beautiful game. The Aliguma Foundation organises such gatherings to nurture livelihood's undernourished in poverty.

It took convincing from Ritah Aliguma, vice president of the Uganda Sports Press Association (Uspa), who dedicates her time to social work as well, to commit local leaders to allow the unplayable small-size pitch to host matches.

The community tucked away in rocky gravel, was earmarked by the government to resettle victims of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) insurgency who hence formed a forgotten island on land.

A people without any government service reaching their doors or households.

The Aliguma Foundation is helping many cross the bridge, casting a light in their lives by forming gatherings where food is served, where Bible teachings and spreading the gospel of reconciliation is offered, counseling, along with HIV/AIDS testing alongside counseling, and sporting activities.

Unifying factor

Among all this, football stands out, for it bonds an entire slum community.

Before them, is a largely unplayable and soggy grassless pitch, the drainage its fringes.

Yet at kickoff, the games cast away all such fears. At the sound of the public address system that announces match-days, a gathering envelops the ground.

On one matchday, the crowd had an unusual cheer member, Aziz Bumbuli, the amputee footballer. The former Proline FC star, gladly accepted the call of the Aliguma Foundation to liberate slum football.

"The only unifying fact that brings us together is sports, mostly football, and through this we continue to witness that philosophy of football a tool of peace on a large scale," says Aliguma - the vision-bearer of Slum Football in Uganda.

With the generous support of the foundation plus the earnings got from the beadwork and paintings that are produced by residents and sold both locally and abroad along with donations from friends and well-wishers, the sky could be the start for such tournaments.

The budget is still limited, yet the number of kids is overwhelming. Currently there are almost 200 children in the coaching programme in the slums of Acholi Quarters. The coaches insist that many children could have a bright (football) future ahead as the tournament seeks to cover Greater Kampala this year.

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