International Men

August 19, 2014

From the Editor: Lasting Legacy

When the games ended, the Americans and Canadians rejoined their MLL teams. Want to know what awaited the Ugandans? Homelessness.

by Matt DaSilva | | Twitter

Flip a coin.

This column appears in the August 2014 issue of Lacrosse Magazine. Join US Lacrosse to start your subscription today!

Heads: Canada wins. Tails: U.S. wins.

That's the reality of the rivalry. It's actually a rivalry now.

Forget 1978, an aberration in what otherwise were decades of dominance by Team USA in the world championship. Forget 2002, when newfangled MLL gutted rosters in Australia.

Really, the tide turned in 1998, the last time US Lacrosse hosted the event, when Canada made a miraculous comeback from a 10-goal deficit before Team USA won in overtime.

Skip 2002, and since 2006, the series is tied at three apiece. The top 23 players in Canada are just as good as the top 23 players in America.

Accept it. Embrace it.

It's within that context that we decided to put Uganda on the cover.

We're not trying to ease the sting of a loss for Team USA, owned and operated by US Lacrosse. We're not ignoring what Canada achieved, completely retooling after a 10-7 loss to the U.S. to run the table and beat Team USA in the final 8-5.

But what will be the lasting legacy of this event, the largest in international lacrosse history? Years from now, will people remember that Canada won or that Uganda (and eight other first-time nations) played?

When the games ended, the Americans and Canadians rejoined their MLL teams — 46 of the world's best players comingled in a North American melting pot of lacrosse professionals.

Want to know what awaited the Ugandans upon their return? Homelessness.

In 2011, many lived in a slum called Nakawa. The government tore down the houses, which displaced some players, including Ronald Otim, the tall and slender defenseman on the cover, and Jimmy Tabu, the backup goalie whose bongo appears on the cover.

Otim, Tabu and others relocated to the railroad tracks in Kampala, where they could build mud-and-brick houses rent-free. While in Denver, they received eviction notices. By their second day back in Uganda, their homes were gone.

But they don't want your pity. Ugandans are proud, welcoming and affectionate people. They're forgiving. Some players over there fought against their will as child soldiers in the Lord's Resistance Army. Others fled, but had family killed by the LRA. And yet they're willing to get past that.

Nearly 100 volunteers from the American lacrosse community have visited Uganda through Fields of Growth. They say we need Uganda more than Uganda needs us.

That's powerful stuff. That's why Uganda, the 34th-place team in the FIL World Championship, is on the cover of Lacrosse Magazine.

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