Uganda’s Soft Ground Wrestling Initiative Sparks Global Interest, Aims to Bolster Youth Opportunities in the Sport

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Tucked away in the verdant expanses outside the bustling capital of Uganda, an extraordinary scene unfolds. In a ring strewn together by bamboo poles and sisal rope, pairs of young enthusiasts grapple and clash, their bodies slipping and sliding in the slick mud. These wrestling sessions, imbibed with vigor and a sense of camaraderie, echo the vitality of the professional wrestling matches they’d grown up watching on television.

At the heart of this extraordinary pursuit is the passionate Ugandan devotee, Daniel Bumba, known in the local wrestling collective as Bumbash. He dreams of helping these young wanderers, many of whom have lost their homes and families, hold their own in the professional wrestling realm.

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This wrestling initiative, named Soft Ground Wrestling, is far from a grand spectacle, owing to the modest means at their disposal. The gritty ring stands as a manifestation of their dreams, an investment of a significant sum for the youths, desperate to escape the economic despair of their farmland surroundings. Despite the hardships, they pay a commitment fee of a staggering 100,000 shillings, tantamount to ten days of grueling labor for an average construction worker.

Undeterred by the adversity, Bumba, 35, an ardent wrestling aficionado since his formative years, has concocted an intriguing blend of the local Luganda language with the captivating world of WWE matches as a video jockey. Now, he aspires to bring wrestling into the mainstream of Ugandan life, influencing a niche group of enthusiasts who share his passion.

The Soft Ground Wrestling community, though in its early inception, has not gone unnoticed. Clips of their matches featuring the raw talent and fiery tenacity of Ugandan wrestlers on their channel has caught the eye of professional wrestlers, including American wrestler Jordynne Grace. A season of funding calls on the social platform GoFundMe has sparked global interest, with donations topping up to around $10,000 to enhance the talents of Uganda’s amateur wrestlers to the world.

Additionally, this funding will save the wrestling outfit from the threat of eviction from their four-acre property by providing financial aid to meet the $250 monthly rent. Meanwhile, Bumba envisions his endeavor evolving into a wrestling academy, a sanctuary for youngsters to escape the clutches of disillusionment and vice. For Bumba, ambition doesn’t stop at national boundaries, he aspires to become the face of wrestling in East Africa.

Not long after gaining momentum, the project raised eyebrows amongst the authorities. Concerns of ‘dubious activities’ led to interrogations by security officials. However, doubts were dispelled after the officers were offered a glimpse into their operations.

The wrestlers, each displaying varying degrees of ambition, resilience, and raw talent, have dreams of representing Uganda on an international platform. Some find solace, camaraderie, and consistency in a common dormitory, while others journey from their homes to participate or spectate. An emerging group of female wrestling enthusiasts have joined their male counterparts, providing a refreshing gender balance to the sport.

Despite the challenges, the enthusiasm and spirit of the young wrestlers never wane. Among them, Daphine Kisaakye, who was introduced to wrestling as a domestic worker, recalls her first WWE match encounter, saying, ‘It was very amazing’. However, Bumba emphasizes the importance of suitable training facilities to eliminate the risk of injuries that would jeopardize their aspirations. As Jordan Ainemukama, one of the wrestlers, reassures, ‘Our coach always tells us that, ‘Safety first.’’

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Melinda Cochrane is a poet, teacher and fiction author. She is also the editor and publisher of The Inspired Heart, a collection of international writers. Melinda also runs a publishing company, Melinda Cochrane International books for aspiring writers, based out Montreal, Quebec. Her publication credits include: The art of poetic inquiry, (Backalong Books), a novella, Desperate Freedom, (Brian Wrixon Books Canada), and 2 collections of poetry; The Man Who Stole Father’s Boat, (Backalong Books), and She’s an Island Poet, Desperate Freedom was on the bestseller's list for one week, and The Man Who Stole Father’s Boat is one of hope and encouragement for all those living in the social welfare system. She’s been published in online magazines such as, (regular writer for) ‘Life as a Human’, and Shannon Grissom’s magazine.