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Football fans in Bujagali

by Dan Griffin

The most popular football teams in the Bujagali area of Uganda are Manchester United and Arsenal. I know this because Julius Caesar told me. We were sitting in a car, on the way to look at a new dam being built on the White Nile and Caesar was studying a print-out of the fixtures for the upcoming FA cup fourth round.

When you’re trying to establish a rapport with someone, football – if you’re a fan – can be a good place to start. It is unlikely that a visitor from Ireland will have a huge amount in common with someone in rural Uganda but football can provide some common ground. When I first visited the country in 2005 I used to go to the market in Jinja. Stall holders would ask me where I was from and when I said Ireland they usually started talking about Robbie Keane. Perhaps it was just a good sales tactic.

Caesar is a Man Utd fan but he also has a commercial interest in football: he runs a video hall in a village where fans of the English Premier League come to watch matches.

Caesar is a busy man. He works full time at the local Soft Power health clinic but he is also a former teacher, a graphic designer and an artist whose speciality is lampshades. When I spoke to him outside his attractive home on the banks of the Nile, he said it had been “built by lampshades”.

His main market for the shades has been foreign tourists and, through no fault of his own, that market has dried up somewhat in recent years. He still sells the shades online and displays an entrepreneurial zeal which makes you think he’ll do OK in future.

Perhaps that’s why he was not delighted as he should have been to see Arsenal exit the FA Cup in the previous round. Looking at the fixture list he laments the absence of an Arsenal match. “That match could have made me some money,” he sighs.

Fund recipient Dan Griffin was supported to travel to Jinja, Uganda, where he reported on the effects of a newly installed dam on the local population. Dan’s piece appeared in The Irish Times and can be read here