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Friday, June 10, 2016

A long boring wait for men

By Dennis D. Muhumuza

The 2015/2016 season of Barclays Premier League ends today [May 15]  after 10 sizzling months, leaving many Ugandan men wondering how they will be passing their weekend afternoons before the new season kicks off on August 13.

Soccer, women, money and politics are the top interests of men, no doubt, with soccer having an edge over the others. Even deep in my village in western Uganda nine out of every 10 men who have never stepped in class reel off the names of the star players in the premiership.

It is just amazing how English football has stolen the hearts and minds of Ugandan men. Everyone is a pundit; everyone has a jersey of his team, with his name or the name of his favourite player and his jersey number conspicuously emblazoned on its back. As a Gunner, I too have an Arsenal shirt with my name and number [16] of Aaron Ramsey on it.
It is show time every weekend, and our wives and girlfriends suffer unless they pull off great pretense as soccer lovers too; pulling on jerseys of our favourite teams, jumping and shouting with us when our team scores, and commiserating with us when we lose.The women who have failed to train themselves to love football know nothing but misery on weekends because that is when their lovers squander a lot of money on betting and return home too drunk to spend quality time with them.

Why is soccer so obsessive?
Men are natural hunters; they love the challenge, they love the chase, they love the competition, they love risks; any adrenaline-inducing venture and adventure excites them. The English Premiership gives them an opportunity to wind down; a delightful break from the drudgery of life.

Men identify with rivalry, and the fiercest rivalry is served steaming hot in the Premiership. It begins with top managers bullying one another with words and actions; each trying to establish himself as the real bull of the premiership kraal. Tempers flare on the touchline as managers throw tantrums like Arsene Wenger shoved the pugnacious Jose Mourinho who called him a “specialist in failure”. It is funny watching star players pout when a dent in form gets them benched.

One time Liverpool coach Jurgen Klopp broke his glasses celebrating a goal while Louis van Gaal dropped his pants to show his critics that he has balls.

The rivalry trickles down to clubs in close proximity, for example, Manchester United calls Manchester City “the noisy neighbours” while Arsenal shares a neighbourhood with Tottenham Hotspurs and for 20 years the latter has been trying to finish above the former in vain.

This extends to fans as we barb one another depending on how our respective teams are performing. The teams attack with a romantic eagerness or defend with extraordinary resoluteness or they are punished. The tempo, the surprises, the howlers, the class acts and the overall intensity and unpredictability leave you drunk with excitement or disappointment as you watch your team shred its opponent. These are moments that make even grey-haired men weep with joy or with pain, shamelessly.

Leicester City gave us the best tension this season. This is how BBC Radio 2 presenter Jeremy Vine described the Foxes’ performances in February: “You are performing the kind of high-wire act not seen since the French daredevil Philippe Petit strung a cable between the Twin Towers and crossed it without a harness. Every week we expect you to fall…but every week you stay on that cable.”

Leicester City that had gone from last to first in the league in just 12 months went on to win the trophy for the first time in their 132-year history. They did that in style; upsetting the status quo; making the established top teams look like “a bunch of bungling amateurs” as one pundit put it. The underdog had grabbed its chance with aplomb; stirring us with inspiration that we too can make it big time.

In life rarely is the underdog given the chance to prove himself, but in Premier League anyone has his chance. The injury of a big star is an opportunity for an often disregarded player to prove himself as a diamond that was hidden in the rough.

All the above combined is why it will be a tough wait for most men out there before the top English professional football league resumes.

--First published in Sunday Monitor, May 15, 2016


By Dennis D. Muhumuza

“Beauty with a purpose” is a catchphrase vocalised by many national beauty queens but few give it tangible meaning like the reigning Miss Jamaica, Dr. Sanneta Myrie. The 25-year-old is a medical doctor who turned to catwalk not to show off her booty, but to use the limelight to impact the world. That’s why she spent over ten hours airborne from New York to Africa for two weeks of voluntary service that saw her reach out to disadvantaged children in Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda.

“I came with a team from Shashamane Sunrise, an international NGO focusing on supporting children’s education in developing countries. I jumped at the invitation to join their efforts because what the organisation does is in line with what I like to do, which is to mentor young children from disadvantaged circumstances.”
It’s easy for Dr. Sanneta’s heart to beat for the underprivileged because she didn’t have a rosy childhood either. She was born in the ghettos of Kingston, Jamaica, to a single mother and a Rastafarian father she has never met. She was later adopted and given an opportunity she maximised to become the woman she is today. 
The writer with Miss Jamaica 2016
“If I wasn’t lucky enough to be able to get quality education I wouldn’t have been able to achieve all that I have achieved. So when it comes to providing good education for children; giving each child equal opportunity to achieve, it’s really something I’m drawn to because we are all capable; it’s just a matter of opportunity.” 

Dr. Sanneta spent five days at St. Theresa Ngora-Okoboi Primary School, in Ngora District, eastern Uganda. She gave out books, pens, pencils, erasers and interacted with the school’s population of 503 learners who she described as “bright-eyed children in worn-out uniforms and tattered shoes and slippers”.
“I got them to tell me their dreams and a lot of them expressed their desire to be like the people they admire in their community: teacher, farmer, doctor, priest. No one said they wanted to be a national beauty queen because the concept of catwalk was alien to them.  

“It was a bit difficult to explain to them where Jamaica is. I told them about Bob Marley and the world’s fastest man Usain Bolt who are from my country but they looked at me bewildered because they didn’t know these people. I understood knowing this is a rural setting with no electricity, no TV; no real exposure to the outside world. That’s why it’s important for anyone with a massive platform to use it to reach out to such children; to stimulate them and give them a broader world outlook.” 

Mentoring children
Dr. Sanneta held mentorship workshops; impressing upon the children the importance of working hard and utilizing every opportunity. An accomplished dancer who started dancing at the age of three, she also took them through dancing routines because “dance is a form of healing; medicine heals the mind and body, and dance heals the soul.” 

“I engaged them in some Jamaican dances but the moves proved challenging for them to fully grasp but they tried their best and laughed their way through it,” she said. “It was a fulfilling day of putting smiles across many faces.” 

Away from getting jiggy with the children, the beauty queen rolled her sleeves and got involved in the harder work of renovating the school buildings. She commissioned a group of local masons and as they built the unfinished walls and others put a new roof on some of the buildings, she grabbed a paintbrush and painted a whole wall. 

Before leaving Teso, Dr. Sanneta visited Sipi Falls which she described as a “breathtaking site” and the hike down to the base of these falls was “quite an amazing experience” for her. 

In Kampala, Dr. Sanneta met the reigning Miss Uganda Zahara Nakiyaga.

“I took her to Special Children Special People, a home in Bunga, that helps prepare children with disabilities for formal education,” said Zahara. “She interacted with the children and met their teachers. It was a great experience getting together again and rehashing old memories at Miss World.” 

The Director of that special needs home, Dr. Naboth Colle, said the children had a great experience with Miss Jamaica: “She was interested in their welfare; how they live and cope. She talked to and took pictures with them and we were all honoured by her presence and touched by her compassion.” 

Dr. Sanneta also met Pauline Akurut, the reigning Miss Tourism. 

“Such a world beauty but she is out there working so hard and making a huge difference,” said Pauline, of how the Caribbean queen's work ethic inspired her. “I learnt a lot from her.”  

 Beauty tips
Interestingly, Dr. Sanneta's journey on the runaway started coincidentally. Her one dream was to become a doctor and help the suffering lot. But after completing medical school, her best friend convinced her to enter the Miss Jamaica pageant. She won it and represented her country at the 2015 Miss World beauty contest in China where she finished third runner-up, and won the Miss World Caribbean crown. 

No doubt for our national beauty queens to perform better on the world stage they have to prepare adequately. Dr. Sanneta had to hire a specialist to train her in poise, a dance master to help sharpen her dancing skills, and was coached by public speaking scholars in the art of oratory as part of her preparations for Miss Jamaica and Miss World beauty contests. 

“When you are in a competition like Miss World, you look in front there are beautiful girls, you look behind there are beautiful women, you look aside there are beautiful women; so you have to be versatile,” she said. “You have to have something that sets you apart, and that is what comes from the inside. You have to have exceptional self-belief because it helps you to perform without pressure.” 

To somebody aspiring to be a strong woman, Dr Sanneta shares the importance of value system: “You have to know what you stand for because if you stand for nothing you fall for everything. Also you have to know that you have a lot to offer the world and the determination to commit yourself to a task in line with with your passion. That makes it easier for you to shine.” 

Shining is what Dr. Sanneta does, giving concrete meaning to her name which loosely translates to “shining sun.” 

She stays in shape by having enough sleep, drinking lots of water which “helps the skin” and staying active by running more, dancing, connecting with friends, helping the less privileged; generally doing things that help “the body, mind and spirit.” 

Dr. Sanneta is dating and hopes to get married at the right time. But her focus currently is to complete her reigns as Miss World Caribbean and Miss Jamaica positively. “Then I’ll return to my regular life and practice medicine,” she says with a smile.

The interview ends with a sermon on togetherness and industriousness: “Love and unity is something I always preach; we need to unify as Africans; those abroad and those at home, and continue to work and make a better world for our children."