Updated: Dec 13, 2021
This week Netball Sweden's Wilberforce Nsereko has been in Uganda visiting representatives from the Ugandan Netball Federation (UNF) towards establishing a partnership between Uganda and Sweden to build netball in Sweden. Uganda is currently ranked 7th in the world in Netball, behind Australia, England, New Zealand, Jamaica, South Africa and Malawi.
Wilberforce (middle), lead of the Region Stockholm committee of Netball Sweden, met with the President of the Ugandan Netball Federation (UNF), the Honourable, Sarah Babirye Kityo (right) (former member of parliament) and Amina Mande (left), General Secretary of the UNF.
Discussions focussed on how the UNF can partner with Netball Sweden to bring awareness, accessibility and build capacity to have many playing and supporting netball in Sweden. This would include a broad approach with Uganda's established programs from children to national teams. The importance of the history of netball in building opportunity for women was discussed as an important aspect to preserve due continued inequality in female engagement in sports. Netball is one of the only female dominated sports in the world. Improving women's health and independence will always be a focus of Netball, however like netball leadership all over the world, Uganda is now actively promoting mens netball, an essential ingredient in building our sport internationally and bringing more resources to the objectives of building health and equity in opportunities.
"Sweden and many other european countries are considered to be 'emerging' or 'developing countries' in netball" says Wilberforce Nsereko, lead of the Region Stockholm Netball Sweden Committee. "To be able to receive support from Uganda to build our netball capabilities, through both marketing and technical assistance will be incredibly important in building Swedish netball and integrating not only immigrant communities but traditional Swede's, who through it's suffragete and Ling gymnastics history can also claim ownership of the sport", says Wilberforce.
The linkage to Uganda was first initiated when current Netball Sweden chair Heather Main met Wilberforce Nsereko at a Ugandan Embassy event. Wilberforce is a sports consultant with KICK-OFF SPORTS UK and coordinates the 'Education through Sports' project in Sweden. "Discussing with Wilberforce, we realised the great opportunity to use Netball to support integration of immigrant communities in Sweden, both from the inclusive nature of the sport to the number of immigrant communities familiar with the sport and the Swedish links to the founding of the sport" says Heather Main. Wilberforce then connected to Lt. Christopher Mbowa (left), head of medical commission UNF and Patricia Nanteza (middle), sports psychologist, at the National Council of Sports in Uganda to initiate planning for how to proceed. "We wanted to take the opportunity to celebrate cultural differences through sport and to partner with Uganda is a great way of keeping cultural links and at the same time bringing something new to Sweden", says Heather. Wilberforce also established a connection with Djurgården's sports association, who is on board to help grow netball in Sweden with great interest in supporting engagement of immigrant communities not only in sports but in sports leadership, as well as concerted efforts to engage women in sports. "Bringing in Djurgården's IF is really important. You cannot have one way integration, that's assimilation. To do this right we need to engage the new Swedes and the traditional Swedish networks. Together we can really do something great for integration and mental, physical and community health in Sweden", says Wilberforce.
While the formal aspect of the partnership are to be established in the next months, discussions have been initiated for a Stockholm Open Netball Festival in Spring 2022. The event would include a visit to Sweden of a Ugandan junior team and their coaches/officials who would play in events and exhibitions aimed at building exposure of netball in Sweden. The students would also visit schools to teach peers about the sport they love. Participants can expect Netball related workshops, a netball tournament with different age groups and with clubs from different countries. Discussions are also ongoing about visits of the Ugandan National teams to Sweden.