Members of the team use special sports wheelchairs donated by the Lion’s Club of China. Before these donated chairs, the chances of sustaining injury on the court was far more likely, as regular chairs aren’t made for quick turns or speed.
Two teams: The Rebels and the Nakeseros faced off in an epic showdown. They had come early that morning from all over Kampala’s outlying areas, waiting patiently for the court to free up. Once it was open, they took off spinning, ramming and shooting, flying up and down the court.
For the players it is not stigma, shame or disability that has become their biggest challenge. Rather, it’s finance. Without proper funding and sponsorship many have to pay to play, and therefore their ability to participate is limited to their personal budget.
I did a story on wheelchair basketball for Voice of America in February that can be found here. However I hope this small collection of photos can capture the passion these players have for the game.
Coach Edwin Mulima watches as two rival sides face off. Mulima, who used to play on the national team, had to learn how to play in a wheelchair when he first started his job as coach.
The Rebels line up for drills before the game starts. Many players say that the confidence they gain from sports is beyond compare. For many disabled Ugandans, being outside and visible is already a radical act of defiance against cultural norms.
The onlookers grow as the game starts to heat up. In Uganda, it’s not uncommon to see a disabled person as being ‘cursed’. Even when a scientific explanation is given, many family members believe in a spiritual element to the disability. Because of this, some are afraid of touching, or even being around, the disabled.
Despite stigma, interest in parasport games is growing throughout Uganda. Parasport basketball teams first started in the northern town of Gulu and later spread down to Kampala. Players hope that in the coming years, international matches with Kenya and other East African nations become common.
Kids crowd against the fence to watch the players. Staring or remarking on disabilities is common throughout Uganda. Yet one of the organizers, who is also disabled, said that she doesn’t care, she’s happy to educate people on her disability and her continued ability to be active and healthy.
A quick rest and a check on injuries by one of the coaches. Then the Nakeseros will be ready to head back out to the court. Many who attended the game traveled for hours to get to Old Kampala Primary School, with most having to fund their own journeys.