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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.”
Martin Williamson is executive editor of ESPNcricinfo and managing editor of ESPN Digital Media in Europe, the Middle East and AfricaFeeds: Martin Williamson
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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.