Uganda Innovates

Kwepena- The tale of a dying game set for the global scene

A team of young people has taken an old school beloved backyard game of ‘Kwepena’ and standardized it in a bid to have it played globally as a sport and to enrich our culture and pride as children of Uganda. Simon Tumukunde, who just recently completed his third year at university, derived inspiration to drive kwepena, dubbed “CHEZA” Which loosely translates to dancing, from watching children play the game at a young age. He then developed a deep rooted passion to achieve popularity and fame for this game. “I have never seen a tournament with kwepena he says of the burning desire to turn this backyard game into a recognized sport world wide.

A team playing Kwepena, [Cheza] at the beach.

A team playing Kwepena, [Cheza] at the beach.

His next step was to assemble a team of lawyers to help with the legal work and a team of technical people who would help with the design of the balls, the court and the publicity of the sport. All this he did without personal funds. The people that decided to help him believed in him and his idea. They had faith that he could do more with Cheza and their responsibility was to help bring back to life the fading kwepena.

The Cheza team.

The Cheza team.

Much as he was widely supported by his friends and family, he did face major rejection from people he turned to for help. Most advised him to drop it and focus on education while the rest told him to seek real money making ventures. He speaks of this as a force that merely propelled him further and pushed him to realize his dream that is seeing Cheza being played at the Olympics.

He did more research online, became a google scholar on sports and discovered all that he needed to know about the sports world. With this knowledge on sports, he set a date for the launch of Cheza in Uganda despite his lack of funds.  

Tumukunde presenting the Cheza game flow at the launch at Kati Kati.

Tumukunde presenting the Cheza game flow at the launch at Kati Kati.

The game was launched on July 28 2014 at Kati Kati with a representative from the commission of sports in presence. It was a big success despite his limited funds and exposure.

Cheza being played at Kati Kati

Cheza being played at Kati Kati

Soon after, Cheza was taken to the grass roots, in primary and secondary schools. Kitante Hill school, Gayaza high school and Kakungulu S.S were among the first schools that embraced this game. The students embraced the game and looked forward to it. “sometimes we would get there and find them playing”, Tumukunde added.

Gayaza High School students playing Cheza.

Gayaza High School students playing Cheza.

In a bid to make Cheza more competitive and measurable, provisions have been made for  a court, jerseys, balls and a set of rules has been put in place to ensure uniformity. Cheza is played in 4 rounds and in teams of five. Each team has dodgers, shooters collectively known as chezas. A system for measuring points and errors has been put in place and this has created cheza to be one of the most competitive game there is.

The Cheza court

The Cheza court

Just like most sports in the world, Kwepena has the potential to make a difference in people’s lives. From creating a sense of purpose among the young generation, to boosting the chances of the less fortunate to attain scholarships and the massive health benefits from the exercise gained from playing the game. Not forgetting the major implications it would have on the economy as a leading franchise. Cheza is Uganda’s gift to the world. 

Cheza boasts of deep roots in very many people’s lives and it is Tumukunde’s dream to see it being embraced by Ugandans if it is to be internationally accepted and welcomed on the global platform.

The Cheza ball

The Cheza ball

Through his three year journey trying to gain popularity for the game as a sport, Simon has employed patience, limitless faith and relentless attitude. He urges more young people to have faith in themselves and in their ideas and dreams. He encourages young people to stop at nothing if they are to realize their dreams. “Doing your best does not cut in anymore. You have to do whatever it takes. Everybody is doing their best…When you do whatever it takes it brings out the best in you” added Simon.

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