Dust filling up the air, loud calls by the instructing coach and players calling out their colleagues to pass them the ball was unavoidable as I paved my way to the Kamwokya grounds for an interview on a sunny Saturday morning. Children who look to be between 4 and 17 years fall down but relentlessly get back up in a bid to chase the ball.
The field was filled with children running around and about chasing the ball without stopping. Some would continue running even after missing the ball for more than 10 times.
It was beautiful to watch the young souls chasing their dreams with unbelievable passion. In the Kamwokya Football Association you got to play to go to school.
In a blue football attire and white sneakers with rivers of sweat running down his chin, which he wipes with his palm, Coach Robert Katende Senkole, walks towards me. The 23-year-old, who looks a little older than his age leads me to the neighborhood where I’m offered a plastic chair as he stands facing me and we get talking. This is about how the football talent is spotted and nurtured for bigger places.
Kamwokya Football Association commonly known as the ‘academy’ has existed since 2OO2. It started under the guidance of Coach Christopher Bongole who was succeeded by Katende after he left the country. So many big players have gone through the hands of the Kamwokya grounds among which are Faruk Matovu, Jackson, Andrew Butera, Savio Kabugo , Walter Ojok and many more who live outside Uganda.
About the coach
Born and raised in Kamwokya, a Kampala suburb, Robert Katende Senkole , 23, started playing football at the age of 12. This was at the academy. After the coach Bongole left the country, he had to take over the academy since there was no one to train the children. Currently, the academy has 40 children among which eight are girls. The children are grouped according to age, starting from under 4 to under 17.
How he gets the children
In Katende’s club, every passionate and talented child is welcome as long as the parent is willing to give a ball.
“Sometimes I go around homes especially in Kamwokya requesting parents to give me their children” he says
He says this is as well not easy since some parents look at football as a waste of time therefore putting him off. For those who bring themselves to the field, he goes with them back home and asks for the parents’ permission.
Most of the children are from Kamwokya, Ntinda, Kisaasi, Kyanja, Naguru and some come from as far as Mukono.
“When children are in school, we train only on Saturday and public holidays. In holidays, we train from Monday to Saturday from 8:30 to 11:00am,” said the coach.
He says training is only for two hours and a half to enable the children rest, this also gives time to concentrate to other things like books and to also help their parents at home.
Since he deals with young children, Katende records all the children who report for training and no one leaves the ground until the training is over.
“Some are picked by their parents and I normally walk some home myself especially the girls.” He adds.
Every child has to have sportswear including clothes and shoes and they report with a bottle of water every morning each since they take water breaks.
“Those whose parents can’t afford the sportswear wait until we get a donor and then we give them but that’s once in a while” Katende says.
How the club survives
Katende has no support from any organization or club. He labours with a few friends in training and providing for the children.
“There are some colleagues I trained with under coach Bongole who now play with big clubs that help us with necessities like balls, sportswear and getting bursaries for the children” he adds.
Out of the 40 children he trains, he has managed to get bursaries for 20 children both in primary and secondary through the help of Matovu, Nunda, Butera, Kabugo, Ojok and those abroad.
“My benefit is the satisfaction that I am helping a soul reach their dream through talent. I don’t earn a single penny in what I do. I have managed to get some of my children to big clubs especially KCCA FC where I have Pasikali Oketcho, Ben Amur and Andrew Okumu.” He says.
“I want everyone in Uganda to know the Academy and learn that you can save a life without investing in money.” Katende says. He says he also wants his children to join more big clubs and get a better living.
Katende has a counseling class every morning for 15 minutes before training starts.
“We first pray and then I conduct the counseling class were I teach them how to behave and conduct themselves in daily life. I also teach them to always take their school seriously and much more” he adds.
What some of the children say?
Ben Amur, 15.
I have played from this field since I was in P.2. I have been here all my life. I have been able to attend school because of football. I have played tournaments and worn medals like the Watoto wa Soccer, On the Ball and much more. The biggest I have achieved is being signed to play for KCCA FC.
Isaac Oriang, 4.
I started playing this year. I have learnt football rules, how to play as a team and also got so many friends here. The couch is a very nice person.