Timothy Akolamazima | Holding Court
Tennis is not a well-known sport in Uganda. It requires equipment and a well-maintained court with a flat surface, both things that are hard to find and expensive to maintain. The game was brought here during the colonial era by the British, and courts were constructed in many elite spaces including Makerere University and the Kampala Club. A tennis club was also built, situated beside the cricket oval at Lugogo, and it’s still there. But the sport remained largely the preserve of foreigners, at first the whites and later increasingly Asians.
After independence, the newly-minted political elite retained a fondness for the sport, which continued to flourish as a rich man’s sport throughout the seventies and eighties. Unfortunately during this era, many of the courts were sold off, stolen or developed, and only a few now remain. Nevertheless, a lively tennis scene continued in Kampala, and particularly as equipment became more widely available, more durable and less costly, the sport began to open up.
These days, though it is no longer restricted to only the elite, tennis remains a middle-class sport. Publicly accessible courts are few and far between, and there’s little public attention on the sport in the media and popular culture. But the community of tennis enthusiasts are working to change this, running tennis camps for interested children during school holidays and encouraging their participation as much as possible. By selling and trading second-hand equipment and by taking care of the courts using locally-made equipment which, while not perfect, gets the job done, a small group of passionate players keep a passion for the sport alive here in Kampala.
My childhood home was in close proximity to tennis courts so on my way to school I wouldalways watch in admiration as the players enjoyed themselves. My house had previously belonged to an Asian family, and they had left behind a wooden racket which sparked my curiosity in the sport. In 2006 I first tried playing tennis and I haven’t stopped since. I love the sport because of the attributes it promotes in players. Values such as discipline, trust and sacrifice make it a sport which helps my mind as well as my body to grow stronger.