‘Kandoote’ is a Luganda word that literally means ‘Let me Dream’ and this is something the founder of Fields of growth, Kevin Dugan, has been up to.
Fields of growth is the NGO responsible for introduction of lacrosse in Uganda some four years ago.
That dream was perhaps to just introduce the simple basics of the game and watch – in hope.
Dugan and his few other friends had to hope, and believe. For a sport so alien to Africa, they had limited options.
The returns have been humbling, with the national league on and growing in leaps and bounds. And the pinnacles don’t come bigger than the World Championship.
See what four years of hard work, perseverance and determination bring! Little wonder that Uganda is lined up among fixtures of the World championships in Denver, Colorado.
“Dreams mean work and more work to be able to achieve them,” says Dugan, “This team has been doing exactly that (working hard) for the past 11 months.”
Uganda was the 40th country in the world and first in Africa to become a member of the FIL (Federation of International Lacrosse).
The East African nation will also etch its name in history books as the first African country to participate at the World Championships.
For the predominantly American sport that dates way back to the 12th century when the Red Indians played it on tribal basis; and to near death, it took eternity to break boundaries elsewhere in the world.
But despite arriving in the country just a couple of years ago, the Uganda Lacrosse dream of winning things at the World Championship may be farfetched. Yet this group of young men see no harm in dreaming. Why should they?
“Our expectations are to win and be the best of the new teams,” says Andrew Boston, the head coach of team Uganda, “This will help us go into the seeding ranks.
“These guys are going to be a hit definitely and (will be) fans favourite at the championship because their back story is so interesting and being the only team from the Africa continent (is a story of its own),”
Boston stresses that they will not be in Colorado to make the numbers, a point echoed by team captain Patrick Oriang.
“For us this is obviously going to be a learning experience and chance to grow the game and bring more awareness about it but we also want to remain competitive throughout the championship,” says Oriang.
“I feel a lot of pride and excitement. The truth is lacrosse would never have been my first choice but I have taken it up and enjoy it immensely. Anytime you are representing your country it is a source of pride.”
Lacrosse is an expensive sport and is played by affluent colleges and universities even in America. The cost of the lacrosse stick alone is $200.
In a country where the average population lives on less than a dollar a day, the sheer impossibility of the task ahead – had it been scripted beforehand – would have been laughed out of the room as impossibly contrived but for the relentless and uncompromising devotion to being part of this championship.
“The funding to make the trip came from the America Lacrosse community, who contributed $10 here and there,” says Boston.
“I started playing Lacrosse at 5 years of age, many of these young men started playing at 20 and 21 years and have had to learn the basics and master the game real fast.”
Boston adds: “There will be challenges yes, and I expect them to get fatigued. Where as we can only take 18 who will be expected to play many positions other teams will have 23 players.
“It is a tough sport where you are required to move around the field quite a bit, plus there is the added bit of very hot weather and high altitude.
“These young men will be expected to push themselves beyond complete exhaustion, which is not something they are not used to. For us the training has got better every week and I like where we are right now.”
The dream (of appearing at the World Championships) has become a reality but it should not stop at an appearance.
“I believe the future of lacrosse is with the women especially because their equipment is slightly less expensive and also for it to be given a foundation of sorts in schools early on,” adds Boston.
The game is already popular in a few pioneer girls’ schools like Nabisunsa, Gayaza, Namagunga, Vienna and Greenhill.
Fast forward, Boston – whose time in Uganda with the Peace Corp has come to an end – hopes the current lacrosse generation inspires the country to get the next team to the next World championship.
Thomas Jefferson once said: “I’m a greater believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it.”
These young men in Colorado and several back home certainly would love to drink from Jefferson’s cup.
Federation of International lacrosse FIL
July 10-19 in Denver ColoradoDick’s Sporting Goods Park
Uganda’s games; grouped in the Yellow division
July 10, Thursday, Opening ceremony at the stadium
July 11, Friday, Ireland v Uganda
July 12, Saturday, Uganda v Bermuda
July 13, Sunday, Uganda v France