My first real encounter with rooting for a sport was in my pre-teen years. The sibling whom I followed was a supporter of S.C Villa, a local football club, so naturally I chose their then biggest rival, Express FC. I flipped through newspapers to the sports pages so that I could stick my tongue out if his team had lost.
When the attention moved to the English Premier league years later, I did not follow suite. I retired. Occasionally I followed the progress so that I could hold conversations and tease if my siblings’ teams were losing but it was never out of real love for the game. To date I still watch some games and drop in a Pogba here or an Ozil there so that my friends can raise their eyebrows at my sudden ‘knowledge’ of what’s happening in the football world. Otherwise, it is Uganda cranes and supporting African teams during world cup that can move me. After that, I am back to my oblivious self.
When we first brainstormed over fundraising events, football was a no brainer, given its universal appeal. Indeed, to date, it has not disappointed. Basketball was a close second and even that I could understand, given my short stint playing it in my teen years. I probably speak for many when I say we fear that which we don’t understand. That was rugby for me. I knew completely nothing about it. Whenever someone suggested we hold a rugby tournament to raise funds, I asked them to guarantee at least 10 teams before we could consider the idea. Said person who’d come with one intention- to suggest their idea and go- often never welcomed this additional imposition. The idea often got swept under the table even as we discussed it as a team because it seemed much too difficult to implement. How quickly we forgot that our first football event had no more than 40 people before we peaked at 1,200 attendees, one year later.
It’s only late last year when I saw tributes to the late Jonah Lumu, all blacks player that I decided to read up on him and rugby in general. I also discovered what the haka was. That basic knowledge was still not the same as watching and following a game.
In one of the first meetings to plan Bantwala7s, I learnt the words ‘contact’ and ‘touch’ but remained clueless as other technical details were being discussed. Unlike other events where I have potential players off the top of my head, this time I had to think hard before stalking my brother to get his friends in on it, my friend’s hubby and other loose networks I had.
With a dedicated team that wasn’t taking no for an answer, the #Bantwala7s journey took shape. We were straight out of #5AsideUG and only had a month to make magic due to unforeseen date clashes but this small group of hard working individuals ensured that they maximised the few resources available.
Saturday morning was slow. A few people strolled in from time to time while the rest of us looked at the clouds, warning them not to dare drop a tear. I was more worried about rain than I was about turn up, although in this city, they are very closely related. Surely, if we had snow, would people not go to work or school in the name of weather? I digress.
The afternoon got busier and I stationed myself at the gate to convince people to buy VIP tickets or let us keep the change. My friend Diana said I was about to start pulling out people’s wallets myself at the rate at which I was going. You can’t blame me, it’s for the children. *angelic smiley *
At some point Mr. X tried to start a verbal fight. He wanted a complete breakdown of what his 10,000 would do before he could pay. After I explained, he assured me he had his own children to take care of, why help these ones? Uhm, because they do not have anyone else and need all the support. “How is that my problem?,” he asked with a sneer. At this point, I just started to count to 30 in my head. *It could be worse*
One ‘clever’ guy assured us how he had won a ticket (never mind that we didn’t give out any tickets) When asked where he’d won it, he explained that it was through a radio competition by NSSF. Meantime, he was wearing a suit. I wanted this guy to just get in for free because that effort alone. Eh! *Sarah on the other hand stayed at the entrance tent for a while. I asked her if I could escort her in with an umbrella (The rain didn’t listen to our pleas by the way. It still made an appearance, albeit for a short time) “ No, I am waiting for my blesser to come. Do you think this weave is cheap to maintain?” That was my cue to find a lane I could fit into.
Amidst these drama sessions, I couldn’t help but be thankful to the supporters who have been with us over the years, through every failure and win. Those who understood when we explained why we were charging more at this event than we usually do. Sharon who came all the way from Mbarara that morning and the supporters who showed up from Mbale and Jinja. (The ones I know of) Surely, who are we to deserve all this favour?
You may have noticed some of the team members who’re usually running around, being threatened by losing teams, fixing a cable here, were quite relaxed this time round. If you didn’t know better, you’d think it was the calm before the storm. The truth was the organisation was impeccable and the rest of the work was left to the professionals so not much was left to do. Sadly I still did not get to watch a single game although it was very high on my to do list.
We shall be announcing the figures soon. While those are important, there is a story that is far more fulfilling for me. The story of almost 800 people giving up their Saturday to join hands for a cause that benefits children whom they may never meet. The story of devotees who even in their absence contributed because they understand what 40-40 stands for.
Bantwala7s was an event organised to support our literacy program that incorporates health activities in its implementation. The funds will be used to support literacy sessions where we read and write with children, improve their grammar, confidence, reading and writing skills; to buy children’s books that will aid us in these exercises, to organise health days for parents and children who are unable to access basic health information that could protect them from preventable diseases, to set up a learning space and reward community leaders who’ll champion these initiatives alongside our team.
You see, on the surface it looks like just a simple Ugx 10,000. In reality, it is hundreds of lives changed. You can also volunteer to be part of these initiatives. Call +256774703959 to join the volunteer pool for this program. You can also contribute by subscribing or donating books. Call +256772652535 or visit 40daysover40smiles.org
A major thank you to all our partners, the players and everyone who showed up, or contributed in absentia. 4 and a half years and counting, simply because you continue to believe in us!
‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.’