September 17, 2009

Uganda

Missing cricketers leave authorities fuming

Martin Williamson

Things go from bad to worse for Ugandan cricket and, by association, for the dreams of many young cricketers across Africa, with an admission that seven players, and not six as first reported, went missing at the end of the ICC Under-19 World Cup Qualifier in Toronto.

Reaction back at home has not been good. Former Uganda board chairman Abbey Lutaya said it was “a great setback for Ugandan sport”. He continued: “It is indeed a big step backwards to the many achievements cricket had attained. Uganda have worked hard on the cricket front and with the hard work almost bearing fruit, these little boys decide to spoil everything now,”

“They are so talented and it is catastrophic that not one but seven of them decide to vanish.” Cassim Suliman, chief executive of the Africa Cricket Association, said he was “not happy”, adding: "It sets a bad precedent and basically we need to somehow look at countering this by getting other measures in place."

The Uganda Cricket Assocation has asked the Canadian authorities to repatriate the missing players as and when they are found.

While this has been linked with a similar incident in 2007 when two Ugandan players absconded after an ICC tournament in Australia and subsequently claimed asylum, there is confusion over the status of the seven.

They have no documentation - the management appear to have been holding their passports to try to avoid such an incident – but Canadian police said no laws had been broken as the seven were all legally in the country on six-month visas. However, it is believed the country’s immigration department are not taking quite such a relaxed view.

Speaking to Canada’s National Post, Dr. Joanna Quinn, an assistant professor at the University of Western Ontario who has extensive knowledge of Ugandan politics, said it was easier for Ugandans to get visas to Canada than to the USA or UK and played down suggestions they were seeking political asylum.

“It doesn't seem to make sense,” she said. “The only thing I can think of is [that they are seeking] economic improvements.”

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Martin Williamson is executive editor of ESPNcricinfo and managing editor of ESPN Digital Media in Europe, the Middle East and Africa

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Posted by colin macbeth on (September 20, 2009, 6:58 GMT)

This is a dreadful situation, both for Ugandan and African cricket - and it has sent sparks everywhere, including the often somnolent Africa Cricket Association (ACA). It is now over a week since the 'Secret Seven's' disappearing act, and if young Afghanis, as is reported, have also done a bunk, that's a nail (a smaller one) in Asia's as well as Africa's future prospects - of holding tourneys, getting funding etc. Mr Lutaya refers to "these little boys". Pejorative though that may sound it is an exact description of their lack of maturity in what they have done. Might they be foound at Brampton CC, I wonder?

Posted by Vikram Maingi on (September 18, 2009, 7:39 GMT)

What could be a preventive action so that these kind of problems do not occur in future?

Posted by colin macbeth on (September 17, 2009, 10:33 GMT)

In an admirable summary of the Toronto event, Irish-American Rob Quinn had this to say about the Ugandans: 'Uganda...played some great cricket; they brought colour and friendliness and go home ambassadors for the game which in turn will undoubtedly spread and develop the game further in Uganda, providing inspiration to the youth of Uganda.' Would that that were so! On the basis of these sentiments, it is such a pity that the seven runaways have chosen to do what they've done. Kampala has its ups and downs like any capital city - witness last week's violence. But Lugogo stadium is a splendid venue and, if those U-19 Ugandan lads have really done a runner, they are foolish. They are being rightly slated in the Ugandan press and elsewhere. They seem unaware of what's good for them and the considerable shame they have brought to Uganda - and its cricketing potential.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Martin Williamson
Executive editor Martin Williamson joined the Wisden website in its planning stages in 2001 after failing to make his millions in the internet boom when managing editor of Sportal. Before that he was in charge of Sky Sports Online and helped launch and run Sky News Online. With a preference for all things old (except his wife and children), he has recently confounded colleagues by displaying an uncharacteristic fondness for Twenty20 cricket. His enthusiasm for the game is sadly not matched by his ability, but he remains convinced that he might be a late developer and perseveres in the hope of an England call-up with his middle-order batting and non-spinning offbreaks. He is now managing editor of ESPN EMEA Digital Group as well as his Cricinfo responsibilities.

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