Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Bakiga Window: Basketball at Sundown

The crowd begins to grow at the sun begins its decent behind the hills.
Any sporting spectacle becomes twice as spectacular when you’re out in the African heat. Having exerted myself once this week during Tuesday’s staff versus students football match, I am happy this time to be sat on the grass as a mere spectator. 

It is Friday 15th April and I am nestled in amongst an ever-increasing crowd of students, watching teh twisting narrative of a basketball tournament unfold in the afternoon sunshine. The tournament, organised by one of my students, Frank, started just a little after 3pm and is slowly, but surely, reaching its climax. 

The teams are comprised of groups of boys from different dormitories, or form classes. Each team arrived full of eagerness and anticipation at around 2.30pm to the empty court positioned on a sun-baked hillside. By the time that the tournament had got underway, a crowd of around thirty students had assembled behind the backboards. 

This setting for a basketball competition has to be amongst the best in the world. I know that this simple flat surface carved into a hillside may not match the world’s most advanced arenas, but this afternoon it seems to be coming close. With the competition rumbling on, with the unending green of the cultivated hills of Kabale district providing a backdrop, the crowds continue to grow. 

Now, as the competition reaches its zenith, with the intensification of the sporting battle kicking up clouds of dust that rise up to waist height, the number of spectators has increased to at least three hundred students, staff and passers-by. 

Due to my own personal excitement of admiring the picturesque location, my concern over my burning mzungu skin and my ignorance of the rules of basketball, I cannot recall which team actually emerged victorious from the heat haze. Either way, as the leader of bazungu group, and in the absence of anyone with an OBE, I was called upon to present the trophy and make a brief speech. 

The whole afternoon leads me to reflect that often we are so concerned with entertainment being something that can be found on a television set, that, if anything, sporting contests like Frank’s basketball tournament remind you that entertainment is something much simpler and more wholesome than all that.

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