Meet the man who introduced blind football to Uganda.
On a recent afternoon, an exuberant, smiling Robert Nkonda walked into the Nsambya Sports Stadium, just north of the capital Kampala.
After years of toil, his dream of seeing blind football triumph at the Olympics was realized — an event in the making for decades.
At 80, Nkonda is just the man he always was when this story began.
On his way to this first-ever international competition, as the star of Uganda’s national team, he took a journey through his life, starting with his home town of Kibuku.
From Kibuku, he travelled to the small, impoverished village of Njamera, where he was born.
It was a poor village of about 1,000 people, with dirt streets that became impassable by vehicles, let alone an 18-inch-high football.
Nkonda, who now lives in London, grew up with four brothers and no father. His mother left the village and returned months later to find her children missing.
A year later, when Nkonda saw a newspaper advertisement for a soccer team, he joined the team — and found he actually liked the sport.
“For me, it was a joy to play every weekend. I got lots of training and I became one of the best players,” Nkonda says.
“I had to get a sponsor.”
Robert Nkonda is one of the two players at the Nsambya Sports Stadium in Uganda, which is hosting the 2011 African Cup of Nations football match. Nkonda started playing football at a young age. (Alison Mitchell/CBC News)
Nkonda moved to Kampala to seek his fortune, and by the time he was 8 years old, he had been spotted by the sports manager of the Nsambya Sports Stadium, who saw his potential and encouraged him to be included on the national team.
He had been born with sight and hearing to his eyes and ears, but couldn’t hear them.
“It’s like we had two ears, but never heard them,” Nkonda says.
Nkonda’s dreams were interrupted.
“I was born blind