Ugandan football (ah, soccer) continues to soar for girls
Originally posted at: https://www.ugandapartners.org/2020/03/ugandan-football-ah-soccer-continues-to-soar-for-girls/
(NOTE: Across the United States, March Madness refers to National Collegiate Athletic Association basketball competitions in a month when university rivalries are at their peak. In honor of the “madness” of watching American basketball in March 2020 and in collaboration with the Uganda Christian University student newspaper, The Standard, UCU Partners is featuring stories on this month on some of the sports played at UCU. This week, the focus is on soccer.)
By Eva Kyomugisha
One of the greatest gifts God gave Africa is football. It is very common to find a group of people gathered at a field or around a television in a pub watching a football match, each with his or her own comments as to how the game should be played.
Ugandan football, which Americans would call “soccer,” came to the country with British introduction in 1897. Like USA soccer, the objective is to score goals without touching the ball with the hands. The Uganda Football Association, now called the Federation of Uganda Football Associations (FUFA), started in 1925 with a league inaugurated in 1962. The game originally for men only has crossed the gender barrier.
Women’s football in Uganda started in the early 1990s but initially was only played for fun and not professionally. According to the FUFA website, the first time qualification was attempted for the African Cup for women was in 1998 when Uganda hosted Egypt at Nakivubo stadium.
Currently, women’s football in Uganda has gained traction with approximately 50 teams participating in a number of leagues in the country.
As a little girl, Ruth Akao grew up around boys who loved to play Ugandan football. This exposure ignited the 21-year-old Uganda Christian University (UCU) student’s passion for the sport as she often participated in some of the groups’ games.
“It made me happy when I played,” she said.
She continued playing the sport while at school. She has been engaged in professional leagues for over 10 years and isn’t done yet. While at Hope High School along Masaka Road (between Mukono and Kampala), she was scouted to play for the UCU Lady Cardinals team.
“I play position 11 which is the left-wing,” Akao said. “My job is to get the ball from the midfield and cross it to the box for scoring. Sometimes, we do the scoring ourselves.”
According to Akao, a major benefit from the sport is the fact that she receives half tuition to pursue her studies in Human Rights, Peace and Humanitarian Intervention in the Faculty of Social Sciences. She also states that she has been able to meet new people and make the necessary connections that she may need at a later time in her career.
“Ten years from now, I would like to start my own sports academy for girls,” she said.
Akao was part of the UCU Cardinals’ team that captured many honors in 2019, including a win of the Women’s Elite League. Despite Akao’s success in the sport, not many people in her life support her passion for the male-dominated sport.
“There is a time I went to the village and the people there were not happy with the fact that I am a football player,” she explains.
Akao added that most people find girls’ football to be too slow and boring for them to watch. She attributed this to the limited publicity from television and radio stations, which do not air the girls’ games as much as the boys’ games.
“It is only one radio station, FUFA, which sometimes plays our games,” she said.
Akao has also personally had her own challenges the sport. She explains that the volume of games means that she often has to miss some of her classes to participate in them.
“I have resorted to studying in the night in order to keep up with my studies,” she said.
For Akao, she advises the ladies who want to join the male-dominated sport to get out of their comfort zones and do what they love to do irrespective of what people tell them to do.
“Do not give up, and keep going,” she said.
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