FOX Sports | Netball World Cup 2015 – Under-funded Uganda hope to defy odds and challenge for medal
Fox Sports — WANT to know what the Netball World Cup means to some of the sport’s developing nations? Look no further than Uganda, whose players were prepared to wash cars to raise funds for their upcoming campaign in Australia. A host of netballing minnows will take part in this month’s event but none have faced a harder road than the “She Cranes”, who continue to punch above their weight despite dire financial circumstances.
Uganda qualified for the World Cup at last year’s Africa Netball Championship in Botswana, despite a reported tournament budget of just 600,000 Ugandan Shillings, or $AUD244.
It meant the team was accommodated and fed on a credit arrangement with its hotel, suffered a shortage of bottled water in some games and needed a bailout from members of parliament for their flights home, according to Ugandan daily newspaper New Vision.
The team has received a significant government funding boost for the World Cup campaign – a reported 540 billion shillings ($AU220,000) – but says much more is needed to cover the logistics and preparations for a campaign involving lead-up events in South Africa and Namibia.
The Ugandan Netball Federation decided to take matters into its own hands, planning fundraising events including a car wash where the international players were going to skip training and clean for 50,000 shillings ($AD22) per vehicle. However the event scheduled for last weekend was cancelled, reportedly as result of orders from “higher powers” because it would be humiliating and embarrassing to the government.
Uganda’s football president Moses Magogo was among those to hit out at the situation, writing on social media: “We cannot sink lower. National Netball Team going to the World Cup and players washing Cars to get preparation money! In my view we rather not present the team to the World Cup than humiliate ourselves to this level. Both Government and whoever came up with this idea should think again.”
Uganda’s National Council of Sports claimed the She Cranes’ requested World Cup budget of 1.8 billion shillings ($AUD732,000) was excessive but team manager Jocelyn Ucanda said it was fair for a nation hoping to be competitive against heavyweights such as Australia, which receives more than $AUD3 million in government funding annually.
“The major financier for the team is the Uganda Government and they gave us enough to take the team to the World Cup but we still have financial requirements to enable the team train and prepare fully,” Ucanda told foxsports.com.au
“We need to have adequate funding that we can use to make the necessary preparations earlier enough so that the we are able to match the standards of other nations like Australia, England, South Africa, and New Zealand.”
Other fundraising activities have included collections at prayer sessions and church visits, while officials have also been lobbying to local Ugandan business, many of whom have already pledged support. Ucanda said netball was one of the fastest growing sports in Uganda, but there were only three specialized netball facilities in the country, with the sport mainly played on makeshift dirt courts and grass fields.
The national team is comprised of housewives, students and civil servants, most of whom can only train for two hours after their normal daily activities – though captain and star player Proscovia Peace has played professional netball in the UK.
“She (Peace) is a role model to the younger players and this motivates our team because it shows that you can get to another level in netball and play abroad as a professional,” Ucanda said.
“The opportunities are open and the World Cup will be a big stage for our players to be marketed to the world. They have a great potential.”
This will be Uganda’s second World Cup appearance but first since 1979 and financial concerns are not clouding excitement for a team which believes it can progress from a pool including Wales, Fiji and fellow African minnows Zambia.
“The team has been working so hard and has high expectations of reaching as far as the medal stage of the World Cup,” Ucanda said.
“We are really excited and we cannot wait to realize our dream.”
The Netball World Cup begins on August 7 and FOX Sports will broadcast all 64 games live.