If you ask what we take for granted in this country, you would probably get a variety of answers, but most would likely mention a job, clean water, a roof over your head, abundant food, etc. What most people wouldn’t think about is the ability to play organized soccer (or football in Uganda as in other countries outside of the US.)
One of the most unexpected experiences was playing against the Nakabango soccer team that Messiah Lutheran Church sponsors. We were invited to play against the team with some help from Hearts & Hope staff and a few other locals. When you see many children playing with balled up plastic bags for balls (those are the lucky ones), it’s amazing what a soccer ball, some cleats, and uniforms will do. The Nakabango team played with intensity and enjoyed beating the Hearts & Hope team, but fun was had by all, including a good turnout of supporting fans to watch the big event.
I played goalie, or (keeper as it’s called), and therefore got to cross that one off my bucket list. Never would I have dreamed I would be doing that in Uganda. Fun was had by all, especially the Nakabango team as they put on a demonstration of their impressive skills.
We also took soccer balls (even used ones), beach balls and rubber balls to the schools and villages. I had no idea the small hand air pumps we brought would become such a valuable asset, as we blew up dozens of balls, over the several days in the villages. Immediately children would start smiling, kicking, running, and playing when we’d through them out. Yes, water and schools transform lives in a more dramatic way, but I’ll never look at a soccer ball the same way again. I’ll want to collapse it and give it the next team that goes over to put in their supply bag to bring some smiles somewhere half way across the world.