Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Uganda, The Pearl of Africa- Update 1

International cricket match referee Devdas Govindjee gives us an update on his current experience in Uganda where the ICC Africa division 1 T20 World Cup Qualifying tournament is being held. The participating countries in the tournament are Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Nigeria and Botswana. I am always happy and delighted to receive updates from him as his emails are so vivid and descriptive that I feel as though I am going through all his experiences myself. Many of my blog readers feel very much the same way. I would also like to take the opportunity in thanking Mr. Govindjee for allowing me to share his priceless and beautiful photos with my blog readers.

Greetings on a balmy Central African evening from the Hotel Africana in Kampala Uganda - after the beauty of the Western Cape where I had been since 16 January it was a tired and almost homesick soul that boarded SA 160 out of Johannesburg on Friday heading out on my very first excursion to this country.

The 4 hour flight rejuvenated me and with a time change of 1 hour found myself thinking that I was landing at some coastal city - that is the extent to which the nearby Lake Victoria's vastness influences the approaching landscape- the Entebbe International airport is on the shores of Lake Victoria.

The mind flashed back to 1976 as our flight approached Entebbe International airport - the news that made World headlines when an Air France flight out of Tel Aviv bound for Paris was hijacked and landed at Entebbe -before you could say Uganda the Israeli Commandoes rescued the hostages in what was then called Operation Entebbe!

Lets move forward from that short history lesson  - the 40 kms or so drive from the airport took about 80mins and what fascinated me that almost all the way along the roadsides there were some or other businesses being operated- it was early evening and dim lights created an almost surreal effect with the motor cars and buses jostling for prime road space with much competition from hundreds of motor cycles that also serve as taxis for those commuting shorter distances - the locals refer to them as Boda Bodas and naturally they zig-zag their way through traffic.

I finally reached the Hotel Africana in Kampala around 9.30 pm local time and managed a late supper at a nearby Nakumatt food court.

In case you are wondering- I am in Uganda to officiate for the ICC via their Africa Cricket Association  (ACA) at the 2013 Pepsi ICC Africa Cricket World Cup Qualifier (CWCQ) division 1 with the participating countries being the hosts Uganda as well as Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana and Nigeria.

After a wonderful sleep in a very spacious room it was immediately down to business after breakfast on Sat morning as the tournament got under way- two venues being used - Lugogo and Kyambogo- fortunately both not too far from the hotel and about a 10 mins drive from each other.

Having not been able to come in as per our usual 2 days before any tournament there had been no time to conduct ground inspections etc but on visiting both venues on match day 1 it was encouraging to note that they met with required standards and everything that was needed to be done had been attended to by the local organisers.

The ICC's efforts to globalize cricket is certainly paying dividends as I sat watching play in the afternoon at Lugogo to see the very big turnout of supporters as well as their clear understanding of the game as reflected in the applause for good fielding or good batting etc. 

I felt once again that humbling gut feeling reminding me how privileged it actually was for me to be able to visit these grounds where cricket was being played - a long long way from my first games in the streets of downtown Port Elizabeth where the good old dustbin served as the wickets and words such as turf pitches or reverse sweep did not form part of our cricketing vocab! 

I walked around the field and bumped into a well dressed elegant lady who seemed a bit out of her comfort zone- she enquired from me as to where she could meet the officials of the Botswana team and introduced herself as the Hon. consular based at the embassy in Kampala - she also informed me that she had never ever been to a cricket match and did not have a clue as to what it was all about - hopefully after her day with the team officials she would have left knowing exactly what was meant by " one slip and two fine legs"  ! ( cricketing terms to the uninitiated of course!!)

The atmosphere at both venues was excellent with the sponsors providing hospitality areas with appropriate banners and signage as well as some dancers who provided some entertainment with moves to the music which was well controlled by the djs.

The standard of cricket played was good and the intensity shown reflected well on the competitiveness of the event with much at stake for the 2 teams that finish at the top of the table after the completion of two round robin matches.

Last night the officials of Kenya cricket ( now headed by the first ever Woman president of a national cricket body - Jackie Janmohammed) together with the RDM ( Regional Development Manager) -ICC-Africa Mr Cassim Suliman invited me out for supper- we went to a delightful Indian restaurant called Khana Khazana - ambiance was good with superb food and patronized by locals and foreigners once again bringing the message clearly across that parts of Africa will always attract the tourist!

I have rambled way beyond the intended short update and introduction to Uganda- that happens when one has had a 2 hour mid-afternoon nap and now at 11.15 still feels fresh enough to continue typing away!

The tournament continues tomorrow with another full day's programme of first round matches - 2 in the morning and 2 in the afternoon at the respective veneus.

The 2nd round matches ( each team playing the otehr twice during the week) starts on Tue and the final matches will be played on Fri morning with the presentation function that evening and I then fly out on Saturday the 2nd March.

If you actually stopped reading some paragraphs ago and then just scrolled to the end I shall not hold it against you!!!!

Until my next update- which will probably be before my departure I say take care - all pics on fb for the fb follower - stunning sunrises grabbing my attention the past two mornings! - all the best 

 The sight that greeted me on day one from my balcony at the Hotel Africana in Kampala Uganda.
 Day 1 like most of my days anywehre in the world has to start with a swim- no different at the Hotel Africana in Kampala.
 The RDM ICC Africa Cricket Assoc Mr Cassim Suliman together with the umpires officiating at the tournament in Kampala. Back: Rocky De Mellow, Munir Khan,Patrick Makumbi,Claude Thornburn. Front Johnny Gomez , and David Odhiambo


 A sight that warms the heart- little kids take to the field during the break to enjoy some cricket while groundstaff work on the pitch in the background
Monday morning's drive from the Hotel Africana to the Lugogo Cricket ground. along the way these "trunks" - am told they are very popular and come in all sorts of sizes- bought for pupils and students in boarding schools or hostels at universities.
Green Lush and Fertile - The Pearl of Africa. Uganda
 No wonder the boda bodas are so popular- weaving their way through early morning traffic a much better option than being stuck in it!
Loading the truck- Bananas are abundant in Uganda with the Matoke being a staple diet.

 Getting spoilt at Kyambogo - enjoying a plate sized Chappati! Indian food is a way of life for many Ugandans.
 More action from the Uganda (batting) vs Nigeria match at Kyambogo ( pronounced Chyam bogo!)

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