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Čeferin Visit: An Eye Opener, Everlasting Act Of Hope & Game Changer For Generations

Updated: May 2, 2023

Some things are too good to be true! One that is yet to sink in properly, and for many that may never do so, is the high profile visit of Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) president Aleksander Čeferin to Aliguma Foundation’s Acholi Quarters Project in central Kampala, Uganda.


Historic Act: UEFA president Čeferin officially kicks off the Slum Schools Soccer Gala held to commemorate his first-ever visit to Uganda at Acholi Quarters Playground on March 15. (All Photos/John Batanudde - AF Media)


Acholi Quarters, located in Kireka-Banda BI Zone – Nakawa Division off Kinawataka Road, is a poor man’s Las Vegas for many underprivileged that live a life in the 'fantasy world' that one day their dreams will come true.


Of course not all dreams are lived in their entirety, at the end of the day.


New shade of light

But Čeferin’s visit – the first to the Pearl of Africa - cast new rays of hope for those with dwindling hopes in life that change is possible especially through the beautiful game of football.


"Football is, maybe, the most powerful thing in the world. It's not only about elite competitions but it can also be a force for good. We should use it to do good and working with the Aliguma Foundation is one way we do it,” Čeferin told members of the Fourth Estate – spotting a face that can be described as a mix of raw emotion and excitement after he had witnessed firsthand what the vulnerable go through on a daily to make life happen.

Čeferin only stayed in Uganda for close to 24 hours but he made most of his time. A handful of media engagements and a couple of glances at some city sites, the highlight of his visit was without doubt arguably the five-kilometer trek in the slum communities visiting a couple of projects.


Once In A Lifetime: A pupil of St Matia Mulumba Catholic Primary School (black jersey) shares a priceless fist-pump greeting with Čeferin to the delight of his teammates (yellow).


The former president of Slovenia Football Association (NZS) freely mixed with the natives as justified by the small talk he made on the numerous stops, squeezed through uneven corridors, skipped over temporary gutters and tried to dodge several stagnant waste-filled potholes, most in vain, on a day that preceded a heavy downpour.


Women at work

At the foundation’s warehouse codenamed ‘Okello House’ in Banda, Čeferin met women groups – the mothers of the slum children – who engage in different small-scale enterprise businesses to replenish their sources of income.


“Football is more than just a game. It entails everything about humanity. This can be a game changer for many vulnerable people to change their livelihoods for the better. And that’s the work we do as UEFA Foundation For Children to impact lives in a positive way,” Čeferin told the women after being given a warm reception and listening to revelations from many youth about how the Aliguma Foundation had helped them from a situation of helplessness to their current state where they’re acceptable in society.

One of the foundation’s biggest beneficiaries, Grace Nicole Apio, gave Čeferin and his entourage a detailed explanation of each of the products; from crafts, art pieces, book making, tailoring, to others like liquid soap, reusable sanitary pads and local wine on how each was hygienically made and how some had received market-selling authorisation from Uganda Bureau of Standards (UBOS).


Trendsetters: The women of Acholi Quarters show the works of their hands when Čeferin made a stopover at Okello House in Banda Zone alongside Sports Minister Peter Ogwang.


Flanked by the State Minister of Sports Hon. Peter Ogwang, National Council of Sports (NCS) chairman Ambrose Tashobya and the UEFA entourage of Kevin Lamour (Member of the Board), Urs Kluser (General Secretary) and Sršen Matej (Consultant), Čeferin was clearly moved by the warmth of his welcome and many of those in two were overwhelmed by what they saw and the emotions forthwith got the better of them.


Children love playing

His final journey was accompanied by a brass band with a section of elderly women in good voice of song and praise from the main road to the Acholi Quarters Playground where he witnessed half-dressed children enjoying football with banana-fibers made at several makeshift grounds along the way.


Untold Joy: Pupils and teachers of Elgon Infant Primary School in a joyous mood as their players wheel off in celebration soon after scoring a goal in one of the matches.


Here he inspected all the schools participating in the Slums Schools Soccer Gala organised in commemoration of the historic visit, shared one-on-ones with some of the children and had a kick, too.


It was a surreal moment for not only the children but for all those involved including the foundation’s volunteers, area’s elders, youth and journalists that sport can actually bring hope to young vulnerable ones growing up and be a breadwinner for many families.


UEFA’s heartfelt pleas

“The UEFA foundation will continue helping children around the world. When we met Ritah (Aliguma) we learnt about her goals and aims and we wanted to work with her. UEFA will help but the government also has to step in and help,” Čeferin told the women groups while urging them to continue harnessing their enterprise skills.

On behalf of Acholi Quarters, Hon. Ogwang requested UEFA Foundation to make an offer of an all-weather astro-turf for the multi-purpose playground in Acholi Quarters. On his part, Ogwang pledged that the government would play its role and either pay for the turf’s taxes or have them exempted, once it arrives.


Memorabilia Exchange: UEFA president Čeferin and the foundation's CEO Ritah Aliguma (C) present a souvenir to State Minister of Sports Hon. Peter Ogwang (L) at Okello House.


Čeferin’s final remarks were equally heartwarming as they underlined UEFA's commitment to using football’s popularity and influence as a force for good. Since its establishment in 2015, the UEFA Foundation For Children has supported over 400 projects, built and renovated at least 80 football pitches, donated equipment and provided grants - all with the goal of assisting the world’s poorest, most vulnerable children or crisis-stricken regions.


“This visit has been amazing. It has been an emotional experience for me. I have had a glimpse of so many things, but I would love to come back and see what real life looks like here. I am grateful to Ritah (Aliguma) and the foundation for having made it possible to bring us here. It is not a gift that I came, but it is a gift that you received me. She has shown that with a good heart, you can give the little you have and make a change in many people’s lives. Going to Rwanda for the 73rd FIFA Congress is big but coming to Uganda is the highlight of my first Tour to Africa since COVID-19,” concluded the 55-year-old.

Big inspiration

"This wasn't just an ordinary visit. It was a game-changer. The UEFA President walking through one of the largest slum communities in Kampala gave hope to so many destitute people. We can dream again knowing that all things are possible," the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Founder Ritah Aliguma, who spoke with a hoarse voice, said of the foundation’s most memorable moment.

Beauty Of The Game: God's Will Kindergarten & Primary School and Kireka Army Primary School strut out their stuff on the grass-bare Acholi Quarters Playground during the gala.

“It is the greatest of honours for us as a little foundation to have the president of UEFA in our small and humble community of Acholi Quarters. It means a lot; not only to Uganda but to Africa at large. The visit is a big inspiration and I am hopeful many will now change their ways and live purposeful livelihoods by harnessing their talents, taking school seriously and developing other enterprise skills,” she added.

Humble beginnings

Acholi Quarters is a slum that accommodates over 25,000 people of mixed cultures, though the highest percentage of people are from the Acholi ethnic group, which is how it derived the “Acholi Quarters” name.


Then a young sports journalist, Ritah Aliguma started the Aliguma Foundation in 2017 after visiting the Acholi Quarters community while on an assignment and seeing the plight of its people and deemed it fitting to have his foundation’s ‘official’ base in the area.


Surreal Feeling: UEFA president Čeferin (5th R) and Sports Minister Ogwang (L) endure the conditions as they move from one project to the other during their 5km trek of the area.


And through the funding received from UEFA Foundation For Children, the Aliguma Foundation intends to give a level sporting platform for children, youth and coaches, as well create social and economic opportunities for at least 4,000 children and 1,000 caregivers.


On November 9, 2022, Čeferin made the big announcement that in addition to 65 humanitarian projects around the world, the Aliguma Foundation would partake in a collective second grant estimated at €5.2 MILLION after its satisfactory works with the first call.


Selfless Team: The Aliguma Foundation team and the area's elders share a picture moment with UEFA president Čeferin at the climax of his successful and historic visit to Uganda.


This extension falls in line with UEFA’s mission to protect children’s fundamental rights in health and protection, children with disabilities, education and personal development, access to sport, integration of minorities and protection for victims of conflicts.


ABOUT ALIGUMA FOUNDATION

Started: 2017

Founder: Ritah Aliguma

Projects: Acholi Quarters Playground, Ndi Mwana – The Cry Of A Girl Child, What A Ball Can Do, Annual Banda Slums Soccer Tournament, Aliguma Foundation Soccer Academy, Aliguma Foundation Sports & Empowerment Centre – Masindi, Say No To Abuse, Back To School, Rocks & Crafts Works.

Partners: UEFA Foundation For Children – SREP, UNHCR, Rotary, WOPI Boston International, Friends of Aliguma Foundation – USA, AIPS, Italian Embassy, Standard Chartered Bank and Nigerian International Ola Aina.

Memorable Moment: Hosting Uefa boss Aleksander Čeferin (March 14-15, 2023)


On The Spot: UEFA president Čeferin fields questions from the gallery of local and international media during Slum Schools Soccer Gala at the Acholi Quarters playground.

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