This year we had planned to try and see the boys play as we returned from taking Luke and Caleb to fly back to Kenya. We were preparing to leave Kampala and checking on the first day or two of fixtures with Nathan when we got the surprising news: CSB had been randomly drawn to meet the host school, the powerful St. Henry's Kitovu, in the opening match. This is the only match that all the invited guests watch from the grandstand, that has a marching band, that every team lines the fields to see, that draws reporters and football officials and coke executives and you name it. This game is huge.
We pulled onto the St. Henry campus, which was nicer than almost any school in Uganda, expansive, huge fields, many, many dorms, chapels, classes, halls, green grass, space. This is a school that's probably five or six times older than ours, several times larger, and a hundred times richer. It was shocking. Hundreds and hundreds of boys from all over Uganda milled about in identical coca-cola shirts, a sea of red, a striking picture of what could have been a military camp (same age group) but was instead a sports camp (praise God for that). We greeted our boys who were nervous but smart in their CSB warm-ups. After music, acrobats, speeches, parades, the match was opened like a Premier League game, with much hooplah. There were our boys lined up on the field with several thousand people watching.
For the first 15 minutes or so we were great. Hope glimmered. We could have won. Nathan is a great coach, and Alex has prepared them well, they are smart and fast and able. I can't really explain the mental aspects of football, but they are huge. Perhaps the booming drum of the home team. Perhaps the murmurs in the crowd that we would lose 20 to nothing (I kid you not another team did lose 19 to 1 in another match). Perhaps the pressure of being in the spotlight. Perhaps playing a team that could do things like intentionally draw us offsides (our in-district competition was not at this level). Perhaps the decades of being colonized and marginalized and losing confidence, the sense of being from a remote and undeveloped place, of being unable to compete. Perhaps the larger pitch and general exhaustion. We lost 4 nil. We played hard, though, and the score does not reflect very well the eveness of the game.
Afterwards we shook everyone's hands, and left praying the boys would not lose heart. Nathan told us the same thing happened today in the second game, losing 3 to 1 in spite of initially coming on strong. Time for Kevin's "I believe in you" speech! It would be great if they won at least one of their next two matches.
Meanwhile we came back to Bundi, more on that some day, but tomorrow the girls' team leaves for their tournament. They are NOT sponsored by Coca Cola. Their tournament is pay-as-you-go, and Ashley and her supporters are our source here. The girls had no in-district games to prepare them, but they have practiced hard. Their tournament is in Gulu, which is a two-day drive from here. The pomp and glory will be lacking I suspect . . but they will probably have more fun. Instead of 80 teams they will be lucky to have 40.
Praying for our girls to travel safely, enjoy their adventure, play their best, and experience a taste of victory (one game won would be great!). Praying for Ashley in a position of responsibility, and Julia too, in cultural immersion. Stay tuned next week for the scores!