On Monday 28th December 2015, at about 9am, the sun was out and scorching hard. The sky was clear. All roads led to Kasana – Luwero Town Council and the stop point was the famous Luwero Secondary School.
As teams arrived, they were screened by Mike and Sulaiman for eligibility of players into the various age groups – U11s, U13s and U15s. Asiimwe was on ground to show around the teams to their respective halls of residence, while Kizza and Norman were registering every single individual and group that made their way into the gates of Luwero SS.
It was massive on arrivals, big on numbers and ecstasy filled the atmosphere in the camp.
By dusk, dozens of teams had registered for the fourth edition of the Annual Watoto Wasoka Christmas Camp, and by the registrar’s count – 101 boys’ teams and 7 girls’ teams, 156 coaches, from 56 different slums soccer teams and academies had made their way to Luwero for the biggest kids’ soccer camp in Uganda.
The coaches’ general meeting was held that night and was well attended. The coaches were briefed by the Watoto Wasoka team on the camp week program and picked the draws for the games that were to ensue the next morning.
As an organisation, we expected a turn up of 1,500 kids, and as much as we received 250 extra participants, we were right on point to take care of every single participant (kids and coaches) that came to the camp – to accommodate, and to feed them for six days, and to give them the opportunity to play the game they love most at the cheapest costs possible – free for everyone!!
The next morning – Tuesday 29th December 2015, started on a high note as team leaders made their way to the kitchen for breakfast. The games proceeded in accordance to fixtures. Even though the times on the fixture unrhymed with the actual game times, every team had the opportunity to play, every child kicked a football, and every game was played.
For the next couple of days, it was preliminaries that dominated the fixtures, with every team playing three to four games between 29th and 31st December 2015. By the end of the last day of the year, only 16 out of the 33 U-11s teams made it to the knock out stages, 16 from the 36 U-13s teams and 16 from the 32 U-15s teams made it to the last 16 knock out stages of the competition. As 53 teams didn’t make it beyond preliminaries, they became spectators and fans, and stayed in camp engaging in casual games and friendly matches in the afternoons.
The last 16’s and quarter finals were played on the 1st of January 2016, and were later followed by the semi – finals on 2nd January 2016.
On the 2nd January, the girls’ tournament kicked off in high gear. It was the first ever Watoto Wasoka girls’ tournament and was graced by the reigning FUFA Female Player of the Year – Sandra Nabweteme who actually climaxed as the tournament top scorer! Although it didn’t equal the boys’ in zeal and passion, it was interesting to see how much fun the girls had on the pitch. They scored and celebrated, and wowed the crowd with their skill, passion and attitude. To the crowd, it was just dozens of girls coming together to play soccer, but for Watoto Wasoka it was more than just 7 girls’ teams, it was dozens of girls coming together, united by football, kicking out segregations and discriminations, it was a gang of over-zealous females kicking out the social and gender boundaries and harnessing their potential. It was just the beginning of the many forthcoming gender inclusive programs the organisation hopes to roll out in the next phases of its activities.
Watoto Wasoka also worked with Viva con Agua to implement WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) football drill with a dozen of boys. The feedback from the boys that took part was as much enriching as it was refreshing for us all.
The evening climaxed with the long awaited game between team coaches playing against the Watoto Wasoka Staff and Volunteers. Like it was the previous years, the kids turned coaches and it was exciting to see how commanding they became when they assumed authority as coaches during the game – selecting the teams, shouting out tactical messages and making substitutions. Although the game ended in a goal-less draw, it was amazing how united the coaches’ team played amidst its diversities, it highlighted the fun, and heightened joy that soccer can accrue when it unites masses.
On the 3rd January 2016, it was not only the final day but the climax, and the sadly the last day of such an amazing week we had had in Luwero. Like in the previous days, breakfast was served early morning to enable teams to pack and prepare for the finals in time.
In the first final, Proway beat Rapha Junior Academy in a hard fought U11s finale that saw the two sides being separated by penalty shoot outs. In the U13s category, Sparta 09 lost to Super Heroes 1 – 0.
In the afternoon, Masajja needed a Sandra Nabweteme last minute goal to overcome SHE-PRIDISCO in the girls’ category. The U15s pitted Sparta 09 against MYDEL Cubs, and it was not until the penalty shoot outs that Sparta 09 claimed the glory.
The closing ceremony was as brief as it was rewarding. All the 108 teams that participated took home footballs and a certificate of participation, all outstanding players were rewarded and all runners up were decorated with silver medals and trophies.
The winners walked away with gold medals and winners trophies.
Up until now, we cannot put into words the fun we had, the joys we had. It was simply beyond any descriptions. We ran out of fingers counting the number of new friends made. We lost our voices cheering along the goals, the skills, and celebrating the beautiful game. We screamed for joy until our voices could no longer support our emotions.
The heat was such scorching that we are all compounded by headaches and fevers, but we are still smiling nonetheless, because we enjoyed play, and we lived the game we love the most.
1,750 slums kids had the opportunity of a fun-filled week to escape drug, and delinquencies, and instead celebrated goals.
To Alive and Kicking who donated 20 give-away and match balls, and to all the individual and corporate sponsors, donors and friends who gave a hand – material, financial and moral support, we are indebted to you and we cannot thank you enough.
Thank you. Danke shon. Webale nyoo. Asanti sana. Merci beaucoup.
Check out the photos here…