Our national netball team, the She Cranes , finished their group matches on Wednesday on a high beating Scotland 57-37. This was a day after the She Cranes wiped the floor with the Wales team, in a match where our captain Peace Proscovia scored more goals than the entire Welsh team.
Peace accounted for 56 of Uganda’s 76 goals, while Wales managed 50 goals. The lesser heralded Rachel Nanyonga, whose scoring efficiency was better than Peace’s throughout the tournament, accounted for the remaining 20 goals.
While they tied with New Zealand and Malawi for second they failed to qualify for the semi-finals on account of New Zealand’s superior goal difference.
The She Cranes who went to the Commonwealth Games ranked 7th in the world, will now play South Africa for fifth place. Regardless of the result they may very well become sixth in the world when the rankings are released. (Ed. The South Africa beat the She Cranes who then finished 6th in the Commonwealth Games)
It’s amazing what a few years can do.
Four years ago they qualified for the world cup after making the more than a thousand mile road trip to Botswana. At that event they were so underfunded that they played matches without drinking water.
They almost did not make the world Cup as officials in the sports ministry dragged their feet in meeting pre-tournament requirements. They went anyway and gave a good account of themselves.
Last year at the African Championships they put all comers to the sword, winning the event without losing a match.
By the time the Commonwealth came around, everybody had long taken notice of our girls. They went ahead -- better kitted and facilitated this time around ,to acquit themselves with distinction.
While netball maybe a peripheral sport, there are a few reasons why the She Cranes’ showing at the Gold Coast is significant.
"To start with, netball being mainly a sport played among former subjects of the British Empire, unlike other sports the commonwealth games brings together the best netballers in the world, so the She Cranes’ result is hard to fault...
Without taking away from our success in athletics, one would have to wonder what would have happened if the Ethiopians and Eritreans were running. Or in boxing where the Cubans, Americans and Europeans were not.
What this means is the She Cranes are the only sports team we have had in the history of independent Uganda to participate at the highest level of its sport. In effect they are the only world class sports people we have around.
What is even more startling is that they have done this while being treated as the orphan of Uganda’s sports portfolio. The travails the She Cranes have endured in their march to the pinnacle of their sport-- a few of which were mentioned above, are the stuff of legend.
And finally the discipline of the She Cranes on and off the court is hard to fathom, especially when we have known sportsmen of lesser achievement lord it over all of us with boorish behaviour and nauseating entitlement...
In their final match, Scotland adopted cynical tactics to keep goal scoring machine Peace off her game. While the Scots wilted under Uganda’s relentless pressure and eventually allowing Peace to drain 32 goals, what was even more remarkable was how the She Cranes kept their cool, did not respond in kind and went on to win the match handily.
There is a lesson for all of us Ugandans – netballers and non-netballers alike.
"That to achieve anything of enduring value you have to earn it. Life does no one any favours. There will be times when the odds are stacked against you, that the world seems unfair. There will be people, even trusted friends and relatives intent on keeping you from the promised land. And there is no guarantee that even after you put in the work that you will achieve your goal....
But you work anyway. Keep your head down, nose to the grinding stone and hope. And when you make it you remain humble because you know there is yet another mountain to scale.
Thank you She Cranes for showing yet again what it takes and means to be a true hero!