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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

War (of words) breaks out in East Africa

Something unpleasant is brewing in East Africa following last weekend's game between Uganda and Kenya, which Uganda won by 29-10, overturning a 22-10 defeat the previous week, to win the Elgon Cup.

Or maybe not. The trophy was not awarded at the end of the second game because the Kenyan players refused to hand it over. They said that the Kenyan and Ugandan Unions agreed that the first game alone would count this year, as Uganda said that the return leg in Kampala could not not take place due to a lack of funding. As a result, after their win in Nairobi on 9th July, Kenya were awarded the cup.

Uganda's players and officials do not dispute this - but they say that "after the women’s game and the trophy being handed over to the Kenyans, the chairmen of both unions announced at the dinner that Uganda had secured late sponsorship and would be able to host the return leg that would determine the Elgon Cup winners. Both teams cheered with the Kenyans promising to beat the Ugandans at home." As a result, after the return game on 16th July, Uganda's players and supporters celebrated, telling the world of their triumph - a win that was reported on rugby websites (well, those interested in women's rugby).

It was only 24-28 hours later that Kenya's view on the matter began to leak out. Responses from supporters to Facebook posts questioned Uganda's win, pointing to a newspaper article reporting Kenya's win. Slowly a Ugandan response to this is growing ... and its beginning to get unpleasant with one side already accusing the other of being "unsporting".

The main thing to note from this is that all of this information is coming from unofficial sources - players, supporters, journalists - nothing is coming from the Unions themselves. In fact the Ugandan RFU have published nothing about their women's team since back in January. Kenya, on the other hand, produced a preview on 6th July - three days before the first game - which muddies the water still more, talking about "the Elgon Cup first leg clash against Uganda on Saturday 9th July 2011".

So what happened between the 6th and 9th July? Was anything agreed (in writing)? And what was said after the first game? Who knows - because both sides are saying completely different things! The trouble is that - unless the Unions (and, if need be, the IRB) get a grip - this has all the ingredients of something that could get very nasty indeed.

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