Uganda GAA is one of the good news stories that has come to light to a wider audience in recent months. They came to our attention last month following social media interactions when we saw a „like“ on one of our posts from Uganda GAA, and we knew we needed to know more about them.
Their social media (particularly the Uganda GAA Instagram) is very active and is full of images and videos of hurling and Gaelic football in the most unlikely of settings. We would urge everyone reading this article to follow them there or on Twitter to keep informed of their fantastic development.
We asked them to chat with us so that we can share their story with an international audience, and one of the main people behind the club, Moses, kindly accepted our offer. Between interviews with GAA.ie, national newspapers and radio stations across Ireland, we were able to find time to chat about the origins of the club and their hopes for future developments.
One thing that came up in our chat is the need for further support with purchasing and sourcing equipment, and for this purpose, they have set up a GoFundMe page that you can access here.
Below is the full audio of our chat:
Hi Moses, how are you? Can you introduce yourself to us?
My name is Amanyire Moses. I’m a primary school teacher. To be precise, I’m a PE teacher at a school about 17 km from Kampala City centre.
We got in touch because you’re one of the main guys involved with Uganda GAA. But what sports did you play when you were growing up?
Well, when I was growing up, I used to play a couple of sports. I used to play football, volleyball, handball, and baseball. Of recent, I’ve also been playing floorball.
How did you decide to become a teacher? Was that a dream of yours, or how did that happen?
Well, actually, it wasn’t a dream, but after secondary school, my mother decided that I should join teaching. My mother is also a teacher by profession, so yeah, it was the decision of my mother that I joined teaching, and yeah, I joined teaching, and now I’m a happy teacher.
What other hobbies do you have besides sports? What other things do you do in your free time?
Well, I do art and technology.
I also do some IT-related stuff.
Are you the person behind the Uganda GAA social media account? Because your social media is excellent.
Yeah, I run our social media.
Who is your partner involved with Uganda GAA?
My partner is called Robert Bakaze.
How do you guys know each other?
Well, actually, I came to know Robert through another sport, and that was in 2013. I’ve worked with Robert in different sports since 2013 until recently, when he came across hurling. And then he’s like, „Moses, since you are a teacher, I think you can do this better with the kids at school.“ So that’s how I came to know Robert.
That brings me to the big question: How did you and Robert discover hurling and Gaelic football?
Well, it was all via the internet. Robert and I had been researching different games, and since I’m a teacher, I’m always looking for new ideas to teach and include in my PE lessons. So the idea was from YouTube and a few videos from TikTok that we encountered hurling. So, yeah, that’s how we came across hurling and football.
What did you even search for? Did you search for „new sports“ or what? I can’t imagine how you found it.
We were searching for „cultural sports“ – countries and their cultural sports. Yeah, football had come up for Ireland and, of course, hurling. So, yeah, basically, I was searching for countries and their cultural sports.
Did you know much about Ireland before you found the cultural sports?
Not really. Actually, we didn’t know much about Ireland, but of course, when we came across hurling and football, we had to go and look for some videos. After looking at the videos, of course, then that’s when we came to know about Ireland. And of course, after that, we had to do some research about Ireland, but we didn’t know much about Ireland.
So you found the videos on YouTube, and the two of you found them. And what appealed to you most about, say, hurling or Gaelic football? What was the thing that excited you about the sports?
Okay. Gaelic football involved combining elements of football/soccer and then elements of volleyball and handball. So it was very interesting that it was combining those three or four aspects of different spots in one spot. So that made it very interesting.
With hurling, the elements of striking are similar to baseball and softball, but there’s a lot of running. Of course, with hurling, it was a very fast game.
The equipment used was very new to us, especially the hurls, because there are few games that have equipment similar to hurls. Of course, there are a lot of players playing in matches. The size of the field is also bigger than soccer pitches.
So you see the video, and you guys get interested. How did you start playing the sports? Because I guess you guys, yourself and Robert, did you try to play it yourself before you showed the kids, or how did you do it?
What we did was Robert, and I started playing over the weekend. But since we are only two and a good opportunity was that I was already teaching at a school. So what I did was I started playing the game with the kids. But of course, after watching the videos, I started with the kids and a few friends of mine with whom I teach. That’s how we started training the sport here.
How did the kids respond to it? How did they react when you said we were playing this new sport?
Well, you see, with the kids, they enjoy things that are very new to them. I would say we don’t have so many new sports in Uganda because the kids already know most of them. They were very happy when they heard that we are bringing a new spot and these sports from Ireland.
Those that were in primary seven, that is our last class in the primary level, had to go and research about it from the school, from the school lab and yeah, they already had an idea after researching after we told them that we are going to learn a new game.
What was interesting was they had to look at the helmets. They had never seen a game that involved using a helmet.
So, in the beginning, it was quite hard because we didn’t have equipment. We only had 15 helmets and a few balls, and we didn’t have any hurls. The ones that we were sent to by the GAA never reached us because of some logistic issues here and there. We had to improvise the hurls with our local carpenters here. So yeah, the beginning was not that easy, especially on the side of not having the hurls. But the kids liked it.
Okay, so you played Gaelic football and hurling with them. Which sports do they prefer?
The boys prefer both. The boys prefer both, and the girls prefer Gaelic football so much.
Which sport do you prefer?
I prefer hurling.
So I read some of the articles that have come out and some of the stuff that you put up online yourselves, and you said for the first two years, it was just yourself and Robert, and there was no Irish involvement. But since then, have Irish people in Uganda become involved?
Yeah, that’s true, we have the Irish community in Uganda, and this year I think it was around January, that’s when we got in touch with the Irish community in Uganda. One of the members was called John Walsh, and he is actually the one supporting us, as of recently. But there are so many people from the Irish community who have always come and trained with us.
So your story has been around Ireland these last ten days, and it’s made big news because I’ve received so many messages from people like at home, just sharing your story. How has that reaction been for you? What do you think of the reaction in Ireland to your story?
First, on behalf of the Uganda GAA Club, I want to appreciate, I want to say a big thank you to everyone in Ireland and across the world for the positive feedback and response towards our call for second-hand GAA equipment. We actually had very little equipment.
But after sharing our story, people have been very happy to support us. And, of course, we appreciate that.
So we feel more determined because, in the beginning, we were like, how are things going to work out without having enough of this equipment? When you’re working with kids, schools and communities, numbers keep growing. But when the numbers keep growing, they’re not going to keep sharing the 15 helmets with over 200 kids.
But after the news running that we need support here and there and people’s response has been positive, we are very happy actually to see that at least now, in the near future, we might have some good number of GAA gear that is going to help us have as many kids playing as possible.
How many kids do you have playing at the moment?
Well, at the moment, the numbers keep growing each and every day because there are schools that come, and they want you to keep training their kids, to start training their kids. So far, we have four schools, and in each of those schools, you find at least you have around 50 to 70 kids playing these sports. So 50 probably by four that we’re having over 200 kids now as of today.
That is impressive. And are the schools all in the same area near Kampala?
The schools are out of Kampala. They’re not very close to one another. I would say the distance between these schools is something like ten to fifteen kilometres apart.
Okay, however, the good chance is that we are now trying to engage those that are even nearer to the ones that we are currently with so that transport doesn’t become a problem on our side.
Have you heard of other groups doing anything similar to you since you told your story? Has anyone contacted you saying that they were doing something similar?
Well, no. We haven’t had contact or a call to us about someone doing something like we are doing. Actually, we haven’t had that as of now.
How can clubs in Ireland and Europe help Uganda GAA to keep developing?
Well, our biggest challenge is in terms of the gear and equipment. You see, this is something that we cannot easily access on the market here in Uganda. And as with any other new club that is starting, that is purely organic. There are so many challenges, of course, that you face when you’re still starting up. But I can say that, as of now, our biggest challenge is equipment.
So if clubs worldwide, in Europe, around the world can support us by donating second-hand equipment, that would be of great use to us. Also, if we can get some players out there who can record short videos about different skills, even if it is less than a minute, I think the kids would be very happy to watch that.
Yeah, I think the biggest help can come in terms of donating the gear, and equipment and, of course, sharing resources, maybe training manuals that people use. But basically, I think as of now, that’s what I can request people to support us.
Would equipment or jerseys for adults be useful to you at all?
Yeah, we have a few adults that are playing now, and we hope the numbers will increase as much as we are focusing on only the small kids, 14 and below. But yeah, we’re now getting a positive response from some adults. Of course, they also want to play this game. So, yes, even the biggest for adults can also work for us.
Have you come into contact with other GAA clubs in Africa? I think there’s one in South Africa, but I’m not sure about anywhere else.
Well, we haven’t been in contact with them. I think the last we had, I think, was one of their people, either their staff or their players, tweeted under one of our tweets. I think that was the only communication we’ve had.
There should be another club in Kenya that is either starting or something of that kind, which I’ll try to link up with them and see. I saw a tweet from someone, I think, who is in Congo, our neighbours here, who should be doing the same work we are doing. But I didn’t actually get enough information about that person. I tried to look him up, but it looks like his DM is closed.
But I think basically it is South Africa and Kenya must be starting, and someone in the Congo must also be starting.
Okay. Wow. That’s really GAA Global. Like, our sports are in Uganda, coming to Congo, Kenya. Can you imagine bringing some of the kids to see the big games in Ireland? An All-Ireland final or something like that?
That is something that we would love to do. However, I don’t think it will be possible for us as of now because, in terms of resources, I don’t think we’re in a position to do that now. But God-willing, if all goes well, we would really wish to come for the All-Ireland.
So what are your hopes going forward? How do you see Uganda GAA becoming in the future?
After getting more equipment and GAA gear, I think we want to have so many kids and other people playing these games. That means that we shall be able to have competitions, a championship or a league here running.
With that also, we hope to expand the game to places outside Kampala. That is one of our plans for next year is to have the games out of Kampala so that the game can be exposed to different people so that they can participate in them. So, yeah, those are the things that we’re looking forward to.
Great. How have the girls responded to playing Gaelic sports? I saw in one of your posts that it’s not normal for girls to play with boys in sports in Uganda, but that you guys are training girls and boys.
Well, actually, in Uganda, not very many females take part in sports, but I think the issue goes back to school.
I’m very lucky to be in one of the schools that teaches PE as a lesson. So the girls are going to compete with the boys because they’re all getting the same resources, the same lessons. So, yeah, girls are very actually happy that they can play football. Most of them always wanted to play football, but boys could not allow them. There’s that mentality that football is only for boys and girls cannot play football.
But now, here is an opportunity, as this is a game that can be played by either boys or girls. The girls are happy that they finally have an opportunity to play a game they have always wanted to play, which has always been football.
So yeah, in school, girls are equally playing like boys. But of course, when we go for the community training whereby we train the kids from the community, the response is that we have a few girls because most of them are either at home doing work or helping their parents.
But at school, it is 50/50.
Okay, so I think that’s all the questions I have for you. Thank you again for your time. Best of luck in the future, and I wish you all the world’s success with Uganda GAA.
If you would like to support Uganda GAA in its mission, follow and share the social media updates to help them reach a bigger audience, and of course, if you can afford it, you can donate to their GoFundMe account.
If you wish to contact the club regarding donating old GAA equipment, we can confirm that they are very obliging and easy to work with by contacting them on their social media accounts.
Photos including Featured Image courtesy of Amanyire Moses and Uganda GAA.