How did you become interested in football? When did you become a coach?
Initially, I was a volleyball player and was part of the national team. I still play volleyball but only at a league level. My general passion for sports is what got me interested in football. I realised that football is much more popular and has a universal appeal. I started getting involved in various community sports projects such as football for street children. It was these experiences that taught me how football could bring children together and unite them regardless of their circumstances. Three years ago, I participated in Premier Skills, a British council training programme, for community coaches and since then I’ve been coaching community football teams such as Girls United.
Why do you think football is a good sport for girls to get interested in? What are the benefits?
Everybody knows football! It’s a popular sport. For girls, and children in general, the benefits include keeping them physically fit and opening other doors for them. For example, there are many schools and universities which offer scholarships, which many of our girls hear about through engaging in Football. Football also helps to keep the mind focused and motivated and helps build trust and camaraderie among the players. Teenage pregnancies are a major issue in Uganda and football provides the young girls with a fun and positive pastime, reducing instances of teenage pregnancies. We also use the training as an opportunity to provide them with information and guidance on sexual health issues and services as well as general life-skills as they grow up.
How did you hear about the Girls United project?
I heard about it from Andrew, who is my friend from church and with whom I’ve worked on previous projects. When he initially introduced me to Girls United, I was unable to commit fully, but I provided some recommendations. However, with community projects, it’s important to find a person who can train the girls on life skills and provide them with advice while also helping them with football. This is why he approached me again later, having not found anyone who could fit the brief. Fortunately, my schedule had cleared up and I was able to become the coach myself.
How long have you been a coach on this project? How is it going so far?
About 3 months now. It’s going really well and some of the girls are really showing amazing potential. At first, I could tell that some were coming to the sessions to “hang-out” and weren’t that serious about the football. This was especially true for some of the older girls who weren’t well disciplined. However, with time, we have worked on this, encouraging them to respect one another and be more focused on the football. I am already seeing changes, with the girls increasingly becoming team-players, respecting their captains and acting in a more disciplined and motivated way. We have further formed them into two teams according to their age groups. The younger group is the Yellow Team and the older group is the Green Team. Now we’re encouraging them to work in their teams to come up with their own names to build a greater sense of belonging and pride.
What are you hopes for Girls United?
I think that the girls are doing quite well now, and they may be ready to join a league next season in March. That is the goal that I am working towards with the teams at the moment– to get them into local leagues. For some of them, I’m certain that with a little more polishing, they will be ready to join a league! I also hope that we can recruit more girls and make the teams bigger.
What teams do you yourself support?
Locally I support the KCCA team! It stands for Kampala Capital City Authority and I have played with them since I was a girl in volleyball and other sports. Internationally, I’m a Chelsea fan.