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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Girls' Football

When we were in Bundibugyo a couple of weeks ago, Julia was delighted to practice with her old football team.  A number of women missionaries have put some effort into girls' sports, but the most consistent was Miss Ashley, who formed a viable football (soccer) team that represented the district at nationals the past two years.  There was a fair amount of momentum and pride, yet we didn't know what would happen when she left.  So it was a joy to see that Madame Illuminate (who didn't really play as a student herself, but gamely came out for practices and gave it a shot) and Master Bwampu (a star player as a student, and an assistant boys' coach) decided to continue with the girls.  And it was even more exciting to see that instead of being the only team in the district, this year there were (in theory) SIX TEAMS.  Which meant an in-district tournament to play for the right to go to nationals.  

The Saturday after we left we exchanged sms's with Illuminate, and learned that the girls had won their games and advanced to the finals, but due to rioting by another school's male team and fans, the tournament was cut short.  We weren't sure what would happen, but in the next week the rioting school was disqualified (a verdict the headteacher ignored, sending his boys' team to regionals where they lost) and the CSB girls advanced to nationals (there are many fewer girls' teams, so no regionals).  So for the third year running, the CSB girls will represent Bundibugyo in a national tournament.

Having been to two nationals, once as a week-long-in-the-dorm chaperone and once just to cheer and see a couple of games, I am a huge believer in this process.  Young women in Bundibugyo do not experience much success, praise, competition, team-work, travel, or fun.  Very few advance beyond primary school, and fewer still go to college.  Most measure their life by surviving childbirth and wrestling enough food out of a small garden to feed their children.  So the entire process of discipline, practice, wearing a uniform (!), traveling on a mini-bus further from home than they will ever go, meeting girls from all over Uganda, being cheered for, being part of a group . . . not to mention the personal discipleship that occurs by the coaches along the way . . .all of these things are invaluable in the life of a young girl.  There is good evidence that girls who play sports wait longer to get pregnant, go further in school, and develop leadership skills for life.  

Thank God for this opportunity, and for the staff who take time from their evenings and vacations to make it happen.  Thank God that several donors have emerged in the last week to cover the bulk of the gap between our meager CSB sports budget and the costs of sending a team of 20-some people across the country.  Of course CSB can always use financial help for programs like sports!  But mostly pray that the girls would emerge from this trip with a sense of God's love, and of the potential He created in them.

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