With its impending debut at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics, the sport of Para badminton is experiencing rapid growth around the world.
None more so than in the burgeoning Para badminton capital of Africa, Uganda.
Para badminton has benefited greatly from the dedicated work of Uganda Badminton Association CEO Simon Mugabe, and through the association’s partnership with the BWF and the AGITOS Foundation, Mugabe and his team are seeing more and more opportunities for their players.
At the recent BWF-AGITOS Project in Kampala, Uganda, Mugabe shared his thoughts on the great potential the sport has in the region.
“It is wonderful that Uganda can host this programme funded by the AGITOS Foundation and BWF, as it is of great benefit to our Para badminton athletes. The project has also brought many players from many countries together to Uganda, which is great,” Mugabe said.
“This is the second time we are hosting a Para badminton project with the BWF and AGITOS and the number of players has increased.
“We now have over 10 countries in Africa with Para badminton players, so everyone has come on board. And it’s great for Uganda that we were the first to host events like this so that everyone can come and develop their Para badminton programmes.
“Every association now wants to have Para badminton.”
At a national level, the dividends are also paying off.
“Para badminton in Uganda is growing very fast. We had one player in 2013 and now we have 100 players. The best part is if you have good players in the world rankings they will go to training more, and now we have athletes training every day,” he said.
“Long term, through more coaching by technical experts, we hope these players can play with more confidence and enter tournaments like the Uganda Para-Badminton International and play against athletes from outside Africa.
“I would be very happy if there were athletes from the African continent defeating players from Europe, Asia and Pan-America.”
For local Short Stature player, Nakandi Peninah, her ability to practise and play badminton means everything to her.
“I really appreciate the work of the BWF and the AGITOS Foundation for thinking it necessary to provide people like me with the opportunity to participate in Para badminton tournaments,” she said.
“Also, a big thank you to the Uganda Badminton Association for bringing this programme here and I really hope the project comes back next year, too.
“The project is still small but I believe it can build and I really love that they care and treat me well and that they provide the coaching we need.”
This level of assistance and support also extends to the coaches. Local Para badminton coach Mark Sekyondwa said the athletes will only get better with more guidance.
“The programme is good for our players in Uganda. They are benefiting a lot because we lack experienced coaches. Having the AGITOS programme here is good as I can learn from the coaches and take those points so I can improve and help the athletes more.”
Mugabe has seen a lot of badminton in his time and it brings him great joy to be involved in the development of the sport. Not only has he seen the athletes grow, but also the awareness and popularity of Para badminton, too.
“It’s great now that we have scope to grow and that people with disabilities have opportunities. Before they were marginalised but now they are recognised and are moving with freedom on the court. People know they play badminton and they are enjoying themselves.
“I feel that these people should enjoy life as we do, and one way for them to do this is through Para badminton. And that’s my happiness, to see all the classes of athletes playing badminton,” he said.