The under-21 national netball team, the She Pearls, lost 37-39 to Fiji yesterday in the quarterfinals of the Netball World Youth Cup in Botswana.
Despite losing the fourth and last group game to Jamaica 39-44 on Wednesday, the She Pearls had already registered three convincing wins over Botswana, Malaysia and the Cook Islands, a mark of a good return.
She Pearls are on course to try and replicate the feat of their seniors, the She Cranes, who won the Africa Netball Cup last month, following their five wins in the tournament. The manager of the national teams, Jocelyn Ucanda, said before the team left for Botswana last week, that they were a team on a mission.
She explained that to grow in a sport, there is need to ensure sustainability.
“There has got to be a programme to develop talent, to keep improving the team and its competitiveness.”
With Uganda now ranked at number nine in the world of netball, they will be getting into more international competitions, which need many top- quality players.
And that is what Uganda continues to show through these young women, that have been competitive in Botswana. To qualify for this stage, She Pearls beat Malawi 34-29 last year during the Africa Youth Championship. They finished behind South Africa and Zimbabwe, after losing to both, to have five wins in seven games.
COMPETITION FOR PLACES
There is every sign that the under-21 players will equally have their eyes on trying to push for places on the team, that will be heading to the Commonwealth Games next year in Australia.
This can only be positive for the growth of the sport in the country, but also in giving the country a grander standing internationally from the media coverage such a tournament is attracting.International recognition cannot be the only thing that will inspire the She Pearls.
After the senior team’s recent performance attracted government funding of Shs 96 million, of which Shs 18 million would be the winning bonus for the team, a successful story in Gaborone could attract the same for the She Pearls.
Furthermore, this week, the She Cranes received special mention on the floor of parliament for their recent feat. It was agreed by the members of parliament, that each would contribute Shs 500,000 for the netball cause.
From the over-400 MPs, a sum of Shs 225 million would be raised, to help the Uganda Netball Federation buy a bus to transport the national teams, player bonuses and also to find land, where to build a quality netball court.