Saturday, February 14, 2015

Quidditch in the Heart of Africa

By Angus Barry

Quidditch began in Uganda two years ago under the stewardship of John Ssentamu, Headmaster of Good Shepherd Christian Junior School in Katwadde Village and Gertrude Nakintu, founder of the Women and Girls Can Initiative. To begin with, the students were divided into five teams which practiced together during term time and by mid-2013 were holding regular intramural matches.

I happened to be in Uganda for my undergraduate thesis research around this time and so took the chance to visit, with a suitcase of equipment donated from various players from across the quidditch world. I had an amazing time thanks to the incredible welcome I got from John, Gertrude, Mr Jamada Ssebowa (my host) and the rest of the Katwadde community. Quidditch practice happened daily (twice on Saturdays) so I had plenty of time to get my fix.  The games were great fun and often drew large crowds from the surrounding area. You can see some footage of these here:

It is difficult to analyse those games, partly because of the age range (from around seven to 17) and partly because there was a fun sense of chaos to every match. I don’t remember seeing a bludger being held for more than five seconds and the score never seemed to matter.  However, the high intensity nature of how the teams played meant that they had developed basic skills very quickly despite not having much of a sporting background. Especially impressive was the range and accuracy of some of the beaters, who were pulling off throws players twice their age would have been proud of.

Over Christmas I was back in Uganda to continue my research and planned to spend a longer time in Katwadde. I arrived mid-way through preparations for the Katwadde Christmas Cup, a set of matches that was going to take place between the two youth teams: Katwadde Community Quidditch Team (KCQT) and Good Shepherd Quidditch Team (GSQT) (made up of the most committed players from the five school teams).

Christmas day arrived, bringing with it an extended monsoon. Luckily for the tournament (but unluckily for those who had to walk to church) this lasted all morning and subsided as everyone was finishing their lunch. The sun emerged just as players were congregating on the pitch and soon after spectators were competing for the best seats under the temporary shelter constructed by the players on Christmas Eve.

From brooms up, the difference in strategy and skill from the previous year was clear. Chasers and keepers learned how to move the ball around the pitch, when to time their runs, and how to work alongside their beaters. The beater game was still quite wild, but there was some logic behind the plays being made, and the range of the best beaters was clearly forcing the quaffle players to be more inventive with how they approached the hoops.

KCQT dominated the first game, under the mighty leadership of Bruno Ahimbisibwe who took advantage of beater dominance (special mention here to Gladys Nalukwago and Margaret Nakyejwe) to run in multiple consecutive scores. Meanwhile, Safina Nakawoya and Obedi Namuyimba took turns putting in any missed shots. On defence the chasers were able to slow down attacks and steal the ball enough to give the beaters time to get back into position. The KCQT seeker caught the snitch (Charles Kayemba) to give a final score of 130*-20.

In the second game GSQT brought their beaters back and successfully managed to keep bludger control for long periods. This gave their chasers, especially Mary Lukowe and Nabillah Najjemba, the opportunity to make the most of their passing abilities and the (quite large) downwards slope. Abdul ‘Muzungu’ Mugenyi showed excellent pitch awareness as keeper in deciding when to run a quick break and when to slow the game down. The snitch arrived back to find both teams well within snitch range. The Good Shepherd seeker, Charles ‘Mzee’ Ndawula, took full advantage with a super catch - final score 90* - 70.

Quidditch Uganda continues to grow. A new team is currently being set up at Mbarara University and local media is taking an interest. However, the main focus is preparing a national youth team for international competition. John and myself are currently discussing the possibility of a Youth Global Games in 2016 with the IQA.
Uganda has a terrible reputation on discrimination against certain social groups, especially people who identify as LGBT+. I can personally vouch for Quidditch Uganda and that it fits exceptionally well with the inclusive values at the heart of quidditch.  If anyone has any questions about this, please feel free to contact me.

No comments:

Post a Comment