Inter Campus: a wash of black and blue in the heart of Uganda

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NAGALAMA – Going back to the school in Nagalama is always an emotional experience, and this time it was even more special and unexpected than usual.

Having passed through the school gates, we weren’t swamped by the usual overwhelming presence of children in their Inter shirts. A bit disappointed, we parked the car under ‘our’ mango tree, coming across and greeting about thirty kids in all. I thought that since we were approaching an important date, the Ugandan Day of Independence, the other children may have been involved in the preparations or on the way home for the celebrations. Any little disappointment quickly vanished when we met the happy gazes of all the coaches who came over to greet us one by one, their faces beaming. There were embraces for William, Mike, Kevin, Ben, Francisco, Fred… all my companions on this journey from 2008 until today, with whom I renew my friendship twice a year when I come to this region. While waiting for the arrival of Italo Nessi from CUAMM, the co-founder of this project, we were welcomed by the legendary headmistress of the school. Mrs Josephine, with a permanent smile on her face and, as usual, looking very elegant, accompanied us to her office for the ritual of leaving a written dedication in the school’s guest book.

Just then the situation changed. Mrs Josephine pressed the button of the school bell and the long and annoying sound, like a factory siren, called the children to under the mango tree from out of every corner! They started springing out from classrooms, from behind walls and trees, from inside the teacher’s houses. Running, jumping or walking. Wearing their much-loved Inter jerseys, they covered the horizon with their ebony skin and milk-white smiles. 50, 100, 150… there were so many of them! A peaceful little army decked out in the Nerazzurri colours on the lawn of Saint Joseph Primary School for the welcome ceremony. First they sang the Ugandan national anthem, then the school anthem, then there were words of gratitude for everyone present. There were welcoming messages for the headmistress, our head coach, Andrea and myself; all carefully announced by Fred, the Master of Ceremonies.

A journey to this part of the world always leaves you with joy and powerful emotions, right from your arrival. 800 children from the ages of six to fourteen all in the Inter strip really is a unique, fantastic sight!