Letter from Uganda–Match Day One: England Counties XV v Uganda Barbarians
The day started with a thunderstorm that came over Lake Victoria and swept through Kampala freshening up the humid atmosphere. My room mates had no time to admire nature’s majesty and preferred to have Ian Drury and the Blockheads blasting from the iPod as they recovered from their night of excess.
Once they had had enough of Billericay Dickie and had shuddered at the memory of the pneumatically-proportioned Mildred who had joined them at the bar last night, we went to relax by the pool before putting on our No 1s and making our way to Kyadondo Rugby Club, the venue for the first game of the England Counties XV tour.
Security was tight at the ground, memories of a bomb blast there a couple of years ago still very raw (see previous post), but once we were in we were immediately made very welcome by the club and national officials and sponsors Nile Special who plied us with refreshments. To have an England representative side in Uganda is a big deal for rugby here and the media took the chance to interview the three RFU Council Members to get their impressions of the country and the state of the game.
The East African Tag Rugby Trust had been working with the England Counties players in local schools and before the game they put on a demonstration, and the skills and enthusiasm on show were a joy to watch. It is very reminiscent of primary school programmes run by so many clubs in England but they don’t have the advantage of the sport being high profile. It was good to see that the Core Values that we promote so strongly were being put forward as a key reason for people to get involved in Rugby.
As the game started there were about 1000 people in the ground. It was a weekday afternoon and Uganda were playing Senegal in a football match up the road so it was a pretty good crowd, but many more are expected for the weekend game against an East Africa XV. Uganda Barbarians were cheered whenever they got the ball and loud music greeted every score. You can read a match report on www.rfu.com so I won’t go into details, but a couple of early tries for England Counties saw a bit of complacency set in allowing the home side to score, but the 66-13 scoreline was a fair reflection of the game.
Click for pictures from the game
Afterwards there was presentation to a stalwart of Uganda rugby who retired from playing after this game although he will continue to coach and spread the gospel of rugby locally. Players from both sides socialised in the way only rugby players can before dispersing to various bars around Kampala. The supporters party also went into the city as guests of some ex-pats and it was no surprise when we bumped into the England Counties players later that night.
It was a successful first game not for the result which was never really in doubt, but for the friendships made and the commitment by the RFU to help support and develop rugby in non-traditional areas.
Today we check out of the luxurious Speke Hotel Resort and travel to the town of Jinja to take part in some outreach work and to visit the source of the Nile. Assuming I can get an internet connection there I will report again tomorrow.