Uganda’s Michael Kawooya, who this week will be competing in his fourth Commonwealth Games, has paid tribute to the kindness of the Canadian squash community, who have helped him grow the sport in Uganda through generous donations of squash gear.
Kawooya, who first competed in the 2010 Games in Delhi, has been working to grow the game in Uganda for the past 12 years. In his home city of Kampala, access to squash equipment is extremely challenging, with no shops stocking squash rackets and balls.
The 38-year-old, who on Friday will play Marcus Allen Adela of Seychelles in the first round in Birmingham, runs free coaching sessions for children in his native Uganda and helps supply eager new squash players with equipment, a task aided by a number of donors in recent years.
One such group has been the Canadian squash community, who in recent months and with support from Squash Outaouais in Gatineau, Wallace Squash in Ottawa and Karakal North America, have donated and shipped 35 rackets (including new, lightly used and junior rackets), 60 new squash balls strings, grips, five squash bags, four eye guards, squash shoes as well as various items of clothing.
Explaining how he began his mission to grow the game in Uganda and the role the donations would play, Kawooya said: “Lew Marsden [now head coach at Scarborough Squash Academy] invited me for a training camp in 2010, where I was gifted free coaching and squash rackets, shoes, bags, and t-shirts to bring home. I felt touched so I wanted to spread awareness of the beauty of the sport by involving the young generation with free coaching and giving out what was given to me at the start.
“This led to meeting some of the kind-hearted, passionate and loving Canadian squash community who have stood with me through their generous support.
“Their support means the world to me and the next generation in Uganda. We are really honoured and humbled to have them along with us.”
Samantha Cornett, Events and National Teams Coordinator for Squash Canada added: “Mike is so passionate about squash, and it’s a joy to see him teaching and sharing the game so widely. I look forward to following the Ugandan men as they compete in the Commonwealth Games, and I know they will take home and share their experience and stories that will inspire the next generation of young players.”
Maxym Leclair, Director and Head Coach at Squash Outaouai, added: “We were delighted to be able to support Mike and his project in Uganda. Squash is a community sport, whether that’s local or global, and I’m proud that the Canadian squash community has been able to play a part in developing the game and bringing it to as many people as possible!”
With squash at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games getting underway in just three days, Kawooya says that he is hoping to serve as an inspiration to the young players he coaches.
“To be playing in the Commonwealth Games again is a very great opportunity for me to be able to represent Uganda and also inspire the young generation to believe in themselves by bringing out the best of them in what they love to do. I will also get the opportunity to meet some of my friends there, hopefully, since the last time we met face to face [as long ago] because of the pandemic and get a chance to say thank you to the sweet sport that has made me what I am today,” he concluded.